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From Dr Kunal Sarkar's easy demeanour, it's difficult to guess that he has just stepped out of the operation theatre after a three-hour cardiac surgery. There's no sign of any stress on his face as he climbs down the staircase and settles in his firstfloor chamber. That's perhaps just as well, for Sarkar has conducted over 15, 000 heart operations over the last 16 years, which places him in the big league of surgeons in the country.
He has successfully taken over reins of Rabindranath Tagore International Institute of Cardiac Sciences (RTIICS) from the legendary Devi Shetty who started it. More importantly, Sarkar has managed to carry on the tradition of inexpensive cardiac treatment - which has always been the stress at RTIICS. He refuses to identify himself as one the leading cardiac surgeons in the region, but maintains that the treatment provided at his hospital matches the best in terms of cost and services. "Cardiac surgery can't be very cheap. It's a difficult, specialised job which can only be done by a handful of people who will obviously need to be paid well. But the charges must be reasonable and hospitals have got to be transparent about it. On an average, a cardiac procedure costs around Rs 1, 20, 000 and we make sure to stick to it. Even though a surgery is a team effort, it can't be denied that surgeons like me do play a very important role, " Sarkar says.
After passing out of Calcutta Medical College in 1983, Sarkar trained and practiced in UK for 13 years. He became a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and was an active research assistant at the British Heart Foundation and at the universities of Leicester and Oxford.
In 2000, he joined RTIICS and was instrumental in designing the hospital's cardiac surgery unit. Sarkar rues the fact that West Bengal doesn't have a good bench strength of cardiac surgeons. "The weak government sector is to be blamed for this. Cities like Mumbai and Delhi have huge hospitals run by the government. They employ more surgeons and push them to the forefront. It doesn't happen here, " he says.
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