Cut above the rest : Dr Vineet Gupta, HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. (HCG)
Interview

Cut above the rest : Dr Vineet Gupta, HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. (HCG)

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Dr Vineet Gupta, the latest to join the list of luminaries in the field of Cancer research, having been felicitated by one of the top Cancer Institutes, has made India proud being the first Asian to be awarded the Jean H. Lubrano Distinguished Scholar Award for 2009. eHEALTH recently caught up with this dynamic Group Medical Director of HCGL to felicitate him and understand his vision for the future.

Dr Vineet Gupta is the first Asian to be honoured with the prestigious Jean H. Lubrano Distinguished Scholar Award for 2009 by the Harvard University/Dana Farber Cancer Center, Boston. He joins the list of elite cancer specialists worldwide honoured as Lubrano scholars. Dana Farber Cancer Institute has been consistently voted amongst the top three cancer centres in the US.

Jean Lubrano Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award acknowledges the spirit of helping others and continuing the fight against cancer. The award acknowledges the contribution of Dr Gupta in furthering the cause of science and brings a respected clinician and researcher in women’s cancers to Harvard University/Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston in the hope of fostering education and collaboration.

Widely recognised for his work in Breast Cancer and Hematological diseases including Leukemias and Lymphomas, Dr Gupta in the current position as the Group Medical Director of HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. (HCG), provides leadership to align the clinical and research expertise of oncology professionals at the HCG institutions, ensuring that the medical care given to cancer patients is advanced, innovative, comprehensive, and multidisciplinary. Dr Gupta is an alumnus of University of Delhi. His initial training was at the famed Wayne State University and Barbara Ann Karmanos Comprehensive Care Centre, Detroit. Later he was at the world renowned Moffitt Comprehensive Cancer Centre in Tampa, USA. 

Q. Please tell us something about your experience starting from your early career and after having worked in world renowned cancer research institutes, and currently as Group Medical Director at HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. (HCG)

A. I received my initial medical education at University of Delhi, subsequent to which I moved to the US. I was part of an era of high velocity scientific change, massive acceleration in new medical procedures, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, diagnostics and methodologies. I realised that our ability to ingest new knowledge is a key saviour in re-engineering of healthcare. I think this was a defining moment in my career.

At HCG, South Asia’s largest Cancer care network, I use my learning, coordinate patient care among myriad of clinical and research professionals; ensure that the care is advanced, innovative and multi-disciplinary.

Q. You were recently awarded the prestigious Jean H. Lubrano Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award for 2009 by the Harvard University-Dana Farber Cancer Centre; the only Asian to have received this award. Could you share with us key moments in your career that stand out in your memory at this juncture that contributed to this huge success?

A. Few people have one defining moment where they decide their future career path and rest of their lives. Even as a child, I always knew that I wanted to be a physician. My father is a doctor, and a doctor’s job is to help sick people. That’s all I needed to know.

That, however, does not make for an interesting story. The defining moment in my career was the decision to come back to India, leaving behind the lure of gold and glory.

Q. The award acknowledges your contribution in furthering the cause of science and your research in oncology. How do you think India differs from other countries in terms of awareness about cancer and efforts to increase awareness by the State machinery?

A. Cancer is a leading cause of death globally. WHO estimates 84 million will die in the next 10 years if action is not taken. More than 70% of all deaths occur in low-income countries.

We as a developing world have yet to make the transition from “fixing people after they are sick” to preventive medicine. This will drastically reduce spending, and improve quality of lives.

Every 6.5 minutes, a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer in India. It takes USD 1500 to provide effective treatment, however the accompanying emotional trauma and expense are avoidable if she undergoes USD 15 screening mammography.

The government, despite its good intent, has confused ‘activity’ with ‘achievement’ and hence has been unable to drive real change. The private sector, which dominates healthcare has been unable to create opportunities for itself in the preventive space.

“Cancer is a leading cause of death globally. WHO estimates 84 million will die in the next 10 years if action is not taken. More than 70% of all deaths occur in low-income countries.”

