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NEWSMAKER: Ramakant Panda

Grafting his way to fame

BS Reporter  |  New Delhi 

“We are happy to inform that Honourable Prime Minister has successfully undergone coronary by-pass surgery. He is conscious and responding well. He is very stable after the surgery,” said cardiologist K Srinath Reddy, Manmohan Singh’s personal physician

For Ramakant Panda, the doctor who performed the operation, perhaps it was just another day at work.

The cardiothoracic surgeon who led the 11-member team that performed the high-risk bypass surgery on the Prime Minister at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in New Delhi last week had humble beginnings. His village in Orissa did not have electricity or roads. His village school in Jajpur district was a 16-km walk, newspaper reports said earlier this week.

He and his younger brother used to start for the BB school in Pritiput village at 6 am. During rainy days, the roads would be full of slush, but they carried on, usually barefoot. Homework would be finished under lanterns at night as electricity was unavailable.

Panda, a product of AIIMS, went to Cleveland Clinic in Ohio in the late ‘80s. At Cleveland, he learnt how to use arterial grafts and operating on a patient without strapping him to the heart-lung machine. He later practised at Jaslok, Breach Candy, Lilavati and Nanavati hospitals in Mumbai.

The Asian Heart Institute (AHI) in Mumbai was set up after his return from the US with a team of like-minded doctors. Panda has performed over 800 redo bypass surgeries, a procedure which was not done in the country till seven years ago. He has also done more than 10,000 bypass surgeries.

Panda’s abilities as an administrator and CEO running Asian Heart Institute are also proven and under his leadership, the institute was one of the first private sector hospitals to have a tie-up with foreign institutions.

There have been reports that despite a hectic schedule in Mumbai, the surgeon will be starting a 300-bed state-of-the-art multi-specialty hospital in Bhubaneswar with an investment of Rs 150 crore. The foundation stone of the Asian Hospital and Research Centre has been laid and the hospital will start functioning from 2010.

He is known to be a doctor who upholds medical ethics and at AHI he has introduced standardisation of tariffs to make payment requirements fixed and transparent, besides announcing plans to link up with other cities in Maharashtra through telemedicine. He has also been among the highest tax-payers in the country from 1994 to 1999 and has been awarded the Rashtriya Samman by the Central Board of Taxes.

So, what does Panda’s success mean for AIIMS, the premier hospital in the country. There are some who have questioned the choice of AIIMs as the centre for the operation.

Ravi Duggal from the Centre for Enquiry Into Health and Allied Themes (Cehat), a research centre, dismisses the choice of AIIMS for the surgery as a publicity stunt by the government. Others see Panda’s excellent performance as the clearest sign of the erosion of standards at AIIMS.

First Published: Fri, January 30 2009. 00:00 IST