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Looking at his cool blue surgical gear and the warm smile that disappears right into his little grey beard, no one would ever guess that cardiac surgeon Sudhansu Bhattacharyya is capable of such immense bluntness. "If I am the leader in surgery, I should also be the leader in determining my charges, " he answers with unabashed ease when asked if he is indeed the most expensive heart surgeon of India. He is, incidentally, the country's highest taxpayer among doctors.
Bhattacharyya is rumoured to charge between 10 and 20 times the market rate. He refuses to give a figure, but readily agrees that he is an "expensive doctor". He justifies his fees with another blunt observation that unlike the country's other leading cardiac surgeons who do not personally operate on patients, he performs the entire surgery on his own - from the first cut to the last stitch. "That is the only way to ensure success, " the doctor says.
Bhattacharyya's record is impeccable. At 65 years of age, he has performed over 15, 000 surgeries with near-perfect results. He takes great pride in the fact that he rarely needs to check on his patient post-surgery because of the perfect job he does. Bhattacharyya's genius, say even his staunchest critics (whose main objection is to his "commercial bent of mind" ), is in his ability to innovate on the operating table. His techniques are always a point of discussion;his latest technique of saving veins from the leg is already a hit.
Surgery is an art and surgeons have to evolve, get creative, says the doctor who paints while not wielding the scalpel. Bhattacharyya's client list includes governors to Bollywood film stars, producers and even renowned cardiac surgeons. But the maverick surgeon measures his success using different parameters: "My greatest achievement is the ability to decide my own work, salary and holidays. " It almost sounds like the mantra to a healthy heart.
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