Assam-based oncologist and a Padma Shri awardee, Ravi Kannan has been named as one of the four recipients of the 2023 Ramon Magsaysay Award, considered as Asia's Nobel Prize.
Kannan has been serving as director of Assam's Cachar Cancer Hospital and Research Centre (CCHRC) since 2007. Before that he was a surgeon at Chennai's Adyar Cancer Institute.
Talking to IANS, he said that receiving the award was an honour for his hospital and that he would only accept it in that capacity.
"Everyone is working together as a team and contributing equally to the success of this endeavour. In addition to the employees, the supporters from outside are also winners,” Kannan said on Thursday.
Kannan and his wife Seeta relocated to Assam’s Silchar town in 2007. He treats patients at the CCHRC at a nominal cost and the hospital is known for its best services to the cancer-affected people belonging to the marginalised segments in southern Assam as well as Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur.
In order to make cancer treatment affordable to poor people, Dr. Kannan has taken many steps in the last few years. One of these was to establish remote clinics in a few districts in the state.
The central and state governments support them with health programs like Atal Amrit Abhyan, according to Kannan, the son of a decorated Indian Air Force officer. He said that though his cancer centre is managed by the community, the government never refuses to help them.
He emphasized that cancer can be cured just like any other illness. "I don't want to see a single person die of cancer with no respect for themselves."
Kannan stated that because of their habits, individuals in Assam and other northeastern regions are more likely to develop cancer.
“There is no problem with air or water here, despite what many people believe. In the Northeast, there is a high prevalence of alcohol, betel nut, and tobacco use. Exercise and a healthy diet are lacking. Even today, few people are aware of how serious cancer is. Once it is discovered, they are powerless, so some people try to conceal it. We have been fighting this mentality for more than ten years,” he mentioned.
Meanwhile, Indumati, Kannan's mother, claimed to have known that her son would eventually receive such acclaim.
"My husband and I always wanted to make our son a doctor so that he could help the common people," she continued. “Ravi has always been a modest child who is committed to his work. He is not very thrilled with the honour, but it will encourage him to do more work for the betterment of the people.”