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The heart to serve

"The honour is not just a recognition of my skills, but a turning point in my life," says Dr. I. Sathyamurthy, consultant cardiologist at the Apollo Hospitals, who recently received the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award for the year 2001. He reflects on his career in an interview.


HIS TRYST with hearts spans almost 23 years. "And the experience has been tremendously enriching, professionally and personally," says Dr. I. Sathyamurthy, Interventional Cardiologist and Director of Cardiology, Apollo Hospitals, Chennai, and a recipient of the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award for the year 2001.

Step into his consulting room at Apollo and you come face-to-face with a gracious and re-assuring presence. He reflects, in characteristic soft tones, on the course of his life that brought him all the way from his hometown in Rajamundhry, Andhra Pradesh to Chennai to pursue his career.

After completing his M.B.B.S. and post-graduation in cardiology from the Government Medical College, Aurangabad (Maharashtra), Dr. Sathyamurthy went on to the G.B. Pant Hospital, New Delhi, from where he got his DM in Cardiology in 1980. Then came a four-year stint as a senior lecturer and reader in cardiology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore. A job offer as consultant cardiologist at Apollo, the first private sector corporate hospital, saw Dr. Sathymurthy make Chennai his home in 1984.

"A supportive management at the Apollo Hospitals and state-of-the-art facilities have helped me grow professionally. Even doctors who work in private hospitals can earn laurels," emphasises the doctor who received the award `in the category of recognition of the best talent in encouraging the development of speciality of cardiology'. Incidentally, the award is annually given by the Medical Council of India. It is a frenetic pace of life for doctors. And so it is for Dr. Sathyamurthy too. Apart from examining a stream of patients and performing angiograms everyday, he performs around 5-10 angioplasties a month. His vast experience in teaching, invasive and interventional cardiology, electrophysiology and pacing, benefits students at Apollo Hospitals, who take the Diplomate of National Board Examinations. He is, at present, engaged in two studies — first, `the incidence of coronary artery disease in women' and second, `the incidence of coronary artery disease in the diabetic population'. The latter is in collaboration with the M.V. Hospital for Diabetes and Research, Royapuram.

Presenting papers and delivering lectures, both in India and abroad enable Dr. Sathyamurthy to share his knowledge and keep abreast of the latest developments in the field. He has, to date, published 125 papers in national and international journals, given several orations and is a member of the Editorial Board of several journals. He is a life member of the Cardiological Society of India and the Association of Physicians of India, besides being a founder member and Fellow of the Indian College of Cardiology and Fellow of the College of Chest Physicians. He became a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology in March 2002.

While recognition for his academic and professional achievements came in the form of the B.C. Roy Award, his services to humanity were rewarded by way of a Padma Shri in January 2000. The Rotary Club of Madras South West conferred its "For the Sake of Honour Award" on him in November 2002. He also serves as Honorary Cardiologist to the President of India.

"Cardiology has a bright future in the country. Our skills and standards are on a par with the West. The latest technology, drug eluting stents, for instance, is also being used in India. But, our aim must be to provide quality medicare at affordable cost," he feels.

On the role of genetics in cardiology... . "Genetics will have a major role to play in the prevention of heart disease, especially in the areas of gene transfer and angiogenesis (new vessel formation). However, it will be some years before such technology benefits the country."

What drives him onward in this quest for excellence?

"The award I recently received does not mean that I rest on my laurels. It is a turning point in my life, inspiring me to continue with my mission to heal hearts. My responsibility towards my patients increases even as the recognition for excellence raises their expectations about my ability to relieve their suffering. I believe that service to the community must come before self. My greatest reward is when a critically ill patient, for whom the prognosis is bleak, survives under my care and walks out of the hospital fully cured."

Encouraging Dr. Sathyamurthy in his work are the dedicated doctors and staff at Apollo, and, of course, a close-knit family. Dr. Sathymurthy's wife, though an advocate by profession, has chosen to engage herself in welfare activities. Besides her involvement in the various projects of the Andhra Mahila Sabha, she takes a special interest in institutions that work for the welfare of the disabled such as the Ability Foundation and Bala Vidyalaya. They have a son who is in engineering college, and a daughter who is a first-year student of medicine.

Deeply devout, the cardiologist believes in the philosophy of hard work sans rewards. His advice to up-and-coming doctors — Commit yourselves heart and soul to the cause of humanity.

MAYA MENON

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