Surgery icon and change-maker Dr. GV Rao is leading the charge for AIG Hospital’s mission integrating expertise, infrastructure and affordability.
Dr. GV Rao is the Director, Chief of Surgical Gastroenterology, GI Oncology and Minimally Invasive Surgery at AIG Hospitals. Located at Hyderabad (Telangana), AIG Hospitals is a state-of-the-art super specialty Hospital and a world-leader in transplant surgeries including Liver, Kidney, Pancreas and Islet Cell.
Dr GV Rao is often regarded as a ‘living legend’ in surgery. He is held in high esteem by his peers and communities, and variously described as an “Outstanding, hardworking and empathetic surgeon”, “A great innovator”, “A leader in his field”, “An excellent Endoscopic and GI surgeon” and “A wonderful human being.”
Dr. GV Rao has been involved in several new product trials and has been a leader in the field of NOTES. He regularly organizes and presents at several national and international meetings and is well recognized both in medical and surgical gastroenterology.
As we catch up with Dr Rao, we begin our session by enquiring into the driving passions of his life. The iconic professional responds…
“From the time I have attained an intellectual self, all I know is being a surgeon. It’s one life’s biggest virtues to have the skill and the opportunity to make a difference to peoples’ lives. Even after 30 years of practice, every day teaches you something new. That’s what I enjoy about my profession and that’s what motivates me every morning. My hobbies are also related to science as I like to involve myself in basic research work that we do at AIG. The day I will stop enjoying my work, it would mean retirement for me.”
It is best to begin at the genesis of the journey, and we turn our focus to the formative years of Dr G.V.Rao’s life. The change architect switches to flashback mode, and recalls…
“I come from a humble background and extremely grateful to my parents for giving me the right schooling platform which cemented my fundamental knowledge about science. At age of 16, I got into the medical college being one of the youngest in the batch. From the very beginning, I was more interested in surgery than medicine. Subsequently, I went on to do my Masters from Bangalore and was lucky to get trained under Prof. Vittal who shaped me as a skilled surgeon. Thereafter, had the opportunity to learn and work with my mentor Prof. Natesan Rangabashyam in Chennai. When I came back to Hyderabad, I was offered a government posting in a nearby town but it was more of a primary health center with not much work for a surgeon. My inclination towards minimally invasive approach in surgery got me interested in following Dr. D Nageshwar Reddy and his work in endoscopy. Rest is history. We started morning and evening practice at Medinova and slowly moved towards creating our own space.”
Every iconic journey has a turning point – an ‘Eureka Moment’, so to speak, that influences the narrative decisively. Was there any in his life, we wonder. Dr. GV.Rao shares….
“The most pivotal moment in our career is the advent of minimally invasive endoscopic and surgical procedures which dramatically got penetrated into our practice. This tectonic shift from open surgeries to these laparoscopic, minimally invasive techniques brought significant improvement in patient outcome. I belong to a generation where we were fortunate not only to see the entire revolution unfolding before our eyes but also to be actively involved in translating the same into clinical practice. The technologies are still evolving at a rapid pace, and it is our experience with both open surgeries and these newer modalities that is enabling us to adapt quickly.”
So what is the big need-gap his initiatives and endeavours is addressing and fulfilling? Dr. Rao helpfully deep-dives into the true significance and ramifications of his work…
“The biggest gap in Indian healthcare is the lack of equitable access. The dream of universal healthcare can only be realized if we start treating all patients irrespective of their social strata equally and provide them equal opportunities to get treated breaking the cost barrier.
At AIG Hosptials, we our mission is to leverage cutting edge technology at an affordable cost so that large section of the population can be benefitted. With public institutions, the challenge is of infrastructure and with private organizations, cost becomes and issue for many, we are developing a privately run institutionalized model of healthcare delivery where expertise, infrastructure, and affordability are all integrated together.”
What makes his initiative a game-changer and a need-of-the-hour? The champion of change explains…
“In our country, the out-of-pocket expense in healthcare is one of the highest in the world. With newer government schemes, this might change but needs models like ours to extend those benefits to large section of the society. We cannot see healthcare as isolated government and private ownership but as a combined effort towards fulfilling the requirements of billion plus people.”
At the risk of placing the man in an uncomfortable position, we urge him to share the moments and occasions in life that make his most proud. The man obliges helpfully…
“When we started Asian Institute of Gastroenterology way back in 1994 as India’s first dedicated day care center for GI disorders, our only objective was to ensure that we establish benchmark in terms of patient care. Over the years, getting recognized as one of the few Center of Excellence in the World, becoming no. 1 specialty center year after year, and finally culminating into the state-of-the-art tertiary care center in form of AIG Hospitals, would certainly rank amongst the top of our achievements list. Personal awards, recognitions are there but nothing comes close to this. Today, we are amongst the top hospitals in India with over 20 specialites, 350+ consultants, 1000+ beds in total. Still getting to work everyday and being in my OT scrubs makes me feel happy and to see the students that I have trained become successful clinicians makes me proud.
He’s come a long way, and yet, when it comes to an driven visionary and intrepid achiver like Dr. GV Rao, one gets the impression that the journey has only just begun. And that the best, is perhaps yet to come. So what does the future roadmap look like? What are the milestones he would like to cross in the coming time? The iconic mind shares….
“We have witnessed the exponential evolution of healthcare which took place over the last three to four decades; and now, medical science is capable of pulling off what would have looked miracle say in 1960s. For us, next is to build on the multidisciplinary, holistic approach towards health and wellness. It is no more perogetive of a single skillset rather a confluence of multiple experts working towards bringing out the best outcome for the patient.
Apart from this, basic science research is going to play a major part in translating what works in a lab to clinical practice. We have a dedicated translational research facility capable of finding solutions to new age health concerns. Lastly, the advent of artificial intelligence and personalized medicine will be our focus areas. Already we have started implementing specific projects based on AI and personalized medicine and looking forward to enhance these health services in future.
With a journey as chequered and eventful as his, Dr. Rao has doubtless gone through experiences and exposures that have moulded his mind and influenced his personality. So what have been the most important lessons that he has picked up along the way, we enquire. And what advice would you want to leave for the next generation / aspirants in his domain? Dr. Rao’s response is as powerful as it is candid:
“Heading the overall surgical practice of one of India’s biggest tertiary care center has its own set of challenges from both leadership and clinician perspective. The newer generation of doctors are coming up with quite elaborate ambitions. Training them to learn newer skills while instilling the sense of empathy towards patient and staying grounded is definitely the biggest challenge today. The doctor-patient equation too has changed over the years and now whether it is Google-acquired knowledge among patients or insurance-backed confidence both are proving a bit detrimental to the overall medical practice.”
Every leader – and certainly those as driven as Dr. GV Rao – leaves a trail of inspiration on the sands of time – one that only grows stronger with time. So what would Dr. Rao like to be remembered? What would he, in other words, want his lasting legacy to be? The change evangelist takes on the query - which can often be a tricky one – with poise and purpose :
“Hopefully, my students will remember me for the fact that I always insist on learning and adapting to the latest techniques. This is important for clinicians in a dynamically changing world of healthcare. One should never stop learning.”
A memorable session has reached its conclusion, and as we prepare to wind down, we probe Dr. Rao for a parting message. What would he like to say to the healthcare community through Voice of Healthcare Platform? The man generously shares…
“Being honest with your profession is being honest with oneself. The same virtue one should display in every relationship, be it with your family, your colleagues, your patients, or your contemporaries.”
*This story is published by VOH Team*
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