PROF. KRISHNAMOORTHY SRINIVAS, who was inducted in July into the American Academy of Neurology, the largest body of professional neurologists worldwide, has become the first Indian to become an honorary member of the two top neurology associations in the world. He was made member of the American Neurological Association in 2003. Prof. Srinivas is also the first Indian neurologist to be elected to the Royal Colleges of London, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
The first person in India to achieve the qualification of DM (Doctor of Medicine) in neurology, indeed in any super-speciality, Prof. Srinivas has dedicated his life to the development of community neurology and is a doyen in the field. The two full-fledged departments of community neurology he has set up in Chennai - the K. Gopalakrishna Department of Neurology (GDN) at the Voluntary Health Services and the TS Srinivasan Department of Clinical Neurology and Research (SDN) at the Public Health Centre - are models in community neurology. Both these multi-disciplinary facilities, set up with the help of public philanthropy and grants, stand witness to Prof. Srinivas' dedication and devotion to a cause.
Prof. Srinivas is aware of the rising cost of medical management and the social changes (especially the collapse of the joint family system) that make care for neurological patients so much more difficult.
His solution for the first problem is: "Once I confirm a neurological disease in a patient as fatal, I do not charge the patient." While he waives his fees for many of his patients who are economically disadvantaged, he follows a graded system of cost for the rest. The cost for in-patients is deliberately kept low at both the institutions he heads - the GDN and the SDN - to cover more needy people.
To deal with the second problem, he has evolved a group of peer counsellors, including nurse educators, social workers and psychotherapists to counsel the patients' family. This, says Prof. Srinivas, is a process "we have evolved over time. This helps to prepare the patients' family to deal with the disease, which is often prolonged." In India, unlike in the U.S., "we cannot break the news of the disease immediately to the patient's family. We have to do it slowly. Otherwise, the family will go away and may even go for multiple consultations, aggravating the condition of the patient," he says.
Prof. Srinivas' knowledge, skills and dedication have evolved from the diverse training he has received from distinguished neuroscientists in different countries. For instance, at New Delhi's Safdarjung Hospital, he worked with Col. R. Doraiswamy Iyer, an eminent surgeon of the Indian Medical Services, Armed Forces; at Montreal's Queen Elizabeth Hospital, he was influenced by Prof. Preston Robb, the legendary paediatric neurologist; at Saskatchewan's (Western Canada) Saskatoon Hospital, he learnt neuroradiology from Prof. Sidney Traub and neuropathology from Prof. D.W. Baxter and Prof. Olsweski; at the Wimbledon (U.K.) Atkinson Morley's Hospital, he worked with Dr. Kenneth Paine, an eminent neurosurgeon, Dr. Dennis Williams, a senior neurologist and Dr. James Ambrose, an eminent neuroradiologist and co-discoverer of the C.T. Scan; at the Richmond (U.K.) Royal Hospital, he worked with well-known general physician Dr. Gerald Slot; in Paris, he was trained by eminent neurologist Prof. Raymond Garcin at the Salpetriere Hospital; and at the Regional Neurological Centre in Newcastle Upon Tyne (U.K.), he was trained in neuromuscular disorders by the famous Prof. John Walton and Dr. J.B. Foster.
Prof. Srinivas is Emeritus Professor of Neurology at the Sri Ramachandra Medical College and Research Institute, Chennai, and an Honorary Visiting Professor of Neurology at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Madras, and at the Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences in Tirupati. He was honorary consultant in Neurology for the armed forces between 1979 and 1995. He has published over 50 research articles in neurosciences in several national and international journals.
At 72, Prof. Srinivas is still as passionate and active as he was when he started practising medicine. As part of his endeavour to train the emerging crop of neurologists, he set up the Neurosciences India Group (NIG) five years ago. As its Chair, Prof. Srinivas has established a network of neurologists across the country with the aim of nurturing research, education and community care in neurology.
A virtual group, the NIG consists of enthusiastic neuroscience professionals whose mission is to bring world-class education and research in neurosciences to India and facilitate research and educational collaboration between Indian professionals and their peers the world over. Under the guidance of Prof. Srinivas, the group conducts workshops in frontier areas of neurosciences every year. Its annual events take neurosciences to other professionals, including physicians in various medical disciplines, psychologists, sociologists, social workers, and paramedical professionals. Each event has a public forum and an endowment lecture that is open to the public, ensuring continuing education and awareness generation in neurosciences.
Prof. Srinivas has established eight endowment orations, which have over the past 25 years brought to India more than 60 most distinguished neuroscientists from all over the world (Frontline has interviewed many of these specialists). For one such lecture, the TS Srinivasan Oration, this was the silver jubilee year.Asha Krishnakumar