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Dr PRJ Gangadharam Oration award conferred on Dr Anurag Bhargava

Dr PRJ Gangadharam Oration award conferred on Dr Anurag Bhargava

Dr Anurag Bhargava (Professor, Department of Medicine, and Head, Centre for Nutrition Studies, Yenepoya Medical College, Mangalore) was conferred the Dr PRJ Gangadharam award for the year 2021. This award was presented at the hands of Shri Dhirubhai ji Mehta (President, Kasturba Health Society) at a program organized by the Kasturba Health Society and Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences on the 22nd of April 2022.

In his welcome address, Dr Gangane, Dean ,Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences talked about the institute and announced the approval of new and bigger space for TB lab in the department of Microbiology. He also spoke about MGIMS’s past  association with Dr Bhargava.

Dr Mrs P Narang (Chairperson of the award committee and Emeritus Professor of  Microbiology) gave a brief on the award. She informed that Dr Ganagadharam was an international figure who had devoted all his life towards tuberculosis research and control. The year after his passing away in 1999 and looking at the extensive work being done at the MGIMS, Mrs Shakunthala Gangadharam instituted the award in the name and  memory of her husband Dr Pattisapu Rama Jogi Gangadharam. The award is presented annually to an eminent Indians who has contributed substantially towards the fight against TB. The component of oration aims to inspire young scientists to work in the field of TB. The award carries a citation, a certificate of honour and cash award of Rs. 25,000/-.

Dr Mrs P Narang also acknowledged the work done by Dr Bhargava in promoting the role of good nutrition not only for the cure but also in bringing down the mortality in TB patients. She congratulated him for accepting the award. Lamenting on the effect of Covid-19 on the progress of tuberculosis elimination program she shared that the pandemic had pushed the national programme behind by almost 10 years.

Mr Dhirubhai Mehta in his presidential address said that Covid -19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on global tuberculosis control efforts and in most parts of the world it has resulted in a substantial reduction in tuberculosis testing and access to tuberculosis health services. In India during the lockdown and even later for the fear of Covid-19 the patients did not come to the hospitals for diagnosis and treatment. They did not collect their drugs, so treatment completion rates decreased. In 2020, TB notification rates in India decreased almost by 50%. These losses have increased the tuberculosis burden and associated mortality. A modelling study in 2020 estimated that each month of lockdown in India could result in 40 500 additional people developing tuberculosis that year and an additional 1,51,000 tuberculosis deaths over the next 5 years. He said that concerted commitment and strategies were now required from all quarters to overcome the damage. He further added that the Ukraine Russian war has further derailed the global situation.

Dr BS Garg read the citation which highlighted Dr Bhargava’s contributions towards TB control. Among various assignments Dr. Bhargava spent ten years serving at Jan Swasthya Sahyog, an NGO catering to rural and tribal population at  Ganyari, in Bilaspur district of  Chhattisgarh. The observations made over there while running the TB treatment service for the poor under nourished and malnourished TB patients, formulated the base for his future research on the role of nutrition in the cure of TB in patients. All his consistent findings led to the formulation of a technical policy document on nutritional care and support for patients with tuberculosis in India. As a result of these guidelines calculation of the Body Mass Index is now part of the program and the Government of India has launched the exceptionally beneficial  Nikshay Poshan Yojana which distributes Rs 500 per month for dietary supplement  to all tuberculosis patienst.

Dr Bhargava in his oration talked about his journey and experiences with eliminating TB.  He called TB a social disease and suggested reasons for the vulnerability of poor people against the disease and advocated the role of nutrition as its remedy. “I was always concerned with the woes of the poor and that is how I landed in TB. Statistically, 312 per lakh of population get infected with TB in India every year. India has the highest TB mortality rate. In India undernutrition is a serious comorbidity in TB patients and malnutrition is the leading risk factor for TB incidence. Both  need to be addressed if  we want TB to decline. Undernutrition is also a major risk factor for TB mortality.”  He hoped that with improved social conditions and comprehensive efforts, there shall be a decline in TB rates and its mortality.

Dr Vijayshree Deotale, Organising Secretary and Head of the Department of Microbiology, proposed the vote of thanks. The program ended with National Anthem.


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