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Year : 2018  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 6  |  Page : 1449-1450

Brahm Dutt Gupta: End of an era in radiotherapy

Department of Radiation Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon, Haryana, India

Date of Web Publication28-Nov-2018

Correspondence Address:
Bidhu K Mohanti
Department of Radiation Oncology, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurgaon - 122 002, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jcrt.JCRT_985_17

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How to cite this article:
Mohanti BK. Brahm Dutt Gupta: End of an era in radiotherapy. J Can Res Ther 2018;14:1449-50

How to cite this URL:
Mohanti BK. Brahm Dutt Gupta: End of an era in radiotherapy. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Jun 2];14:1449-50. Available from: http://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2018/14/6/1449/224351

The Guptas from Uttar Pradesh are traditionally known to carry the dynastic roles from building kingdoms in the ancient India to engaging in trade over the last two centuries. Brahm Dutt Gupta born into a family in Uttar Pradesh, in the British colonial period, stood apart. There are stories, apocryphal possibly, about the love for knowledge which Brahm Dutt showed in his early childhood. Probably in those years of preindependent India, he had to run the extra miles.

Brahm Dutt Gupta joined the graduate medical course at the illustrious Sarojini Naidu Medical College, Agra. This college has the distinction of history on its side, being one of the first three medical colleges in India, started under the British rule in 1854. Shortly after earning the MBBS degree, he joined the postgraduate MD course in radiology (then combined radiodiagnosis, radiotherapy, and nuclear medicine) at the same college. Professor PK Halder (1915–1976), the widely respected man in the biomedical field of an emerging India, was his teacher during this MD course in the late 1950s. Halder had embarked on a mission to establish radiotherapy and organize the cancer treatment practice in the country. For the young Brahm Dutt, his teacher remained a mentor to the end of his life. On Halder's counsel, the next course in career was chosen and Brahm Dutt Gupta went over to the United Kingdom for training in radiotherapy at the Holt Radium Institute and Christie Hospital, Manchester.

The 1960s were an exciting period, with the rising recognition of therapeutic radiology as a respectable medical specialty. Even though our specialty is now aptly called radiation oncology, to give its due standing with surgical oncology and medical oncology, the major societies were named under therapeutic radiology (ASTRO, ESTRO for example).

Brahm Dutt was fortunate to be trained at The Christie, at that time considered a citadel for learning the clinical science of radiation therapy and for treating malignant diseases. It was built assiduously over a span of three decades from 1931 to 1962, under the leadership of Ralston Paterson (1897–1981). Doctors and medical scientists, from all over the world, flocked to Manchester and witnessed the scientific foundations of teletherapy, brachytherapy, dosimetry, and treatment delivery. Although this Gupta boy had sidestepped the dynastic role, his youth and training to be a physician were steeped in deep history. Agra, Halder, Manchester, and Paterson. In 1967, at the age of 33, he successfully earned the entry into Fellowship of Royal College of Radiologist as a specialist in therapeutic radiology. From then on, Brahm Dutt would be fondly called BDG in the professional circles. Toward the mid-1980s, his residents and admirers started calling him as Babaji, an affectionate name for a wise man.

On his return from the UK, BD Gupta was selected as a faculty at the prestigious All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, in 1968. His industry, attention, and devotion to radiotherapy and clinical oncology endeared him to his peers and seniors, and the policymakers in the government noticed his enthusiasm. Within 3 years, BDG would make another move. In 1971, he was appointed as the Associate Professor and Head of the newly created Radiotherapy Department at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, India. PGIMER had been established in 1962 as a national institute along the lines of AIIMS, by the government of India, with an aim to train specialists in various disciplines of medicine for India and to achieve the excellence in medical care for our citizens. Considered a small move covering the distance of 250 km from Delhi to Chandigarh, it would prove to be a big leap in the history of radiotherapy in India. BD Gupta, like Paterson of Manchester, wanted to turn this small sleepy town of Chandigarh into a seat for learning the art and science of radiotherapy. Always a man in a hurry, history was on his side.

