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Son of the soil
In the '70s, while many Indian doctors moved abroad for opportunities, Dr MR Girinath did so just to be able to come back and create opportunities in India.
After doing his undergraduate and post graduate courses at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Girinath decided to travel to New Zealand to learn how healthy heart valves from cadavers could be used to replace ailing ones in those alive.
Cardiothoracic surgery was then in its infancy in India, with just three established centres. Even these centres did just two bypass surgeries a week against the 60 surgeries in New Zealand. There weren't enough doctors to operate on ailing hearts and many patients died.
Girinath knew what he learned in New Zealand was precious, and could be of value in India. "I knew I had the opportunity to establish something here, " he says. A pioneer in cardio-thoracic surgery, Girinath today has trained over 30 surgeons who perform over 25 per cent of all cardiac surgeries in India. His team at the Apollo Hospitals alone has performed more than 39, 000 cardiac surgeries in children and adults with a mortality rate that is below 0. 6 per cent.
It wasn't an easy start for Girinath though. He joined the Railway Hospital in Chennai for a salary of less than Rs 800 a month. In the next nine years, he did thousands of bypass surgeries, double-valve replacements and correction of congenital defects in children.
"There was no reason for me to have moved out, " he recalls. But when Apollo Hospital promised to accommodate his entire team, including theatre nurses and assistants, with a "fat" salary and high-end technology, he moved in.
A few years ago, Girinath felt he had to do more - especially for those who could not afford the cost of cardio-thoracic surgery. Along with a friend, he started the Cardiac Medical Aid and Research Trust that performs free heart surgeries or subsidises them for at least 100 patients a year. From a tribal who came to him with a feathered hat, a bow and arrow to the son of a retired railway khalasi, he has managed to treat many of the less privileged lot.
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