An Interesting Tale of a Self-Made Doctor : Dr. Sanjay K. Agarwal

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Dr. Sanjay K. Agarwal, Professor and current Head of Department of Nephrology at AIIMS, New Delhi is an example of ‘creating one’s own destiny’. He says his biggest achievement in career has been ‘to get a faculty position in AIIMS, New Delhi with his own hard-work and without any Godfather’! For those young medicos, who wish to enter public hospitals and institutions, his story is stirring and worth reading. Your hard-work can surely help you achieve your dream. Here is his take on kidney health and more, from his vast academic nephrology experience…

Kidney stones are the most commonly heard and encountered problem. How does one avoid it and deal with it?

It is not most common but one of the common kidney problems. Regular intake of 2-3litre water is the best avoiding approach. If family history of stone disease, then regular ‘check-up’ from early stage of life for stone. Once a stone is found in patient, then regular ‘follow-up’ irrespective of any symptoms of stone is important. It is neglect of asymptomatic stone, which causes permanent kidney damage.

Please tell us about the top 3 path-breaking inventions/findings of AIIMS Nephrology department in the recent past.

ICMR, New Delhi funded study coordinated by Nephrology AIIMS found mean prevalence of chronic kidney disease in seven cities across India to be 9.4% of adult urban population. Nephrology department has done extensive research on magnitude and treatment of hepatitis C in renal replacement therapy, which is being followed up by many other centers. Lastly, various aspect of IgA nephropathy has been studied in the department.

There has been a lot of debate, discussion and disagreement on this topic among medical fraternity and students. But what is your opinion on a multi-dimensional/multi-disciplinary approach towards treating patients (that includes natural sciences like Ayurveda and Homeopathy) and not just allopath?

‘Every pathy’ is a science and has its own strength and limitations. I am personally against using multiple-disciplines at the same time on one patient. Neither can one interpret benefit nor side effect of any one of them. Experts of each discipline should know the limitation of that discipline and should not make tall claims. Patient should choose one therapy and restrict to it till he/she decides to go to other discipline.

What would you like to suggest to patients who are either on dialysis or have kidney transplants?

I will suggest that they must have a positive attitude and must trust the treatment. Take good diet and adequate treatment. Organize your finances well in advance while continuing your treatment. Take help of your friends and close family members. With all these, one can lead a reasonably good quality of life and will be useful to society and own family.

Top mantra to keep kidneys healthy
Adequate fluid, balanced diet, regular exercise, regular screening tests if you are at risk for kidney disease, regular treatment and follow-up for diabetes and hypertension if one have and no self-medication.

How is your fitness routine?
I used to play badminton but with twice ankle sprain, lost confidence and stopped playing. Intermittent walking and exercise at home is my major fitness activity.

Please tell us about the kind of food you take (your diet regime). Any special things that you personally take care of on your platter?
I am pure vegetarian. I usually avoid extra salt and fat in diet overall. Do not eat outside home, except once in a while. Fond of fruits and it is important component of diet.

What is your personal philosophy of life?

I have taken life seriously, which I should not have taken. I often take stand against the wrong being done, which may not be against me but still I raise a voice. Obviously, this is not taken in correct perspective by majority. I, by nature, am a perfectionist and try to do give my best in any activity that I take in my hand. I have my own opinion on any issue and do not hesitate to express that, whatever is the forum

Your topmost career achievement so far?

Being selected as faculty in AIIMS Delhi without having any political connection and without having any godfathe

If you could change one thing in Indian medical scenario, what would that be?

All health care of the country should be public funded and doctors in public infrastructure should be appropriately rewarded both financially as well as administratively.

How do you handle everyday stress that comes along with this profession?

Day today small achievements in the profession are the best stress buster for me. Also, I do not get stress of any kind from my department colleagues, which is a major satisfaction in institute like AIIMS

Your advice to young medical aspirants (particularly Nephrologists).
It is a very good branch and covers significant part of other specialty as well as internal medicine. If you are good in subject, you will also be good in overall medicine.

What are your hobbies?
Watching TV, playing Chess and making slide presentations for academic purpose.

Was there any low point in your career, where you thought of quitting this profession? If yes, please share.
I am in this institute since 1985 and I had my own share of differences with administration. Like all intellectuals would have at a given place. Because of that, at times I thought of leaving institute as I was not able to give my best to the institute! This is my honest answer.

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