“When I work with patients, I think about how to apply science to alleviate their suffering. This gives meaning to everything else I do,” said Director General of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Professor Balram Bhargava after jointly winning the 2019 Dr Lee Jong-wook Memorial Prize for Public Health at the 72nd World Health Assembly in Geneva earlier this week.
He bagged the award for his achievements as a clinician, innovator, researcher and trainer.
On the health facilities in India, he said there were facilities where only the richest could step in.
“I would never wish to work in a place like that. I did not study medicine to make money! I did it to help people. Indians do not need to go abroad for treatment — we have the health solutions here,” he affirms. “Unfortunately, they are not accessible for everyone. This is a huge unfinished agenda that policy makers must address,” said the physician.
Referring to the Central government’s Ayushman Bharat programme, he said “the whole world is watching India. Many countries hope to see whether we will deliver and how, because this programme has created a paradigm shift to achieve universal health coverage”.
Professor Bhargava said while the responsibility of providing quality, affordable healthcare lies with everyone, the policy makers must take the lead.
“A doctor treats only one patient at a time. A researcher helps larger groups, as his knowledge and innovation can spread to many patients. A policy maker brings it all one step farther when taking decisions to ensure that the whole population of the country benefits,” he said.
On his goal and the way forward after winning this prestigious award, he said: “I was 14 years old when my father had a heart attack that was when I decided to become a doctor. Ever since, my goal in life has been to treat people and the goal remains my driving force.”