Daulat Rahmani/ Gawahati
Super-specialist doctors are in high demand and, therefore, paid lucrative salaries in private hospitals. Dr Asif Iqbal, the Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) expert, was also one till the other day before he quit his job with the leading private hospital in Guwahati and joined Dr B.Borooah Cancer Institute (BBCI), a public cancer hospital, to serve those who have no means to go to private hospitals.
A BMT transplant involves a complex procedure to replace bone marrow, the source of unhealthy blood cells, with healthy cells from a donor or even other organs of the patient. This treatment is given to patients of cancers like leukemia, myeloma, and lymphoma, and immune system diseases.
Speaking to Awaz-The Voice, Dr Iqbal said, “The infrastructure required to establish a BMT facility involves huge investment, and until someone is diligently motivated to start a program, such an investment doesn’t happen. Those who can afford to go to Kolkata, Chennai, Mumbai or New Delhi for BMT. The extra logistic expenses are a small proportion to the procedural costs. No private hospital in Assam and other parts of North East can provide me an infrastructure for a BMT program whose immediate future is unreliable,” he said.
Dr Asif Iqbal bidding farewell to his first patient in the BBCI Hospital
Dr Iqbal said the people will be benefited only when BMT is done at a local center regularly and successfully. “My main reason of moving into a public hospital like BBCI is to build a robust BMT program that can handle all kinds of cases. We have already done three BMTs in BBCI so far. The cost of each of them is less than Rs 4 lakh. Good thing is that the BBCI gets financial help from the government and funding agencies to help the patients,” he said.
Dr Iqbal is planning to start the Allogeneic transplant program at BBCI from February 2022. Allogeneic transplant is a procedure in which a patient receives healthy blood-forming cells (stem cells) from a donor to replace their stem cells that have been destroyed by treatment with radiation or high doses of chemotherapy (in Cancer patients).
“We are trying to set up more units for BMT in BBCI by the end of 2022 to minimize the waiting list of patients. I am also planning to initiate a community participation program by educating the youth, college-goers about safe blood donation practices. This is the only way to develop a 100% voluntary donor-based blood banking. There is a plan to initiate an adult hematology fellowship program for post MD doctors next year. In the next 5 years, my vision of the Hematology center at BBCI should take shape,” Dr Iqbal said.
Dr Iqbal had graduated from Gauhati Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) in 2008. He served a year as an Emergency Medical officer in Jorhat Medical College & Hospital.
Dr Asif Iqbal
He started the postgraduate training in GMCH in 2010 and completed MD (General Medicine) in 2013. He worked as Senior Resident in Medical Oncology in Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai, and BBCI for a year. He did his post-doctoral training in Kolkata. He qualified as DM (Super Speciality course) in clinical hematology in 2017. During his DM residency, Dr Iqbal was selected by the International CML foundation for training at the prestigious Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York in 2016.
Like so many others who rush abroad for pursuing successful careers, Dr Iqbal also got opportunities to train further and work at the leading cancer centers in Canada and Australia. However, for some reason, his going abroad never happened as he got immersed in serving patients of Assam and the entire North East region.