A lady’s hand and lion’s heart
The journey from the time Dr P Raghu Ram decided to become a doctor up until recently, to being conferred the Padma Shri - one of the highest civilian...
The journey from the time Dr P Raghu Ram decided to become a doctor up until recently, to being conferred the Padma Shri - one of the highest civilian awards of the land, has been remarkable. The oncoplastic breast surgeon has made tremendous headway in health care in the state in the last decade. He was lauded for initiating the breast cancer screening awareness programme in rural areas by training the community health workers. Many of his programmes were aimed to reach the interior areas of Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
He became the first and the only Surgeon from the undivided AP to have obtained Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons(FRCS) from all Four Royal Colleges in the British Isles and Fellowship of the American College of Surgeons at a very young age. When Oncoplastic Breast Surgery was just evolving a as subspecialty in the UK in late 1990s, it was Dr Rovere, an Italian surgeon, who persuaded him to obtain sub-specialisation in new and upcoming subspecialty. And there was no looking back for Dr Raghu Ram after that.
“I got a call from a senior official from the Ministry of Home Affairs on the eve of India’s Republic day. When I heard from him that the Hon’ble President of India has approved my name for conferment of Padma Shri, I was speechless.” Narrating his humbling experience and being overwhelmed by the great honour of being chosen for this award, Dr Raghu Ram expresses his happiness and says, “God placed me at the right place at the right time. The only thought that came to my mind at that point in time was to thank lord almighty for giving me this tremendous honour.”
Two months down the line, Dr Raghu Ram was at the Rashtrapathi Bhavan to receive the most prestigious award from the President of India. “I was very happy to have visited Rashtrapathi Bhavan to receive the award from the hands of the President and having had the opportunity to shake hands and meet in person, made it a memory that will never fade away. I dedicate the Padma Award to my mother and to all the women in the country, who have conquered breast cancer with courage and determination,” he said.
Unflinching help from his colleagues all over the country and unwavering support from his family has helped him come a long way. “My responsibility to the community has increased manifold now and I want India to make progress in the field of breast healthcare and for that I will serve with even more fortitude and work with a missionary zeal towards further improving breast healthcare in India,” Dr Raghu Ram highlighted his goal.
Dr Raghu Ram chose to specialise in the area of breast health after his mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. With not many medical practitioners opting to work in the area of breast health, for Dr Raghu Ram it was emotive. “Awareness about breast cancer was in its pre-mature steps then and there were no advanced screening programmes either. There was no such concept of a dedicated breast health surgical society either.
I wanted to change that, so I ensured I took up this subject,” he says. “My training in the UK empowered me to conceive, design and establish India’s first free standing purpose built a comprehensive Centre for Breast health at KIMS,” he further added. Dr Raghu Ram has not limited his programmes to the urban class but has also taken his initiatives to the rural areas. The community workers, Asha, contribute immensely to detection of breast cancer in rural women at an early stage.
A community-based screening programme, which was rooted in 2013, trains healthcare workers to detect women with breast cancer. He also set up a support group as part of the breast cancer foundation to help patients deal with the stress and emotional trauma that cancer entails. He has conducted several awareness programmes in the city and says, “I hope soon Telangana and Andhra Pradesh will become benchmark states for community programmes which will create wider awareness and help women conquer breast cancer.”
From creating high awareness about ‘Breast Cancer month’ every year in a bid to spread awareness to organising the star-studded Pink Ribbon walk, Dr Raghu Ram has dedicated a lot to this field of study. Dr Raghu Ram’s parents were his inspiration since childhood and they drove the passion of him venturing the field of Medicine. “My father is a surgeon and my mother is a gynaecologist. Having observed them practice the art and science of medicine ethically, and having witnessed firsthand so many people cured of their illnesses after being treated by my parents, I was determined to become a surgeon.”
Two people who influenced Dr Raghu Ram’s professional life are Dr Pradip Datta and Dr Querci Della Rovere, both of whom are from the UK. “As a result of Dr Datta’s excellent teaching skills, I created a record of having passed FRCS from three Royal Colleges in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Ireland satisfying some 100 examiners within a space of two months at the age of 30 years,” he expressed his gratitude.
Then came the time when Dr Raghu Ram decided to move back to Hyderabad, after settling in the UK for a few years. “I was two-minded, unsure if I would be able to achieve the goals I had set for myself. I debated my decision to move back to India, but finally I did. The first few days were challenging, as not many knew about breast cancer, but as days passed by, I was able to make headway and spread more awareness about the condition. In 2007, we established the Breast Health Centre, a first free standing place, at KIMS,” he says.
The oncoplastic surgeon has been in the past bestowed with several awards and has been invited for talks and lectures by various international bodies of breast health surgeons for his vast body of work in this field. A recipient of many awards, both at national and international level for his contribution to breast healthcare, a few awards give Dr Raghu Ram a sense of pride. “The one award that gives me great sense of pride is being conferred the International Gold medal for the year 2013 by the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
This award was conferred upon me by the President of the College in recognition for my academic achievements and contribution,” he said. Dr Raghu Ram is the youngest ever recipient of this prestigious award in the 508 years history of the Royal College. Highlighting the relationship of trust between the doctor and the patient, Dr Raghu Ram goes on to say, “The patient trusts and places his life in the hands of the doctor. On many occasions, the patient discloses confidential information to the doctor, which he might or might not have discussed with his/her spouse or family member.
In no other profession does the individual place so much trust and faith. In some regions, particularly in rural India, the doctor is equated with ‘god’ and medicine is considered to be a ‘noble profession’. The doctor is therefore duty bound to have a higher level of moral code of conduct and must understand that he/she is in a very privileged position.”