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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 237-239

Conversation with Dr. K. A. Dinshaw

Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai, India

Date of Web Publication12-Jul-2011

Correspondence Address:
K A Dinshaw
Department of Radiation Oncology, Tata Memorial Hospital, Parel, Mumbai
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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How to cite this article:
Dinshaw K A. Conversation with Dr. K. A. Dinshaw. J Can Res Ther 2011;7:237-9

How to cite this URL:
Dinshaw K A. Conversation with Dr. K. A. Dinshaw. J Can Res Ther [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 May 27];7:237-9. Available from: https://www.cancerjournal.net/text.asp?2011/7/2/237/82945

Dr. (Ms) K A Dinshaw is a name that speaks for itself. She has to her credit a fruitful journey of being a dedicated radiation oncologist to the first female director of the renowned Tata Memorial Centre, Mumbai, India. The successful fruition of her vision was recognized by the Government of India by conferring her with Padmashree in 2001 for her contribution to oncology care in India. A few amongst her long list of accolades that need mention is the Medal of Honor by IARC, Lyon, France (2006), Homi Bhabha Lifetime Achievement award by Indian Nuclear Society (2007), Lifetime Achievement award by AROI (2009), an Honoris Causa in Science by SGPGI (2009), Lifetime achievement award by FHNO-IFHNOS for Head and neck cancer (2010) and Lifetime Achievement award by National Association for application of Radioisotopes and Radiation Industry-2010. Dr. Dinshaw has been the IAEA, PACT, WHO consultant for radiotherapy in developing countries. Her unwavering sincerity and hard work has not only made Tata Memorial Hospital, the largest Cancer Care hospital in Asia, but also brought laurels for the nation.

It has been a privilege and an honor to interview such an eminent personality whom I hold in a high personal regard. Her persona and poise is awe-inspiring and I shall always cherish my conversation with her.

Dr. Meena Tiwari: How did your professional journey start?

Dr. Dinshaw: It has been 50 years now. My career in medicine started from Christian Medical College, Vellore in 1961. I graduated in the year 1966 and had inclination toward Surgery for my Master's. As luck would have it, I joined Radiotherapy instead. Dr. Padam Singh was the Head of department at that time and with a separate radiotherapy department unlike the rest of the country where it co-existed with Radiology. I went on to complete my Post-graduation in radiotherapy from Addenbrooke's Hospital, Cambridge, UK, in November 1973. I came back to India in December 1973. I was advised by our family friends to meet Dr. Jussawalla the then Director of Tata Memorial Hospital, which I did. I was subsequently called for an interview and was appointed as an Assistant Radiotherapist, in 1974. That is how my journey, as a consultant, in Radiotherapy began.

Dr. Meena: Would you like to share some of the fond memories on joining TMH?

Dr. Dinshaw: The department had three deep x-ray machines, one cesium, one cobalt-Janus, one cobalt junior, and manual loading brachytherapy. Despite the technological constraints, I started my first assignment with full enthusiasm.

I was appointed as the Head of Department, in 1981, after Dr. Pinto's retirement. I decommissioned the deep x-ray machines as the first step toward my goal of making the radiotherapy department equivalent to the one amongst the best in the world. I requested for a separate radiotherapy department as till then it co-existed with radiology. Dr. P.B. Desai was extremely supportive of all the valid decisions I took for the up gradation of the department. He has been my great mentor and guide.

Incorporation of after-loading brachytherapy was another important achievement. However, to my mind, the major leap was getting approval for introduction of MD seats in radiotherapy. I literally pushed very hard for it. Placing academics in perspective in Tata Memorial Hospital (TMH) was one of the many visions I had for the institution and this was a big step in that direction.

Dr. Meena: What is it that you feel proud of when you look back in your professional life?

Dr. Dinshaw: I think, I was just doing my job. I had a good training from an outstanding institution, good mentors and above all, good opportunities that came easy to me. Not to mention a lot of encouragement that I got from my mentors, I think encouraging the youngsters is essential to bring out the best in them. I can say that I have been very lucky. People trusted my judgment and my decisions and extended invaluable support at all levels. Further, in 1971, Dr. Jussawalla requested me to start a small radiation oncology department in the premises of the Indian Cancer Society.

Dr. Meena: What has been your biggest challenge as an administrator of TMC?

