The words I first read in high school in an interview by a paediatric neurosurgeon in Reader’s Digest magazine has guided my professional work as a doctor.
In 2003 I set up a non-profit to sponsor costly treatment for children with Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) from underprivileged families.
Over a decade, the effort has treated over 150 kids. But that’s just a drop in the ocean.
Today, there are 21 MILLION children who suffer from the ravages of CHD. 1.35 million more are born with it every year. Many of them live in my part of the world.
Reluctantly, I’m forced to admit that this strategy can’t scale fast enough to be effective. Simultaneously, new developments in science and technology offer a glimmer of hope that’s growing steadily brighter.
Maybe there are other, better ways to tackle the problem.
SO… WHAT NOW?
What if we can identify the genetic errors which cause congenital heart disease?
And then fix them, even as the heart developed inside a mother’s womb?
15 years ago, this was just a fond dream. Today, technology is rapidly catching up with it. Soon, genetic engineering and interventional genomics could make CHD treatment simpler, faster, cheaper, and more effective.
A genetic cure might save thousands – even millions – of children.
Will it happen? Can it work? When?
I don’t know. But I’m going to try and find out.
That’s my “NOW” – and here’s what I’m involved with currently:
- Studying genomics. Find out all I can. To assess its potential – and how it may help treat CHD.
- Genomics research. Nothing beats hands-on experience. I’m engaged in 2 studies on genome sequencing – one for kids, another for the elderly.
- A demographic survey of heart disease risk in 100,000 people.
- Consulting with a healthcare start-up geared to extend heart health care to all by providing early heart attack detection to patients anywhere in the country.
- Working with a digital health platform developer to deliver essential and emergency primary healthcare to remotely located at-risk populations.
- Conducting health screening camps for early detection of diseases and disorders.
- Creating a nationwide network of medical professionals to collate ideas, opinions and suggestions to help guide healthcare policy and formulate protocols.
- Writing and marketing my books and info-products, to raise funds that help sponsor heart operations for under-privileged children.
- Reading extensively to widen my knowledge on cutting-edge fields like nano-technology, AI (artificial intelligence) and neuroscience.
My favorite biography, ‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ by Tracy Kidder, is about Dr.Paul Farmer who transformed healthcare in Haiti and parts of Africa through his non-profit work at Partners In Health.
Toward the end, it shares a philosophy. Here it is, in a nutshell:
You decide to climb a mountain. You scale the peak. You’re thrilled by your accomplishment. You sit back to enjoy the view.
And only then do you realize that what you just climbed
was just one of a range of mountains.
Some soar higher.
Other peaks are more jagged.
And there are many, many more of them than you could see from the ground.
To even view them, you had to scale the first!
‘Mountains Beyond Mountains’ is an aphorism for life, and any challenge you set yourself. Mine is to tackle the burden of Congenital Heart Disease. And in a broader sense, other diseases.
So I’m making another effort to scale Mount CHD.
Because I, too, will not accept a child dying.
Won’t you join me?