Q. How well and effectively do you think has the medical fraternity adopted technology so far? And where do you think more rapid uptake is required to improve health outcomes?

A. I think the medical community is misunderstood as being techno-phobic. Consider Azyxxi (now part of Amalga) that’s designed by doctors, for doctors.

I believe we must evolve to a user interface that is intuitive of clinicians processes. Community doctors move from hospital to hospital. We are becoming so mobile that we need solutions that work wherever we are with whatever device. We cannot expect healthcare professionals to change the way they work depending on the particular hospital they are visiting.

Think of driving a car. You familiarise yourself with the controls for a given model and then adjust for regional variations by country. But once you know how to drive, you can generally jump in and start driving it, no matter where in the world you are.

A great ICT architecture is a means to an end not an end in itself. ICT will eventually be source of evidence based information about therapeutics and practices for clinical and policy decisions. ICT will foster partnerships among providers, insurers, employers and consumers to bring a sustainable change.

About HealthCare Global Enterprises Ltd. (HCG):

South Asia’s largest cancer care network, currently owns and manages a network of 15 state-of-the-art cancer treatment centres across India. HCG focuses on the entire value chain in cancer care from Diagnostics to high end Imaging Services to cutting edge research and clinical trials HCG has had a vision to provide high quality, affordable, and comprehensive cancer care to all segments of society.

Bangalore Institute of Oncology (BIO), the flagship of HCG, was set up almost 2 decades back by Dr. B S Ajai Kumar who had just moved back from the US and was the first dedicated comprehensive cancer centre in the private space.

Q. How do you approach the potential of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in your current role as the Group Medical Director of HCG?

A. The current buzz is about Personalised Medicine based on our genetic make up (Pharmacogenomics), which I think is restrictive. Personalised medicine will extend far beyond – it is the interface between diagnostics and therapeutics, a union between drugs and devices.

HCG is South Asia’s largest Cancer Care provider, with close to 24,000 patients in the countrywide network. I call this our IT DNA – a major initiative guided by the vision of Dr. Ajai Kumar. When completed, it will enable many things – oncology EMR, virtual care and just-in-time decisions.

Operations will be enabled by a centralised HIS, an integrated compliant backend and a secure robust infrastructure. We want to create a brand, using our clinician portal, a well laid-out website and social networking. 

About Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Jean H. Lubrano distinguished Scholar Award

Dana Farber Cancer Institute has been consistently voted amongst the top three cancer centers in the US, and the Jean Lubrano Distinguished Visiting Scholar Award has been acknowledged as one of the most prestigious in the field of medicine.

Past visiting scholars have included:

May 1999: Aron Goldhirsch, MD

Aron Goldhirsch, MD, is the Director of the Department of Medicine at the European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy; Professor of Medical Oncology at the University of Bern, Switzerland and head of the Division of Medical Oncology of the Oncology Institute of Southern Switzerland, Lugano, Switzerland. He is also the Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the International Breast Cancer Study Group.

June 2000: Mark Levine, MD, MSc

Mark Levine is a professor in the Department of Oncology and the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics. He holds the Buffett Taylor Chair in Breast Cancer Research at McMaster University. His focus is in the areas of breast cancer and venous thromboembolism. A number of the trials he has conducted have had an impact on healthcare in Canada and also internationally. He helped establish the Ontario Clinical Oncology Group (OCOG) in 1982. Dr. Levine has over 220 publications in peer-reviewed journals and has brought much research funding to McMaster. He is Director of the Clinical Trials Methodology Group (CTMG) of the Henderson Research Centre. He was chairman of Health Canada’s Steering Committee on Clinical Practice Guidelines for the Care and Treatment of Breast Cancer. Dr. Levine is currently an associate editor for the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

July 2003: Martine Piccart-Gebhart, MD, PhD

Dr. Piccart-Gebhart is a member of numerous professional organisations, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), and the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer (EORTC). She is also the President of EORTC (since June 2006). She plays an active role in new drug development. In 1996, Dr. Piccart-Gebhart founded the Breast International Group (BIG) and currently serves as chair. Created to facilitate breast cancer clinical trials and to reduce the unnecessary duplication of efforts, BIG coordinates 38 clinical research groups based primarily in Europe, South America, and Australasia. A translational research consortium created to complement BIG’s clinical research network, TransBIG, was founded by Dr. Piccart-Gebhart in 2004.