Dr. Dinshaw: Stepping in as the director of Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) was an uphill task in itself. TMC Director was the apex position for controlling two different wings - Cancer Research Institute (CRI) for basic research and TMH was the clinical wing. I remember vividly that during those times the directors of TMC were mainly heads of the surgery department. No woman had been at the helm of affairs of TMC. However, the selection committee in general endorsed my candidature and was very supportive and I acceded the chair in the year 1997. Thereafter, I had nothing but unstinted support from the Department of Atomic Energy and the Governing Council in promoting the excellence of our institution. The Governing Council was also extremely supportive of all the efforts of my colleagues at TMC.

My first big challenge was the physical renovation of the hospital building more so with the treatment of patients remaining unaffected. Along with this grant for upgradation of equipments in radiotherapy and radiology was supported by the Planning Commission and successive Chairmen of the governing council.

While undertaking this project we added two more significant areas of expertise. One was the setting up of the latest designed Digital Library, which has been a boon to all our professional colleagues.

The second was initiating a Telemedicine project with ISRO that gives unlimited access to professional information to all our colleagues worldwide. It has particularly helped the patients in remote areas like North-East India to gain easy access to medical expertise that has been an objective of the Government of India.

The next big venture was ACTREC for which the land was acquired during Dr. Desai's tenure but due to various circumstances progress started only in 1995. The entire project was supported entirely by the Atomic Energy Commission and the Governing Council. This new institutional edifice was dedicated to pure research with the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) for basic research wing named Khanolkar Shodhika. The clinical trial wing was also shifted to ACTREC and the wing named Jussawala Shodhika. The patients enrolled in various clinical trials are treated in ACTREC. It is achieving its objective of a centre of excellence under an able leadership.

My efforts to set up a large-field study in conjunction with IARC and to develop it into a model field program for others to follow were successful as well and continues to be so.

However, I derived great personal satisfaction when Tata Memorial Hospital was adjudged the Best Hospital by UICC - an international recognition with many hospitals around the world, competing for the award. The Honorable Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh applauded our achievement and called it a moment of pride for the nation.

The last major project during my tenure was the expansion of our hospital, the Homi Bhabha block, with a view to introduce and upgrade to the state-of-the-art technology available in the present time.

Dr. Meena: You have seen the transformation from "radiotherapy" to "radiation oncology." What in your opinion has been the sea-change in this field of medicine to cause this shift?

Dr. Dinshaw:
I think technology is really pushing hard to cause this shift. The roles have not change except that technologists are known as radiotherapists and doctors as radiation oncologists. The concept has been largely projected by the West.

Dr. Meena: You have been a witness to "tailor-made" to "evidence-based" patient care in medicine. As doctors, what strategy should we adopt?

Dr. Dinshaw: A critical balance taking a holistic view of proven past experience and current scientific technology is essential. It is especially applicable in our country where majority of cancer cases are palliative to begin with and as oncologists, we have to take care of them adequately. In such a scenario, the personal experience of the treating physician is very important which today, unfortunately, is being lost in the ocean of technology. It needs to be fervently preserved.

Dr. Meena: How satisfactory is the quality of education and training of radiation oncologists in India?

Dr. Dinshaw: Training has definitely been upgraded though much still needs to be done. There are efficient teachers in the field now who possess the best of knowledge and expertise that subsequently percolates to their students. Instrumentation has improved drastically particularly in the private sector. We are equal to any of the renowned institutions the world over, particularly TMH has made a name for itself and it is up to the younger lot to carry it forward. Fine-tuning of the academics in the institutions across the country is required.

Dr. Meena: Any regrets where work still remains undone?

Dr. Dinshaw: One can never be satisfied, but to know that you have done your best is the greatest solace. Bricks and mortar would have been inconsequential without the appreciation and support of my colleagues from all sections of the institute. At the end of my career, this has been one of my biggest achievements.

Dr. Meena: Your message to the young radiation oncologists.

Dr. Dinshaw:
It is very important to work as a team with the medical physicists and technologists. Equally important is to provide opportunity to upgrade their expertise to everyone and genuinely make them feel as an important part of the team. And yes, it is a wonderful and challenging profession.

If I have to live my life again, I will adopt the same profession with increased vigor.

Interviewed by

Meena Tiwari

Advanced Centre of Radiation Oncology, Dr. Balabhai Nanavati Hospital, Mumbai, India.

E-mail: [email protected]


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