In June 2007, Dr. Ravi Kannan, a surgeon at the Adyar Cancer Institute in Chennai, embarked on a life-altering journey to Assam's Silchar. This decision came at a time when Assam was grappling with insurgency, bomb blasts, and natural disasters, making headlines for all the wrong reasons. But Dr. Kannan had a noble purpose in mind—to combat cancer among the underprivileged population who were suffering in silence and ignorance.
Fast forward to August 2023, and Dr. Kannan, a 59-year-old surgical oncologist, stood as one of the four recipients of the prestigious 2023 Ramon Magsaysay Award. He is the sole awardee from India, earning recognition as the "Nobel Prize of Asia."
In a recent conversation with FIT, Dr. Kannan shared his thoughts and insights on his remarkable journey and the battle against cancer.
Dr. Kannan, a man of humility and compassion, firmly believes that these accolades are not solely his but a collective recognition of the efforts of his colleagues, associates, and the community that played a pivotal role in shaping the Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (CCHRC) in Silchar.
His passion to combat cancer, a scourge on humanity, is evident in his innovative ideas and unwavering dedication. Dr. Kannan emphasizes that the fight against cancer should not be the sole responsibility of the government; instead, it necessitates a public-private partnership. To make healthcare accessible and affordable, he advocates for collaboration between state governments and the central government to negotiate favorable prices with pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers.
Dr. Kannan's illustrious career path includes completing his medical studies at Chennai's Kilpauk Medical College, obtaining a Master of Surgery from New Delhi's Maulana Azad Medical College, and earning a super-specialization in Surgical Oncology, an M. Ch., from the Cancer Institute (WIA) in Adyar, Chennai. Before joining CCHRC, he served in various capacities at the Cancer Institute, earning several awards, including the Padma Shri in 2020.
In his interview with India Narrative, Dr. Kannan delves into the critical aspects of addressing the rising incidence of cancer in India. He underscores the significance of prevention, which involves tackling factors such as smoking, consumption of areca nut, alcohol, dietary habits, pollution, and physical inactivity. Dr. Kannan highlights the role of awareness campaigns as a low-cost and highly effective method of combating cancer. These initiatives can educate people about the causes, prevention, early detection, and necessary actions upon diagnosis.
Early detection, he emphasizes, is crucial, as it dramatically increases the chances of recovery. However, patients often delay seeking medical assistance due to fear of high medical costs and expensive tests. Dr. Kannan emphasizes the availability of not-for-profit organizations and government agencies that offer treatments at nominal or even no cost.
To promote awareness, Dr. Kannan suggests involving teachers, students, youth, health workers, and Accredited Social Health Activist (ASHA) workers. ASHA workers, in particular, can play a vital role in disseminating information and educating communities at the grassroots level.
Addressing the issue of high healthcare costs, Dr. Kannan advocates for negotiations between state governments, union territories, and the central government with pharmaceutical companies and medical equipment manufacturers to ensure affordable treatment. He highlights the success of bulk purchases by institutions like the National Cancer Grid, emphasizing the need for a people-oriented healthcare approach in a country as vast and populous as India.
In conclusion, Dr. R. Ravi Kannan's tireless efforts to combat cancer, coupled with his innovative ideas and passion, have earned him recognition and accolades. His insights into prevention, awareness, and affordability of cancer treatment shed light on the path forward in India's battle against this formidable disease.