Dr Ravi Kannan said that not just he, all 450 staff members at the hospital, people of the community and all those who supported him are winners of the Magsaysay award.
GUWAHATI A seed planted in time inevitably sprouts and when it gets nourishment, it is bound to grow into a beautiful tree. That is exactly the story of this year’s Magsaysay award winner, Dr Ravi Kannan, an oncologist and director of Assam’s Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre. Son of former Indian Air Force personnel from Tamil Nadu, he had just one goal in life – to become a doctor, one he pursued successfully.
“I remember my mother Indumathy had set this goal for me when I was a child. She had seen her family physicians – Dr Natarajan, Dr MK Shanmugham and Dr NK Subramaniam. They were from my mother’s hometown Kumbakonam. She wanted to become a doctor too but her family circumstances did not permit it. So, she wanted her son to become a doctor. I had no other thought,” Dr Kannan said.
He was serving at a cancer institute in Chennai when Dr Chinmoy Chowdhury of the Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre visited the hospital. “The hospital in Cachar was formed by laymen. Dr Chinmoy Chowdhury visited a number of cancer centers. He also visited us. Subsequently, he was in regular touch with me and wanted me to join the Cachar hospital,” Dr Kannan said, recalling that bomb blasts and floods were common in Assam then.
He said his wife, Seethalakshmi, who was working with United States Education Foundation in India, initially objected to the offer but as the request to join the Assam hospital kept coming, the two of them paid a visit. He said that not just he, all 450 staff members at the hospital, people of the community and all those who supported him are winners of the Magsaysay award.
“I don’t think any award is for one person. These awards recognise human collaboration and efforts. It is a team effort. Everybody is a hero,” he said. Established in 1996, the hospital in southern Assam’s Silchar has 141 beds. Dr Kannan joined it in 2007. He said that patients are mostly from the southern part of the northeast, including Assam’s Barak valley, Dima Hasao, Manipur and Tripura. Some also come from Bangladesh.
“If you look at the registry data, the northeast has the highest incidence of cancer. Incidence is the number of new patients per hundred thousand of the population. The population of entire northeast region is less than five crore. But incidence-wise, it is much higher than many parts of the country. Mizoram has 250 incidences of cancer per one hundred thousand. The national average is less than 100,” Dr Kannan said.
Award based on former Philippine president
The Ramon Magsaysay Award, established in 1957 is an annual award established on the legacy of former Philippine President Ramon Magsaysay. It is awarded to individuals for contributions towards integrity in governance, public service, and pragmatic idealism within a democratic society. TV journalist Ravish Kumar was the last Indian recepient of the award in the year 2019.