BENGALURU: Every year Dr Govindaraj Subramani comes to India for a fortnight with a bag full of goodies—coronary stents for heart patients at Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.
A coronary stent is a tube-shaped device placed in the coronary arteries that supply blood to the heart, to keep the arteries open in the treatment of coronary heart disease. Until recently, a stent costed lakhs in India, making them out of reach for poor patients. This is where the Subramani Heart Foundation came into picture. Dr Subramani brings as many as 200 stents every year to India.
He is an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois Medical School, Urbana, Illinois, in the US. He was recently awarded an honorary doctorate by the Rajiv Gandhi Institute of Health Sciences for two decades of service to the poor. A 1973 graduate from Mysore Medical College (MMC), his alma mater is the reason for his philanthropic endeavours.
“I wanted to serve indigent, sick patients of our community. I started my Heart Foundation in 2001 and began accepting donations. I have been doing procedures at Jayadeva Hospital for over 10 years. Every year I come for a few weeks. So far, we have done about 2,000 procedures, including open heart operations,” said the modest doctor.
A day at Jayadeva
The word is jam-packed. With back-to-back angioplasties planned, Dr Subramani has his hands full. “We call it the Indo American Angioplasty Workshop. It involves both service for poor and teaching for doctors under training (cardiology fellows). Each day we do around 25 to 30 patient procedures in five cath labs,” said the doctor.
He plans to visit India on October 9. Last year, Jayadeva in collaboration with Dr Govindaraju Subramani Heart Foundation and Medtronic Vascular Division, Santarosa, USA, distributed stents worth Rs 1.25 crore free of cost to all patients, including farmers, labourers, vendors, autorickshaw drivers, and senior citizens from Karnataka, West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh and other states.
“I try to meet each patient and his/her family, and give them health advice and assurances. I pay for their train ticket, if they can not afford it. It is an honour to serve them,” Dr Subramani said.
NPPA price cap not a worry
While doctors here are worried about the availability of high-end stents after the National Pharmaceutical Pricing Authority (NPPA) capped the price of coronary stents this year, and a fear of suppliers pulling out of the Indian market at least after six months (when the status quo ends) is looming large, Dr Subramani has no qualms about it.
“I have an arrangement with Medtronic to procure stents as part of its corporate social responsibility. They provide stents to foundations like mine, Red Cross, and Doctors Without Borders,” he said.
Stint in USA
Dr Subramani went to the US for Advanced Studies in Heart Medicine (Cardiology) and has been practising cardiology after his intense post-graduate training. A US citizen since 1976, he is married to Eileen, a native there, and is a father of two. “I enjoy visiting India, meet friends and family, especially my sisters, speak Kannada for a change and of course eat bisibele bath!” he said.
Close associate helps too
The good doctor says all this would not be possible without equal dedication and commitment from his friend Dr Devaraj. “He was my classmate at MMC and is based in Los Angeles. He has been coming to Bengaluru to do procedures with me since 2007,” he said.