When class XII student Shiloh Jessie Francisca was called to felicitate veteran oncologist and chairperson of Cancer Institute V. Shanta at a function on Friday, few had any idea what to expect.

Shiloh gave statistics of the number of tobacco users, about how it affected youngsters and provided details of the acreage under tobacco versus the land under paddy cultivation. She spoke of educating farmers and weaning them from tobacco cultivation to paddy and sugarcane. This, she said, would be the answer to eradicating tobacco-related cancers.

Shiloh’s speech saw Dr. Shanta smiling and nodding in agreement. Shiloh is one of the thousands of social ambassadors for Indian Development Foundation (formerly Indian Leprosy Foundation).On Friday, the IDF honoured Dr. Shanta with the Mother Teresa Memorial Award 2013. The award, which included a statue of Mother Teresa, shawl and citation, was presented by M.S. Swaminathan, founder chairman of M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation. He said, “The Ramon Magsaysay [Award Foundation] recognised her for her compassion and humanism. Her presence is a source of inspiration and guidance,” he said, comparing her to K.S. Sanjeevi, who started the Voluntary Health Services, with the aim of making health care affordable.

A.R.K. Pillai, founder of the IDF, while praising her humility and benevolence, offered the support of the Foundation’s one million volunteers to create awareness about cancer and thus, prevent it.

In her address, Dr. Shanta said Cancer Institute had launched a project to create a registry, even for rural areas. The thrust of Vision 2020 is cancer prevention because prevention is cure, she said. “We have seen a revolution in cancer care. But, significant advances in medicine have increased medicare cost, making quality care difficult. Oncology care is neither accessible nor equitable,” she said.

Her concern was that non-specialists treat cancer without consultation with oncologists now. She said treating children with cancer made her happy as they would grow up and lead a normal life. Her only hope is to make medicare “affordable, accessible and equitable.”

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