Dr. Purnoor: What do you think are the key skills and qualities needed to be a successful respiratory medicine physician?
Dr. Suryakant: Yes. Now you can ask the question because now I have the experience.
I always say, there is no shortcut in life to any kind of success. Youngsters are misguided that, in the short term, they can become popular, they can become rich and can become very good orators. Either you are born with some skills or others you develop. So there are born skills and there are learning skills now if I can speak without hesitation in a crowd. So definitely I'm having a born skill of communication. So communication is a skill. Yes, you can develop, but most of the time it is the born skill, number one.
Sincerity is number two on the list. It is a quality that can be developed through effort and practice. Nobody is born sincere, punctual, or diligent. These are traits that can be cultivated. However, there are certain things that are beyond our control, such as destiny and luck. It is important not to dwell on feelings of ill fate but instead to maintain a positive outlook.
It is true that our destiny or fate is not entirely in our hands. There may be factors outside of our control that can affect the course of our lives, such as accidents, natural disasters, or the actions of others. However, this does not mean that we should not strive to make the most of what we can control.
Our actions, efforts, and attitude toward life are within our control, and these things can make a significant difference in our outcomes. Instead of relying solely on fate or luck, we should focus on developing our skills and abilities, working hard, being diligent and disciplined, and taking advantage of opportunities that come our way.
At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that there are limits to what we can do and that sometimes things may not go as we planned or hoped. In those situations, it is important to have faith, to be patient, and to trust that everything happens for a reason.
So, while we cannot control everything in our lives, we can control how we respond to those circumstances, and that can make all the difference.
I would suggest to young respiratory physicians that they should respect their gurus and senior colleagues, and avoid comparing themselves to others. Instead, they should focus on comparing their current performance to their past achievements. They should evaluate their progress in research, clinical work, and public speaking by comparing their performance with their own previous day, week, or year. They should identify where they were lagging behind when they gave their first lecture, and make efforts to improve. By doing so, they can work towards achieving their own personal growth and development.
When I finished my lecture, I always asked for questions and suggestions from the audience, including patients, colleagues, committees, and society members. Feedback is essential for the development of a successful leader or respiratory physician. If you're not receiving feedback, you cannot improve. Therefore, it's important to seek feedback from actual friends. By doing so, you can identify areas for improvement and work towards becoming a better physician and leader.
And learning is not only from your seniors or teachers or the, the experienced people. For example, one of my friends called me after watching my video of the Fiji World Hindi Conference. He told me that my speech had really touched his heart. He said, "I saw when you were speaking, you were facing the audience directly. That means you were not reading out your words, rather it was an extempore."
Never in my life did I think that by simply watching someone speak, I could understand so many details. Today, I learned a great deal from a cleaner. I can now explain in detail what I learned from dawn until dusk.
When I teach respiratory doctors and other medical professionals, I often mention a problem called pus in pleura formation. This occurs inside the pleural space, which is just outside the lung. The treatment for this is to insert a tube through a process known as intercostal drainage. I learned how to administer local anesthesia, how to properly insert the tube, and how to instruct the patient on how to prevent future issues from an OT technician named Ali Sahab. I still remember his name.
During my final year of MBBS, I learned about the various instruments used during childbirth from the nurses, rather than the professors in the gynecology department. The professors didn't have enough time to teach us how to use these instruments during delivery. It was still necessary for us to learn this as part of the gynecology curriculum in order to qualify for MBBS.
As a doctor, it's not necessary that only senior doctors can teach you. You can learn from anyone, including the janitor, ward master, nurses, and technicians. The best teacher in your life, especially as a doctor, is the patient.
Dr. Purnoor: Tell us some interesting clinical or career-related situations that left a deep impact on your life.
Dr. Surya Kant: There are so many interesting and challenging cases that come up, and it can be difficult to decide how to handle them. Many cases come to tertiary care hospitals like King George Medical University from other hospitals. One of the VIPs of the state came to us a few months ago after visiting a corporate hospital.
The VIP came to our very respected and important government institute after visiting several other doctors in important corporate and government hospitals. As I explained, this is a medical college and not a hospital, so my junior resident would be the one taking the patient's history. This is a learning experience because I have to make the doctors of KGMU into a brand.
When the patient presented his history, I asked him a simple question and was able to make a diagnosis. This experience showed me how a chest physician can reach a diagnosis or get close to one with just one question. I asked the patient if he had any pets, such as a dog or cat, at his house. He replied that he had two cats. I then scolded my resident, Aniket, for not including this crucial piece of information in the patient's history. An individual who comes to you with breathlessness and has pets should have this fact recorded in their medical history.
He contacted me when his oxygen saturation went below 90%, which is a critical situation. He walked into my room, rested for five minutes, and then started talking. This was his situation. I told him, 'Sir, your diagnosis has been made.' He replied, 'What are you saying, doctor?' He was shocked that it had been six or seven months and nobody had been able to figure it out. He was sitting here and Aniket was standing right there." (Pointing to his office)
What you are saying. I have been to Sanjay Gandhi PGI, Medanta, AIIMS, Mumbai, my son lives here, we have been there. So I asked him, "Has anyone asked you about pets at home?" "Nobody asked that," he told me.
