‘Imaging is now becoming the new physical examination’

By: |
February 07, 2015 6:17 PM

Dr D Umashankar has nurtured his imaging business like his child, planning the centre, buying equipment and handpicking staff. Now, he is ready for the next phase where he envisions that his business will grow by leaps and bounds. He talks about the business and his strategies for success, with M Neelam Kachhap

Dr D Umashankar has nurtured his imaging business like his child, planning the centre, buying equipment and handpicking staff. Now, he is ready for the next phase where he envisions that his business will grow by leaps and bounds. He talks about the business and his strategies for success, with M Neelam Kachhap

What made you choose radiology for your PG?

201501inimage34Dr D Umashankar

I was always fascinated by technology and right through my undergraduate course I slowly gathered its place in medicine. I began to realise how certain cutting edge technology can radically transform healthcare, both in diagnosis and treatment of patients. When I finished my MBBS, way back in 1993, healthcare technology was booming. Ultrasound, CT scans and MRI scans were beginning to change the way clinicians looked at patients. An entirely different perspective was evolving, impacting how an accurate diagnosis could be made with absolute confidence. I wanted to be a part of this revolution. A short posting in radiology during internship made me realise that it was my true calling.

Tell us about your first job.

After completing my post graduation, I wanted towork with state-of-the-art technology. So, I joined Apollo Hospitals, Chennai as a Resident. It is here that I got to see and work on the latest CT, MRI and other newer imaging modalities. I was paid a measly salary, as was the norm in those times, but the shiny equipment made me gloss over this. Also gratifying was the rewarding experience I had during my tenure there.

You have your own practice now. How was your entrepreneurial journey?

The journey has been very memorable so far. I happened to meet the right people at the right time. They had faith in my abilities and supported me in setting up and running a diagnostic centre.

Then, we had a Colour Doppler and an X-ray machine, firsts in the state. The idea was to be at the forefront of technology and deliver the best to our patients in terms of quality at very affordable cost. Our team brainstormed about this incongruity about quality and affordability and came to the conclusion that, the only way to do this was through ‘numbers’. Newer machines cost a lot of money and we had to recover this without resorting to market gimmicks.

Now, we have grown by leaps and bounds and have cutting edge imaging technology under one roof, including, but not limited to, MRI, CT, 4D ultrasound, digital mammography, digital radiography, PACS etc. Many of these have been firsts in the state.

What are the benefits of having your own practice?

You are your own boss. You set the trend and live up to it. That was the main attraction about setting up my own practice. We’re basically doctors’ doctors because the patients don’t come to us directly. Our clinical colleagues have a patient, and then they have a problem that they can’t solve without our help. They send the patient to us for a scan to get an answer to the problem he or she has. We are the problem solvers, and a lot of the time, whatever we see and say is going to significantly determine the course of the patient’s management.

What are the challenges of setting up a radiology lab?

Two main challenges in setting up a state-of-the-art radiology lab were capital and real estate. At this stage, I started realising that I was about to face something I was not taught in medical college, i.e., financial management and personnel management. Initially getting our project financed was a huge hurdle to cross but then as we grew in size and were planning to expand, getting specialised manpower proved to be a bigger hurdle, more so, people who shared our concerns on affordability, high technology and practising ethical medicine.

How did you deal with these challenges?

Initially, when we approached nationalised banks to finance our projects, they looked very formidable. But then persistence, hard work, determination and a strong belief in our abilities forced the bank officials to see our side of the story and willingly fund our dreams. The other challenge, manpower, was tackled by picking up freshers and assiduously grooming them to our exacting requirements.

What would you like to say to students aspiring to take radiology PG?

I would like to strongly recommend radiology as a career to anybody who would care to listen to me. I would be delighted to have somebody come by and experience in real time how much satisfaction there is in being a radiologist. They will be able to experience first hand, how over the last 20 years, most of the significant diagnostic efforts in healthcare has shifted from history and physical examination to imaging. Imaging is now becoming the new physical examination. I know for sure that we, radiologists, make a significant difference for our clinical colleagues who are struggling to help their patients. We know we make a difference in the patients’ lives, and in our community. Even when things are hard, you feel good about what you’re doing, all the frustrations are tolerable, because you feel like what you’re doing is worthwhile.

mneelam.kachhap@expressindia.com

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