Transplant surgeon with a noble purpose

Tom Cherian, an expert transplant surgeon, has been sharing his knowledge free of cost with doctors in government hospitals. There are only one or two hospitals that can provide all kinds of services on liver care.

August 10, 2015 12:00 am | Updated March 29, 2016 02:25 pm IST - HYDERABAD:

Hyderabad:Telangana: 09/08/2015: Dr.Tom Cherrian 

 Photo:Special Arrangement

Hyderabad:Telangana: 09/08/2015: Dr.Tom Cherrian 

 Photo:Special Arrangement

Ever heard of an expert transplant surgeon from a corporate hospital who decides to share all his intellectual knowledge free of cost, which he has quite painstakingly acquired in nearly two decades of research and by conducting 450 liver transplants, with doctors in government hospitals?

Yes, you have heard it right! Well known liver transplant surgeon, Tom Cherian is just doing that.

The surgeon, after spending 16 years in the UK including a five-year stint as a liver transplant surgeon in Kings College Hospital, London, is now the advisor for Liver Transplant Programme for the State of Telangana.

He is also leading the Liver Transplant Programme for Care Group of Hospitals, but that did not dissuade him from setting up transplant programme for the State government, which is offering to take up a liver transplant just for Rs. 10.5 lakh under Arogyasri while in corporate hospitals, the cost starts from Rs. 22 lakh.

Dr. Tom Cherian was the intellectual brain behind two successful liver transplant surgeries taken up at OGH and NIMS. The surgeon fields a few questions on what made him to take this step, which has the potential to impact private practice.

What made you get attached to government hospitals?

I realise that associating myself with government hospitals could affect my private practice. But, what I feel is that there is enough work for everybody. There is a section of population that is well served and can afford higher treatment costs. But, there is another section that can’t even hope for a liver transplantation in a private hospital and they desperately need support.

For instance, there are anywhere between 150 and 200 cardiology centres in Hyderabad alone, but only one or two hospitals that can provide all kinds of services on liver care. There is a huge disease burden of liver ailments, but there is no infrastructure support. It made sense to me to come back to India and contribute in the field of liver care. This is where I figured I could teach surgeons in the government and private sector in India.

Tell us about the ground work that happened before taking up liver transplant at OGH and NIMS.

I think a year ago, Bheerappa, who heads Surgical Gastroenterology in NIMS, invited me to be a part of the team. Since then, I have been training a group of nurses and doctors who will be members of a team to conduct liver transplants in government hospitals. I have framed the right protocols that have to be observed during transplantation. I have also trained the surgeons who will participate in donor operations, where the donor organ is taken out. And then finally, I have also given training to gastroenterologists in making them chose the right recipient for transplantation.

Tell us about the disease burden of liver ailments in India.

The facts on liver disease are astonishing in India. There is an obvious imbalance between availability of experts to treat liver ailments and incidence. There are 300 to 400 million Hepatitis B cases in the world out of which India alone accounts for a whopping 100 million. In addition, there are another 70 million Hepatitis C cases in India. Every year, one lakh patients die because of liver cancer and worse part is that they do not have access to treatment. Essentially, liver disease broadly comprises Hepatitis B, C, Fatty Liver, Cancer and alcoholic liver disease.

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