Treat your profession as a Vocation & not an Industry Dr KK Aggarwal, Editor in Chief eMedinewS and IMA News in conversation with Dr Mohan Kameswaran, ENT surgeon and Founder-Director, Madras ENT Research Foundation in Chennai. Dr Mohan Kameswaran has been honored with Dr BC Roy National Award for the year 2008 under the category of ‘Best talents in encouraging the development of specialties in different branches in Medicine’. How does it feel being conferred one of the most prestigious awards in the medical field? I am really quite humbled by the award but view it as an encouragement for continuing my work. Tell us about your journey so far. What were the early challenges faced by you in your career? How did you manage to overcome them? My journey has been quite tumultuous and challenging and punctuated with achievements and frustrations. Although I started my career as an Otolaryngologist in 1981, much of my earlier years were spent outside the country. My real journey began in 1996 when I started the first Cochlear implant program in Chennai. Being one of the pioneers in this field meant facing a lot of challenges but also gave me a rare sense of satisfaction in playing a role in changing the life of many children. Seeing the happiness on the face of the parents, many of whom were themselves very young, when they saw their deaf child hear for the first time, was the ultimate reward for me. I sincerely believed that this technology needed to reach every nook and corner of our great country. The greatest challenges were the prohibitive cost, creating awareness and the scientific infrastructure. I put my heart and soul into achieving these goals. My team and I mentored over 50 cochlear implant centers in the country as well as in neighboring countries & the late President Dr APJ Abdul Kalam honored me with the Padma Shri award in 2006. Today India has one of the largest Cochlear implant programs in the world with several states going all out to identify and “cure” deafness at the earliest age. My own state of Tamil Nadu has been in the vanguard of this medical and social revolution and it gives me immense pleasure to see my dream getting realized in my life time. The state of Tamil Nadu has accepted in principle a policy to create a “deafness free state” and I believe it is only a matter of time before the whole country joins this vision. I derive great satisfaction in realizing that I have played a small but significant role in achieving this vision. Tell us about your family. How important has been the role of your family in your journey? My family has played a significant role in my career and shaping my vision. Both my parents were also Dr BC Roy awardees and we, as a family, are probably unique in the fact that 3 people from the same family, father, mother and son have been recipients of this prestigious award. My father Padma Shri Prof S Kameswaran, former Director of the Institute of Otorhinolaryngology, Madras Medical College received the award in 1981. Two years later in 1983, my mother late Prof Lalitha Kameswaran was honored with the same award. She was a remarkable lady who had many firsts to her credit. She was the First Lady Dean of Madras Medical College, First Lady Director of Medical education & the First Vice Chancellor of The Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University. For all her achievements, she was a very simple person with a strong social commitment and saw to it that she transmitted those values to us, her children. My wife Indira has been a pillar of strength, sharing my vision and supporting me during my periods of frustration. I have 2 lovely children, a son and a daughter both of whom are brilliant in their own chosen fields. Both have a PhD from Ivy League universities in the US and are high achievers. God has been kind to me. What would be your message to the community? My message to the community is very simple. “Deafness is curable. The earlier deafness is detected, the better the chance of curing it. If you know any child who is born deaf, take every effort to motivate the parents to seek early intervention.” Given a chance, what changes would you like to bring about in health policies? To our policy makers, my plea is simple. Please involve the private sector in healthcare delivery. The private sector is not a competitor to Govt. programs or Institutions. With more than 70% of health care delivery being provided by the private sector, it is high time the Government partnered with the private sector to achieve optimum health care delivery to everyone in this country. This can be achieved only by introducing health insurance schemes, such as the successful models in states like Tamil Nadu and many other states. What advice would you give to youngsters? My advice to the young doctors is, “treat your profession as a Vocation & not an Industry”. The rewards in this profession are far greater than monetary. To the youngsters in this country, my advice is “follow the vision of our beloved Dr Abdul Kalam”. Cultivate self-discipline, for this is the secret of all great people.