Humbled and honored to be an invited international faculty member for the 4th ABSICON Conference. 1-3 July 2016 was a wonderful opportunity to share knowledge, culture and friendship in Bangaluru, India. Dr P Raghu Ram is the president of the ABSI and I had the great fortune to meet him in 2006 when he was completing his training in the UK. A diagnosis of breast cancer in his mother prompted his unplanned return to India to start a breast center so that other women could have access to exceptional breast care. Raghu is a dear friend and invited me to participate in the Congress teaching breast ultrasound, demonstrating nipple sparing mastectomy techniques, live and on video ( Huge Thank You to Medtronic Advanced Energy) as well as lecturing on an integrative approach to breast cancer. Dr Raghu Ram had the idea to begin the society upon his return to India and in 2011 he and his fellow surgical colleagues founded the society to further breast care in all of India.
My travels from the USA to Bangaluru India were uneventful and the accommodations at the ITC Bangaluru were nothing short of perfection. Huge gratitude to Dr. Somasheker S P who, with the guidance of his talented wife who happens to be a pediatric surgeon, put together an amazing program.
Each floor had a theme and no surprise there were dragon fly’s on my floor with a message for me the minute I walked off the elevator.
There were many moving parts to this congress and multiple opportunities for things to go haywire, but somehow they pulled off a complex schedule without a huge ancillary staff. So literally surgeons were in charge and we all know that without our scrub techs and circulating nurses, we are practically useless in the OR!!
In India ceremony is part of everything and we, the international faculty, were all overwhelmed by the honors bestowed to us from the ABSI committee.
Dr Hiram “Chip” Cody, past president of the ASBrS and attending breast surgeon from MSKCC presented a talk on “Axillary node staging:the beginning or the end”. Chip is an amazing surgeon incredibly humble for an academic surgeon who is known around the world not as “A” breast cancer expert but as one of “THE” breast cancer experts. He was again honored by the committee during his talk.
I presented two well received lectures to the general session. The first was a video of my nipple sparing mastectomy technique and the second on an integrative approach to breast cancer care. The doctors were thirsty for the knowledge and I needed 2 hours not 12 minutes to present all of the information that I had to share. ( it gives them a reason to bring me back to complete the full lecture!)
Dr Andrew Baildam , breast consultant from the UK gave the keynote to end all keynotes to surgeons. “Excellence in Surgery: Hubris and Humor”. Every physician, whether a surgeon, radiation oncologist or medical oncologist, at The ABSICON conference in Bengaluru India was deeply touched by his words. In the pursuit of excellence as surgeons we must all remember to use courage, communication and compassion in all we do. I feel privileged to call him a colleague and a friend.
He received a much deserved standing ovation!!
Nothing seems to happen quickly in India, but we were successful in a quick spice run with the help of Dr Sumohan Chatterjee‘s cousin/sister Sumana and her husband. When I asked my eldest son what her wanted from India, her requested spices and spices he will receive.
Bollywood night was another experience all together. These doctors know how to thorw a party.
Raghu and Som deserve a standing ovation for their tireless work along with the entire Association of Breast Surgeons of India for putting on a fantastic conference.The ABSI has only just begun and the shift in breast care in India is palpable.
Their hospitality did not end with the conference as they made sure that we saw the sights of Bangaluru and the surrounding area. A young surgical oncologist in training, Dr Rohit Kumar, not only guided us through his country, he renewed my faith in the youngest generation of surgeons as he possesses, Dr Andrew’s triad Courage, Compassion and Communication!! We were given VVIP treatment at the ISCKON Temple where we learned that they feel hundreds of thousands of children in public school daily. The program was started in 2000 and has grown to supply endless children nutritious meals daily at school. We were given a tour of the kitchen and you could eat off of the floor, it was so clean.
We visited endless temples, The Mysore Palace, Mysore Chamundai Temple where a movie was being filmed The Mysore Zoo and were nourished ourselves with amazing South Indian foods at what once was the Summer palace of the royal family.
As I type this post I am preparing to depart India. My plane leaves in 6 hours for the USA where it is currently the
4th of July!!!
What I know to be true after my breast cancer update in India, is that we are so fortunate to have the resources for our patients in the USA where breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women. These amazing physicians and surgeons in India are treating the same disease I am treating in America and are doing it at a high tech level with a fraction of the resources where their incidence is 1 in 25 and rising. They have created Indian solutions to Indian problems in healthcare delivery and are tirelessly working to continually raise the bar to provide comprehensive care to women throughout their country. We are all facing the same problem as breast cancer is affecting younger women in both countries. This is where we can all work together to get to the source and not simply treat the symptom of breast cancer.
Happy 4th of July 2016 !