Sometimes doctors become too casual or too apprehensive while taking patient histories. But it is important to remember that every question, no matter how silly it may seem, could hold a clue to the diagnosis. And as a doctor, it is your duty to ask any and all relevant questions related to the patient's illness, no matter who they are. In the case of the VIP patient with the low oxygen saturation, asking about pets at home was a crucial question that had been overlooked by multiple doctors from prestigious hospitals. It just goes to show that sometimes, the most unexpected questions can lead to a correct diagnosis.
"If you want me to treat you, call your wife right away to get rid of the cats and sanitize the house," I told the patient. He placed his hand on his heart and exclaimed, "Oh doctor, are you serious? My heart is sinking." I reassured him and said, "Call your wife and let me talk to her." When she answered, I asked, "Ma'am, do you want your husband to be completely cured?" She replied, "Doctor, we will do whatever it takes to cure him." So I advised, "Get rid of the cats." She was surprised but quickly agreed. When the patient returned home, he was amazed to find that the cats were gone and the house had been fully sanitized. I prescribed a treatment plan for five days and instructed him to call me after that period.
On the fifth day, he called me and exclaimed, "Doctor sahab, it's a miracle! My oxygen saturation is 96%!" I reminded him that he had initially been hesitant to follow my advice. He replied, "I had heard a lot about you, but now I truly understand your expertise."
He called me 7-8 days ago in Washington, and we discussed the diagnosis I made. He told me that he consulted with a leading specialist who has been working on the same disease for the last 40 years. When he mentioned about me in Lucknow, the specialist asked who he was. After reviewing the case for 45 minutes, the specialist told him that the doctor in Lucknow prescribed a treatment that he cannot add or remove anything from. It is a perfect prescription. He told me if I had received this treatment earlier, I would be in complete remission without medication.
He was happy to see that Indian doctors are getting recognition and appreciation from the top physicians. This makes me elated and proud.
In our country, as the head respiratory physician, I would be responsible for evaluating and treating all types of lung pathologies. However, in the US, it's not uncommon for a faculty member who was hired many years ago to continue focusing on a particular research area. I actually know one fellow who has become a big shot in his field.
Even though it is charitable work, I make sure to devote time to it. I am currently involved with 20 NGOs. If someone tells me, 'Doctor, you are too busy, how will you come?', my reply to them is, 'Bula ke toh dekho.' (Test me out and see.)
Like Salman Khan says, 'Agar maine commit kar diya toh main apne aap ki bhi nahi sunta.' (If I have committed to something, I don't even listen to myself.) So, I am able to spare time for charitable work as well.
No one in this campus has done more health camps than me. Now I have a team to take care of things, however, I keep visiting myself
There are two things I cannot do. One, as I told you before, is singing and dancing. The second is that I do not know how to cook. However, I can be a good food critic, identifying weaknesses and gauging the taste palette. So, whenever something is cooked at home or outside, my kids say, 'Let papa taste. He will tell us if the flavors are well balanced.
I do assessments, whether they are clinical, student, quality, or food assessments. I even teach my residents how to do photography or videography. I am not saying that I am a good photographer, but I know the tips and tricks for good photography. I often say that the person will remain the same, but the background will keep changing.
Yesterday, when we were clicking photos, I reminded everyone that the background of my office wall has photos of two great personalities: Swami Vivekananda and the other is Kalam Sahab (Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam).
In 2022, when new postgraduate students joined, there was an event going on. One of the new residents was assigned the task of clicking photographs while another was doing videography. After a while, my senior resident came to me and told me that the photographer was not good and taking very bad pictures. I called him in front of everyone and said, 'Dear, listen, in the next three years, you will complete MD Respiratory Medicine, and in addition to that, you will capture all the departmental events in the coming years.
I will make sure that in three years, this guy becomes one of the best photographers in our department.
Since I am a movie buff, there is a very interesting incident I remember. In 1995, my wife was in the last month of pregnancy, and one night, some of my friends came and asked me to go for a movie. They suggested that I let my wife rest at home and persuaded me to go alone.
I said our child is not 'Abhimanyu' (a character in Hindu mythology), and that he would not learn the plot of a movie while in the womb. So, I convinced my wife to go. We did not have a car at that time, so we left for the cinema on our scooter and reached quickly. Unlike today's multiplexes, tickets were not an issue.
When we were returning and trying to take a shortcut back home, we encountered some greasy material on the road. One scooter slipped, and then the other one did too, and eventually, mine did as well. At that moment, I thought I was in trouble, skating on thin ice, and that my family would rip me apart. (chuckles)
So, we got up, and I asked my wife if she was okay. Luckily, our speed was very slow, and both of us fell without any injury. From there, we went directly to the Queen Mary Hospital, and got my wife checked up. Everything was fine.
That day I decided, this is the last movie before delivery.
Thank you for being with us until the end. MedBound Times is pleased to have had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Surya Kant, and we hope that his journey will inspire many medical professionals to achieve their goals through hard work and determination.