Friday 11 November 2016

Lifetime Award for Geriatric doctor

Chennai: It’s another feather in the cap of Dr V S Natarajan, India’s first professor in geriatric medicine, who was awarded lifetime achievement award by Rotary Club of Madras North here yesterday. "It’s a proud moment for us in honouring Dr V S Natarajan," said the president of the club, Karthikeyan. Dr Natarajan (77) is the recipient of various awards and honours including the Dr B C Roy National Award (1994),
Government of Tamilnadu ‘Best Social Worker’ Award (2007), Padma Shri and many more. He is recognised as the Father of Geriatric Medicine in India as he introduced and popularised geriatric medicine in the country. He established an outpatient wing in geriatric medicine in the Government General Hospital in 1978 and succeeded in developing this discipline further by opening a 10-bed ward in 1988.

He was appointed as the first Professor of Geriatric Medicine at Madras Medical College in 1986. He succeeded in establishing a postgraduate MD programme in geriatrics in 1996.

Dr Natarajan spoke to 'News Today' on the day he received his lifetime achievement award by the Rotary Club of Madras North

Q: What is geriatric medicine?

A: Geriatric speciality mainly deals with elderly people. Those above the age of sixty are said to be in their old age. During this time, two major issues develop. One is medical problems and other is the socio-economic problems. As we grow older, a lot of medical issues pop up. Ageing processes like grey hair, cataract, dementia, Parkinson’s, crop up and people suffer. The disease that started at the age of 40, like diabetes, will accompany until old age. Regarding the socio-economic problem, a lot of misunderstanding happens between the youngsters and elders. Now, a lot of people do not follow the joint family system like in olden days. Many elders are in old age homes nowadays. They suffer a lot. These people are more concerned about social problems than medical problems. Geriatric medicine tackles four different types of problems that afflict old people. Assessing their medical, mental, physical and social aspect are the ways this treatment begins. It is not just prolonging their life, but much more than that. It is like giving them a new lease of life.

Q: What were your plans postretirement?

A: After retirement, I focussed on preventive geriatrics which is from the age of 50. People should go for periodic check-ups to detect silent diseases like blood pressure, etc. They should have a proper diet; and exercise is needed to keep fi t. Vaccination should also be taken to keep themselves away from pneumonia, influenza and other diseases. If we follow this regimen, old age will surely be a bliss.

Q: Why is geriatric medicine not popular in India?

A: That’s because you cannot make money out of this. This is not a lucrative career but one for people who love service. The blessings received from elders are more valuable than money. When MD Geriatrics was started in 1997, only three seats were available. Now, no seats are vacant and people want to take up this as a career. It is slowly picking up in India.

Q: How is this around the world?

A: Geriatrics is popular around the world. When they start a hospital, the fi rst department to open will be geriatrics. Many super speciality hospitals have geriatric cardiology, geriatric ortho and many more. This super speciality in geriatrics is gaining popularity.

Q: How is technology helping in treating elderly patients?

A: I started a project in 2008 called geriatric house care for elderly people to give them proper care and attention in their homes. Around 6,000 patients have been been seen during the six years and many lives have been saved under this project. This saves money and time.

Q: What are your plans?

A: Meals on wheels - delivering food for old people - is on the cards and it is currently happening in Tenkasi. Vaccination should be made free of cost for old people. Elderly people are more in the rural areas and they should be taken care of. A geriatric centre in the rural areas can be started with the support of the government. This fi eld needs a lot of people. A 200-bed hospital for old people at a budget of Rs 150 crore is been constructed at Guindy. The six- fl oor building will have everything under one roof for treating the elderly and is dedicated to the geriatric discipline. I consider it one of my biggest achievements.

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