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Experts Talk
Dr Anupam Sibal
Paediatrician and Medical Director, Apollo Hospital, New Delhi
DoctorNDTV: What, according to you, are the attributes of a good doctor?
Dr Anupam Sibal: I think the answer to that question is two fold. One, like any other profession, a good doctor is one who is qualified and skilled in his domain of expertise in order to take care of his patients and in many cases save lives. Two, certain specific attributes are essential for a doctor that may not necessarily apply to other professions. Empathy, a desire to serve, honesty and an ethical approach towards the profession makes one a good doctor.
DoctorNDTV: What is your opinion about medical training in India? Why are we not able to retain talent?
Dr Anupam Sibal: Medical training is excellent in India, though limited in terms of the need. There is a growing need for setting up more medical colleges in India since the current supply will not meet the demand of our country. However, this demand should not be met with sub-standard institutions and I think it is important that we should not forsake quality and excellence to meet the demand for doctors and nurses.

Similarly, the post-graduate training institutions are limited. Only a third of all graduates in our country can specialize and to my mind that number is far too small for a country of our size and needs. This has the unintended consequence of doctors going abroad to specialize and thereby further lowers the number of quality doctors available to treat our population. This trend is showing signs of reversal. Increasingly, we are seeing expatriate doctors wanting to come back to India to work while graduates are staying put in the country due to better opportunities and infrastructure that is now available to them.
DoctorNDTV: Do you think health websites are useful? What are your views about DoctorNDTV?
Dr Anupam Sibal: Yes, health websites offer solutions and opinions to a wider audience who may not have access to the best doctors in the field. However, I would also draw a note of caution. Prospective patients and opinion seekers must verify the website that they rely on for medical advice and should ideally also speak to their doctors for a second opinion. Having said that, I think there are credible sites like DoctorNDTV that have an eminent panel of experts and are well-structured and user-friendly for patients to rely on for medical queries and advice.
DoctorNDTV: Why did you choose the present job?
Dr Anupam Sibal: I had the good fortune of being offered an opportunity to setup something that did not exist in India at the time. Setting up a liver transplant program in the mid-nineties was not on many hospitals’ agenda, but at Apollo, the vision was to create not only the first, but also one of the best transplant programs in the country. As soon as I got this offer I decided to take it up immediately and I am happy to state that it was the best decision I ever made in my professional life.

Since then I have been entrusted with more responsibilities and I enjoy the challenge these new opportunities have offered.
DoctorNDTV: Could you describe your typical work day?
Dr Anupam Sibal: My day starts early as I am in office at 8 and maintain a 12 hour work schedule. The hours may seem long and excruciating but I love my work since no two days are the same. The challenge remains on how to do something better today than yesterday and this drives me to give it my one hundred per cent everyday.
DoctorNDTV: Does the Indian health care system have any problems? If yes, how would you tackle these?
Dr Anupam Sibal: Yes, India does have a lot of problems in its health care system. There are problems of inequities, lack of access, poor rural infrastructure, poor doctor to population ratios, low bed numbers and a lack of social security or health insurance amongst other issues. Public spending on health care remains low. The government needs to double its spending on health to ensure that the country attains health indices that are acceptable. The many problems that plague the system need a comprehensive and wide ranging reform of our health sector and I hope that the current government will take this up with the seriousness it deserves.
DoctorNDTV: Is there anything you think that must be done for better health for all?
Dr Anupam Sibal: I do not think there is magic bullet to solve the complex problems of our health care system. Inequities, access, poor health delivery, lack of resources, low insurance and social security coverage, poverty and inadequate infrastructure are all multi-factorial yet have a huge impact on the levels of health care available to people. To my mind, we must take a cue from Western democracies where a subject like healthcare is a genuine election issue. Hopefully we will see healthcare take centre stage in the political manifestos in the years to come.
DoctorNDTV: What would you have been if not a doctor?
Dr Anupam Sibal: Without a doubt I would have chosen to become a TV anchor in another avatar!
DoctorNDTV: Who is the person you admire the most or are most influenced by?
Dr Anupam Sibal: Mahatma Gandhi, the father of our nation, has inspired me immensely. I believe there is so much to learn from his life and actions and he continues to provide me with wisdom as I read more about him.
DoctorNDTV: What has been the professional achievement that has made you most proud?
Dr Anupam Sibal: I have been very fortunate to have been part of a team that literally created a first for India. Being a member of the team that conducted India’s first successful liver transplant remains my proudest professional achievement till date.
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