HYDERABAD: When you walk into this iconic Institute for your scheduled appointment, it is hard to believe that hundreds of people wait in line to meet their God, in this case, their GI specialist! Let’s meet one of our country’s most renowned and celebrated surgeons in Gastroenterology and a B C Roy Awarded genius in the field of GI. Dr. GV Rao, in conversation with Seema Azharuddin, producer, actor, activist and a journalist who works closely with the healthcare industry...
How did you get into medicine, and what motivated you to become a doctor?
The options were limited those days …medicine, engineering, law. The competition was tough even those days. I was not sure of a medical seat. I got a seat in veterinary medicine and I joined the veterinary college. A week after I joined, the medical results were out and were happy that I would be a clinical doc and not a vet. Destiny… may be I would have been seeing pets.
How did you decide on Gastroenterology as a specialty?
As a medical student, I was fascinated by surgery. Those days, surgeons carried a big aura and halo around them and were literally considered demi gods. My preference was cardiothoracic surgery. I was, however, not impressed with the CT surgery during my rotations as a trainee. Just then GI surgery was emerging as a specialty and I was mesmerised by a couple of GI surgeons watching them perform major surgeries and following their presentations. My decision was final. So I joined GI surgery unit in Chennai and trained with Prof Rangabhashyam, a towering personality who is responsible for starting GI surgery as a specialty. Then I went to the UK and Hong Kong for advanced training. And then back to my favorite Hyderabad!
Tell us about your practice.
Started in the late eighties, there was not much scope because of limited openings for the junior surgeons. Corporate hospitals which were just emerging was a distant dream. Was tagged on to a couple of senior surgeons and went around smaller hospitals for surgical work. Idea was to be in the operation theatre some how to perform surgery to improve skills and confidence. Corporates never encouraged young surgeons those days compared to what it is today. Fortunate enough to be associated with Dr Nageshwar Reddy and other like-minded people and over time was associated with Asian Institute of Gastroenterology, GI institution catering to different economic strata and delivering the state of the art facilities. The institution runs on standards of practices similar to many of the national institutions and international universities.
Earlier we used to travel west to train ourselves. The trend has completely reversed now and we see many of foreign clinicians getting trained in India… we are on par and may be superior in many areas in the type of services we are able to provide to the patients. India is big into medical tourism because we are able to provide affordable, advanced care to these patients. In addition, people seem to like and appreciate the warmth with which they are received and taken care here.
What do you like most about your career?
I enjoy my work, my specialty. I am a multitasker, doing surgery, laparoscopy, endoscopy, Basic research, innovations. Ten fingers in to ten different specialties!
It’s not just about how to practice today, we have to constantly update ourselves and also be interacting with different specialties in the rest of the world to compete and to be one among the best across the globe
It’s a rare honour for a surgeon to be the President of both Endoscopic and Surgical Societies( Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy of India and International Hepato Pancreatobiliary association ).
In your opinion, what are the most difficult or challenging aspects of your career as a GI Surgeon?
Working in a tertiary referral centre, we face difficult issues every day, be it naïve cases or complications following procedures which require a multimodality approach. Patience is the key factor and with good supporting specialists, majority of the challenges can be overcome. Every hour, every day we are faced with newer challenges. With technological support and technical assistance and better understanding of the diseases, challenges can be overcome. I am fortunate to have and working with a wonderful team of clinicians, each one of them made a niche for themselves. Overall, I am happy to be amongst one of the best teams in the world
How do you think that the field of gastroenterology is going to change over the next 10 years, and how will that impact GIs?
Gastroenterology and GI surgery are the emerging soft powers in health care. The scope is enormous both endoscopically and laparoscopically and now we talk about endoscopy- laparoscopy cooperative surgeries and robotic surgery. Change in technology is so rapid that the way we treat could dramatically change tomorrow. It will be Science Fiction predictions coming true.
AIG, Hyderabad. Tell us about this specialty establishment across the country, your role and the teams you guide.
When we started 25 years back, we never thought Gastroenterology could survive as an independent specialty. But the scope has enormously changed and Gastroenterology and gi surgery have established very firmly now. We are proud of our center and achievements and with this background, we plan to take this to newer heights incorporating and integrating specialties.
In reclaiming medicine’s more spiritual roots, how do you perceive the role of spiritual care today?
God vs Science has been a perpetual question. Science is trying to unravel and find solutions to many a diseases and we practice evidence based medicine. Religion also seems to have impact on the medical practices. Not all scientists and clinician practicing science are atheists. The world seems to practice science and fall upon God in crisis.
Rapid Fire Questions
1. Your full name?
Guduru Venkat Rao…became Dr G Venkat Rao…became Dr G V Rao … and for my colleagues and friends it’s GV!
2. What schools did you attend?
Basic schooling from Hyderabad Public school and subsequently in Osmania Medical College then Bangalore Medical College, then further to the UK and Hong Kong.
3. What do you dislike most about your job?
I chose this profession out of intense passion and there is nothing that I dislike about it. Of late the violent mob attacks on medical personnel are quite disturbing. I do not think any medical professional would do anything intentionally. After all, we are humans and there are lots of limitations between what is expected out of us and what we can deliver. This bothers me.
4. After retiring, what do you want to do?
Interesting question. The thought has never come to me so far! The perceptions of the private and the public sector are different. In the public sector one is constantly reminded about the age of retirement and it impacts one psychologically. Some continue practicing medicine, but most of them settle down for a more relaxing retired life. In the private sector, no one reminds about retirement, so we feel we can continue to do so as long as you think you can deliver. The day you don’t enjoy your work, I think it’s time to quit from clinical work. If and when I plan to retire from clinical work, I would rather continue in basic research, innovations, rural programmes, social programmes that would make me happy. Options are unlimited and will take things as they come along. I only hope that I continue doing surgery and clinical work till my last breath…
5. What is the greatest fear of being a doctor?
Greatest fear is that we should do no harm. The society considers doctors next to god.. we should strive to live up to the expectations..
6. If you weren’t a GI Surgeon, what would you have liked to be?
My father chose the profession for me …he thought I was not good in mathematics, so the only option was to become a doctor… If not clinical… a Vet for sure.
7. Being a GI surgeon, what food cravings do you have? Your favourite cuisine?
Being a ‘Hyderabadi’, Hyderabadi ‘Dum Biryani’ is my favourite. I crave for sweets, but avoid temptations as much as I am able to. I love spicy snacks and ‘Mirchi bajji’!
8. What legacy do you want to leave behind?
I don’t think I am that big a person to leave behind a legacy. Being part of a state of the art facility is a big satisfaction. I would make sure that my juniors will not go through what I have gone through. The next generation will have everything on a platter. It’s all about how much they work and utilise their time, space and available technology to maximise benefits for the patients.