The Joy of Treating Asthma
I was recently interviewed by ” Health Issues India “. It was a long a free wheeling interview. I am reproducing two questions and answers from it, which pertain to Asthma. Hope you will find it interesting and of some use.
- Could you tell us a bit about the work that you do? How did first get involved in the work that you are currently doing?
I now work almost exclusively on asthma and allergy.The interest awakened in my medical college days in 1985-90, when I was doing my residency in a large Government Hospital in Delhi. At that time the thinking was “Dama dam ke saath hi jaata hai” (asthma goes with the last breath) and asthmatics underwent untold misery and accepted their lot as if it was a curse of GodI soon realised that despite the fact that effective and very cheap medicines were available in India, what was really keeping these patients away from proper treatment was their own non-acceptance of the diagnosis and the fears and misconceptions regarding the treatment in general and inhalers in particular.Spending time educating them and guiding them to self manage their disease was the key to help them avail the benefits of treatment. Once I did that with some success, this became a passion for me. I now see my role more as a teacher than as only a doctor.
The next challenge was – how to reach out to more patients beyond the boundaries of the clinic. I tried to do that in many ways – by writing books and booklets in very simple language, creating videos, which carry the message effectively, by writing in newspapers, taking public lectures as well as lecture for doctors. Modern technology also helped. I now routinely take talks for general public/doctors via web cast to over 30 centres reaching an audience in thousands all at once. I started a website dedicated to patient education. This sends out educational newsletters to over 7000 subscribers. I also created a team of 10-15 patient educators whose sole job is to remove the doubts and myths of patients.
These efforts have reaped good results. Our centres in Delhi and Gurgaon are now considered premier centres in the country dealing with all aspects of asthma and allergy. I routinely see patients of asthma and allergy whose lives have been transformed by these simple measures.
- What has surprised you most about working in this field?
When we are training to become doctors, there is a lot of stress laid on diagnosing difficult diseases and we are always in awe of our teachers who we consider diagnostically brilliant. They become our role models. Then we are also awed by innovative technology. However, when we start treating patients in the real world, we realise the truth in the aphorism that “common diseases occur commonly and rare diseases occur rarely”. Also, what is required of a doctor in treating common chronic diseases like diabetes, asthma or allergy are patience to listen to the patients, take out the time to teach them about the disease, good communication skills and an ability to partner a trusting relationship with them to eventually equip them to be able to treat their condition themselves. Just like the Chinese saying “You give a man a fish you feed him for a day. You teach him how to fish and you feed him for life.”