Dr B S Ajaikumar: Doctor ‘Do-No-Little’
Dr B S Ajaikumar, Chairman & CEO, HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd, Bengaluru
Jasleen Kaur Batra
Being a true sportsaholic, Dr Ajaikumar has enjoyed every sport right from tennis, trekking, running, etc. He has trekked from Darjeeling to Kanchengunja and discovered the beauty of nature. We discover his other facets of life…
Dr Ajaikumar grew in a household where knowledge and education were given great importance. His father was the dean of a law school and enjoyed reading on various issues and always encouraged his children to read. “When I was growing up we used to read a lot on general affairs and would have a discussion every evening with my father and a few relatives. We would all come together and discuss the pros and cons of the society and quote famous words of authors. With all the discussions we did realise that India was deprived of a lot of things like education, healthcare, democracy and more. That is when I decided I want to grow up to be a man who can help the poor and the underprivileged attain the basic in life, which unfortunately they cannot afford,” says Dr Ajaikumar.
As a child he enjoyed history as a subject and felt teaching was a noble profession and hence wanted to become a history teacher. It was only after he completed his Class 10 and got a distinction that it occurred to his family that being a doctor would be a good career path for him and also because his elder brother was studying medicine and had gone abroad to gain formal training. He then went to St Johns’ Medical College, Bengaluru to get his MBBS degree, after which he joined University of Virginia, US and then did his fellowship in Radiation Oncology and Medical Oncology from MD Andersons’ Tumor Hospital and Institute, Houston, US. “I was initially interested in cardiology but while I was interning in MD Andersons’ I got the opportunity to understand the needs of a cancer patient. The patients were treated like terminal cases, which was extremely disappointing. I felt one needs to understand cancer and once it is understood well, it can be treated and that is how I got into oncology and wanted to treat as many patients as possible, especially in rural India,” says he. His intention of going to the US was to prepare himself and receive the best possible training so that he could come back to India and set up his own hospital. In 1989 he came to India and set up two hospitals simultaneously – Bangalore Institute of Oncology with 5 doctors which was the only cancer hospital at that time and Mysore Bharat Hospital, which is a not-for-profit hospital and has treated more than 30, 000 people so far. In 2000 he decided to come to India as he wanted to give undivided attention to India. He strongly believed that physician-led initiatives have the potential to go a long way and can reach the masses especially in developing nations. Today, HCG has grown at an enormous scale and has more than 30 centres all over India at places such as Ahmedabad, Chennai, Cuttack, Kolkata, Delhi, Ranchi, Vijaywada, Shimoga and many more.
Dr Ajaikumar was always sure of the services he wanted to provide and hence has adopted a hub-and-spoke model. Not a single patient is turned away from this hospital, patients who can afford to the treatment pay for it and the ones who cannot the hospital subsides the rates or in special cases treats the patient for free. One can also observe the human side of his when he narrates an extremely heart touching story as the most memorable moment of his career. He says, “I was in the Mysore Hospital when I saw a lady wearing a white sari fully covered in blood. She was bleeding as she had cancer of the cervix. I went ahead and treated her and by the grace of god she was fine.
Three weeks later as I was walking by I saw the same patient waving at me with a big smile on her face. Such incidents are when you feel happy to be a doctor, it makes you realise the power you have as a doctor and the various ways in which you can change the lives of people.”
The adventurous side of the oncologist
Due to his father Dr Ajaikumar has been a voracious reader since his childhood, this is one habit he has carried with him. “I thoroughly enjoy reading books on history, politics, philosophy and mythology interest me. If asked to pick my favourite out of these I would have to say my inclination towards mythology is the strongest. The reason is because there is a lot to learn and implement in one’s life from the characters and situations that mythological books exhibit. Personally as well as professionally it gives you examples and situations that one can relate to which no other genre of books offer.” He also feels that mythology has a lot to offer especially to people associated to cancer as seeing patients and treating them is a philosophy, and these books talk about the philosophy of life. In his college days he was a tennis champion, he started playing in 1976 and was so fond of it that he would play at night as there was no free time during the day. As a tennis player he has won City Championship in college. Running was his next sport and started running in 1981, since then he runs everyday and has made it a way of life. He has also participated in 7 marathons. In 1986 the adventure that he decided to dive into was trekking. “There was a time when I started enjoying trekking a lot, I would backpack in the US, and would go camping with my friends for 7 days at a stretch. When I came to India, I took 6 moths off just to explore my country and went trekking from Darjeeling to Kanchengunja base camp. The sights I saw while trekking were breath taking, though I do not get the time to trek today but if given a chance I would love to leave everything behind and explore the world,” he says enthusiastically.
Uncovering the other facets
Besides the adventurous side Dr Ajaikumar believes in Gandhian ideologies of non-violence. He also feels that doctors are the way of creating social reforms as they come to terms with the people and their economic structure. A patient shares all their grief with the doctors and it is the doctor who with his words can make a difference. When asked who his role models were on his journey to success, Dr Ajaikumar says, “Growing up I did not particularly idolise anyone. But I looked up to mythological characters like Karna- he was a giver and gave away everything; I believe in life that it is good to give. Harishchandra is another character I admire. I feel we cannot be like these characters but we should correct ourselves as much as we can as it is important for us to be on the right path to make sure others reach that spot too.” He with his dream continues to cross all hurdles to ensure that treatment for cancer is available to people in the remotest of areas. His determination has helped him sustain his position in this domain for more than 30 years now and in the times to come he promises to make healthcare more affordable and accessible.
Catalysts for growth
- One should be a facilitator rather than trying to be the boss
- Being sensitive to others’ needs
- Honesty and transparency
- Try to simplify things
- Treat each issue as it is and do not generalise it
- Give a chance to others to express themselves
- Productivity and accountability