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India's top cardiologists
What is it about our cardiac surgeons and cardiologists that sets them apart from other doctors? What makes them so glamorous, so sought-after ? There are two crucial bits of statistics that may lie at the, well, heart of it all. Dr S Padmavati, one of the rare woman cardiologists in the country, told us during research for this story that there are only 4, 000 cardiologists and 1, 200 cardiac surgeons for a population of over a billion. The desired ratio is 50 cardiologists per million. Also, the Indian heart, due to a faulty genetic makeup, is more prone to diseases than an African or a Caucasian one, making it the No 1 killer in our country. It is not by chance that many of India's most recognised doctors are associated with cardiac care. TOI-Crest profiles some of India's top heart doctors - it is not a ranking, nor is it an exhaustive list as that would, in all fairness, need to include a lot more. Even as we celebrate the spirit of those who ensure that our hearts beat right we'd like to take this opportunity to wish our readers Happy Valentine's Day!
Walk into any hospital and chances are that the swankiest department belongs to cardiac care. Doctors running the department are the stars because they are the highest revenueearners for the hospital. They have the biggest consulting rooms, better emoluments and the best cars. It is not by chance that India's most recognised doctors are usually associated with cardiac care. Even the man on the street may just be able to identify Delhi's Dr Naresh Trehan, who got shutterbugs clicking him at the recent star-studded Jaipur Literary Fest, or Bangalore's Dr Devi Shetty, one of India's most photogenic medical men.
What is it about these Men of the Heart that gives them an edge over other doctors? First, it is the organ itself. The Indian heart, due to a faulty genetic makeup, is more prone to heart diseases than an African or a Caucasian one. Worse, several studies have revealed that Indians are likely to suffer heart attacks a decade earlier than other ethnicities. Factors such as urbanisation, the rapid Westernisation of the traditional diet and stress worsen the weak-heart syndrome. Civic death charts in Mumbai show that 97, 677 died due to heart problems between 2000 and 2010 in comparison to 84, 614 deaths due to TB. The death charts from other cities are unlikely to be any different. And, like any other demand-supply equation, it follows that if heart problems rule, then heart doctors will be the rulers. In fact, many would say that the cardiac care story is one of the biggest success stories of modern India - something worthy of a business school review.
Until the mid- '80s and even into the '90s, patients needing to get their hearts fixed rushed abroad if they could afford it;others just blamed their karma. Then began a trickle: young, Indiaborn doctors started returning home after having spotted an opportunity.
Doctors like Ramakant Panda, better known as Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's doctor, returned from Cleveland Clinic (one of the best addresses in the world for heart care) and took up multiple assignments in various hospitals. A few of them dreamed of becoming entrepreneurs and putting up big hospitals like in the West. Escorts Hospital in New Delhi is one of the first to showcase the arrival of the heart doctor-businessman. There's been a drastic change in the storyline since: doctors in India are considered the best in cardiac care because they have managed the biggest volumes. A doctor operating on a diabetic heart (another one of the epidemic situations in India) has to provide optimum care and handle the worst complications. Statistics show that bypass surgeries are growing in India while they are falling across the world.
These were some of the reasons that prompted us to showcase some of India's top Men of Heart, those who have made a difference to heart care in particular and healthcare in general. Most of them are trail-blazers having started a trend or a new surgical technique, have done innumerable surgeries and have had the best outcomes. Practice has made these men perfect. Some have set up health cities, while some others have just concentrated on teaching others the ropes. TOI-Crest looks at India's best cardiac caregivers - from Chennai to Delhi, from Mumbai to Kolkata.
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