July 2004: Kathleen Pritchard, MD, FRCPC

In 1984, she was named Chair of the Breast Cancer Site Group of the NCIC Clinical Trials Group and has served in that role, or as Co-chair, up until the present time. In 1987, Dr. Pritchard moved to the Toronto Sunnybrook Regional Cancer Centre (TSRCC) as Head of Medical Oncology (subsequently Medical Oncology and Haematology) and in 1997 was also appointed Head, Clinical Trials and Epidemiology at TSRCC. She has served as Chair and Co-chair of the Breast Cancer Site Group of the Ontario Practice Guidelines Initiative from 1990 through 2002, and in 1998, was also appointed as Clinical Director of the Ontario Clinical Oncology Group. Dr. Pritchard was a founding member of the Canadian Oncology Society (1978) and subsequently their Vice-President (1992-1994). She was also a Founding Member of the Canadian Association of Medical Oncology (1988), and their second President (1990- 1992). Dr. Pritchard was awarded the O. Harold Warwick Prize for Cancer Control in Canada in 2005 by the Canadian Cancer Society and the NCIC for her work in clinical and translational trials in breast cancer. In 2006 Dr. Pritchard was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. Dr. Pritchard has also served as Chair of the Management Committee of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative, a partnership that funds much of the breast cancer research done across Canada (1999-2002).

July 2005: Timothy Whelan, BM, BCh, MSc

Timothy Whelan, MD Professor, Department of Oncology and Head of Department of Radiotherapy, McMaster University Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

July 2006: Ian Smith, MD

Professor Ian Smith is Professor of Cancer Medicine at the Royal Marsden Hospital and Institute of Cancer Research, London. He is also Head of the Breast Unit. He trained in Edinburgh and at Harvard before coming to work at The Royal Marsden where he has spent many years specialising in the medical treatment of breast cancer and, until recently, lung cancer. Professor Smith is a past Chairman of the Association of Cancer Physicians and of the UK National Cancer Research Institute Lung Cancer Group. He is on the steering committees of several major international clinical research trials and has recently been closely involved in the development of Herceptin for early breast cancer. He has published over 350 research papers and lectures widely around the world.

July 2007: José Baselga, MD

Jose received his MD degree from the Universidad Autonoma of Barcelona in 1982. He performed Internal Medicine Residencies at Vall d’Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona and at State University of New York and a fellowship in Medical Oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. On completion of his fellowship, he joined the staff at the Breast Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centre until 1996 when he returned to Spain. Presently, Jose is Chief of Medical Oncology and Professor of Medicine at the Vall d´Hebron University Hospital in Barcelona, and Scientific Chairman of the Spanish Breast Cancer cooperative group SOLTI. He is on the editorial board of several major journals and has published over 100 peer-reviewed articles, in addition to over 300 abstracts and book chapters.

July 2008: Mitchell Dowsett, PhD

Mitchell Dowsett, Ph.D., a leading international researcher on the endocrinology of breast cancer and the use of biomarkers to measure response to treatment, received the 2007 William L. McGuire Award at the 30th Annual San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium (SABCS). Supported by GlaxoSmithKline Oncology (GSK) since its inception in 1992, this award acknowledges distinguished researchers for their significant contributions in the field of breast cancer. Widely recognised for his research on aromatase inhibitors and biomarkers of response and resistance to treatment, Mitchell Dowsett, Ph.D., is Head of the Academic Department of Biochemistry at The Royal Marsden Hospital, Professor of Biochemical Endocrinology at the Institute of Cancer Research and Professor of Translational Research in the Breakthrough Breast Cancer Research Centre, London.

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