From the old kV X-ray unit, radium tubes, and double-headed Janus cobalt machine to the modern linear accelerators, high-dose rate brachytherapy, and the computerized treatment planning systems, BDG was untiring in his efforts to build the radiotherapy department at PGI from 1971 till his retirement in 1994. This department was the first one in India to start the MD Radiotherapy course in 1972, maintained patient records for research activities, and analyzed data to publish papers in oncology in the mid-1970s which became a source of envy and respect. Much before the inception of tumor board and multidisciplinary clinic into our practice, BDG had organized joint clinics on regular basis with pediatricians, gynecologists, ENT surgeons, and pathologists. His department had established the rigors of didactic and clinical learning, seminars, and journal clubs, which gave the residents the necessary attributes to be clinician and academician for the rest of their lives. BDG was a true Babaji, who would come on a Sunday to take a prolonged teaching round.

Eminent oncologists from all parts of India, namely JM Pinto, KA Dinshaw, M Krishnan Nair, AD Singh, and PK Halder and from the rest of the world, namely Philip Rubin, K Halnan, Jack Meredith, and CA Joslin, would visit the department, gave lectures to the residents and faculty, and encouraged exchange programs with PGI. In his devotion for the development of radiotherapy specialty, BDG would often say, “Paterson made it possible.”

What was BD Gupta seeking in his professional career? He always remained an enigmatic man with an immaculate dress sense and a punctuality for daily routine. “Woe betide a resident” who absented from a clinic or seminar. To a large extent, spanning over two decades, his academic life revolved around advancing the careers of his residents. It was customary for a resident passing out the MD to provide a full detail of the future career plan. Invariably, BDG assisted wholeheartedly and never hesitated to give a recommendation. He carried a strange mix of personal warmth and professional endearment. One day, he had called me to his office to demonstrate the Windsor knot for a necktie, and on another occasion, he guided me to present before a trustee board of Kamla Nehru Memorial Hospital, Allahabad. Yet, he understood my reluctance and was delighted when I chose an academic post at Bangalore in 1985. BDG's residents from PGI have gone out to hold eminent positions in India, UK, USA, Canada, and other countries. A colleague of mine said about BD Gupta on his demise, “It is often difficult to understand how consistently qualitative has been the residency program at PGI, the specialists who come out from there maintain a good record.” In recognition of his academic and research pursuits, BD Gupta was a recipient of the Dr. BC Roy award and Indian Council of Medical Research award.

The boundless energy of BDG engaged him in many other spheres. He travelled to Sri Lanka and Mongolia, as the WHO expert, to set up the radiotherapy in those two countries. He was a founder member of Association of Radiation Oncologists of India, Atomic Energy Regulatory Board, and the National Cancer Control Program (NCCP), India. The cancer registry of NCCP inside the radiotherapy department was valuable for the faculty and residents to appreciate the enormity of cancer issues in India. The gap in radiotherapy machines for the Indian cancer patients had distressed him. BD Gupta created a consortium under the Government of India to develop indigenous linear accelerators. Similarly, he understood the reach and power of telemedicine to prepare a roadmap for the Ministry of Health in 2004, a decade after his retirement from PGI. His hunger for knowledge and the spirit to engage for the public good had never faded. This was evident for us, in his nonhostile admonitions, “tum buddu ho yaar” – you are a stupid fellow. And the next one was his punchline, “You have to be trained for next twenty years.”

In his illustrious medical career spanning over 50 years of tireless and disciplined routines, battles were won and lost. Unwavering in spirit, BDG smiled his way through. His angry outbursts could strike you and then he came back to you with a broad toothy smile which showed his heart of a child. He loved pakoras and kachoris. He made it an annual affair to invite his colleagues and residents to the lawn of his official residence in Sector 24, Chandigarh, on a sunny winter afternoon to share those delicacies. He drove around Chandigarh in his Volkswagen's Beetle car, a moving attraction in those idyllic years of 1970s and 1980s. He maintained a social circle which included Nek Chand and Milkha Singh. To a much greater extent than most of his contemporaries, BDG understood the need for a public engagement toward cancer awareness.

BD Gupta died in his sleep in his home at Panchkula, on the outskirt of Chandigarh, on the night of September 17, 2017. He is survived by his wife Mrs. Kamlesh Gupta and two sons, Prashant and Nishant. Till a fortnight before his death, BD Gupta took a stroll inside the Zakir Hussain Rose Garden of Chandigarh. He never put off his spirit of living and dreaming. For Brahma Dutt Gupta, “Sisters of the Twilight, Lighten me.”


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