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The constant learner
Dr KM Cherian is one of those rare doctors who never stop learning. After thousands of bypass surgeries and over 40 heart transplants, his eyes still light up when he talks about how he learnt the use of the latest innovation in medical technology - stem cells. His hospital has now used stem cell therapy on a trial basis on nearly 60 patients suffering from end-stage heart disease. "Many of them are doing extremely well, " he says.
He has had a nearly 50-year-long career, but the senior surgeon is not hanging up his white coat. Not yet. Having done India's first successful cardiac bypass, first triple valve replacement, and auto-transplant of the heart, Cherian is full of ideas on how best to expand his cardiac care beyond Indian borders. He has operated on patients from several countries including Iran, Iraq, Pakistan and Africa. He proudly says his son, also a cardiac surgeon, will soon go to Mauritius to establish a hospital there.
Cherian has done more heart transplants than any other doctor in India. He ranks among the very best in this business even on a global scale. Yet, for him, the most memorable moments are the poignant stories his patients tell him after recovery. One heart-and-lung transplant patient took part in the Olympics. Another, a policeman, went on to rejoin active duty.
Call it arrogance or just plainspeak, Cherian knew he was going to make it big in India even when he was training in the UK and Australia. His career in India began as a cardiac surgeon at a Railway hospital in July 1975. A week after he joined, he did the country's first successful bypass surgery. "Nobody else did it until I finished my first 50, " he says.
Even as his hands were busy saving lives, his mind was planning establishing institutions that would last. He set up cardiac units in at least two private hospitals before he built a hospital of his own, Frontier Lifeline. Today, 40 km away from Chennai, Cherian has built a research unit called Frontier Mediville in 350 acres of land. The facility specialises in the use of advanced equipment, stem cell therapy and other cutting edge treatment methods.
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