I am delighted to accept my appointment as President of the India Section of International Academy of Cardiovascular Sciences (IACS).
The India Section was initiated in 2004 on the proposal of Prof. Naranjan Dhalla, founder of IACS. Professor NK. Ganguly, former Director General of Indian Council of Medical Research and a renowned microbiologist and Professor of Experimental Medicine & Biotechnology was its first President. The first Council had as members, Professor SK. Gupta, former Head of the Department of Pharmacology, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, eminent cardiologist Professor KK. Talwar, former Director of Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education & Research, Chandigarh and distinguished scientist Professor Ramesh Goyal, former Vice Chancellor of MS University, Baroda. The India Section had its annual meetings regularly together with the annual meetings of India Section of International Society for Heart Research until two years ago. Annual symposia on “Recent Advances in Cardiovascular Sciences” at New Delhi were for the past six years, a regular feature under the leadership of Professor Gupta who took on the mantle of the President from Prof. Ganguly and Secretary General Professor SS. Agarwal. These meetings were a great attraction to young cardiovascular scientists as in these meetings they had the opportunity to interact with eminent speakers from different parts of the world. The India section has instituted three orations to recognize eminent Indian scientists and NS Dhalla awards for young investigators.
We feel that the India Section has proven its viability and has matured sufficiently to attempt initiating new activities for the growth of the practice of cardiovascular research in India. I express my sincere thanks to all the past office bearers for everything they have done for the sustenance and growth of the India section. I realize the responsibility linked to my position as President of this society, in creating an identity and also gaining for the India section respectability among cardiologists, scientists as well as the public. I promise to do my best for the growth of the Academy.
The Executive Council of the India Section has been re-constituted this year. The new Council has representations from National Institutes, Medical Colleges and Universities of different regions/States of India and various disciplines related to cardiovascular sciences. There is also adequate representation of women (30%) as well as young scientists in the Council (Table 1). The Society is now registered as an independent body under The Travancore-Cochin Literary, Scientific and Charitable Societies Registration Act, 1955. A new website has also been launched (www.cardiovascularsciences.org).
Any Academy as all of you are aware is a society of distinguished scholars and the primary objective of an Academy devoted to cardiovascular sciences would be to bring to its fold, all types of practitioners of cardiovascular science - cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, pathologists, pharmacologists, physiologists, public health experts and nutritionists. The first goal of the new Council would thus be to expand the membership of the Indian section of the Academy by enlisting investigators form different disciplines and from different parts of India.
India Section’s motto is identical to what Howard Morgan, the founding President of IACS has set:
“The challenge for the Academy and its members is to adopt a mind-set, which continuously raises the question of how new and existing knowledge, can be translated into prevention, improved diagnosis and therapy of cardiovascular disease. This approach offers the hope of a continued reduction in morbidity and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases.”
The challenges in the Indian context are diverse and unique. They include the (i) issue of rising cardiovascular diseases, (ii) deficiency of appropriately trained personnel who understands physiological, pharmacological and pathological aspects of cardiovascular diseases and are also skilled in modern biological techniques and tools for innovative interdisciplinary research and (iii) inadequate community level initiatives for increasing awareness about risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and to extend preventive strategies. Collaborative efforts among multiple stakeholders are requisite to respond to these shortfalls. The Indian section wishes to focus on these problems and find ways to translate new knowledge for discovering preventive and treatment strategies for accessible and affordable cardiac care in the Indian environment.
Several studies have concluded that “to be an Indian, is itself a risk for premature coronary artery disease” because of both genetic predisposition and faulty lifestyle. The rate of coronary artery disease in young Indians is almost twice as high compared to their western counterparts. Making the younger generation (as young as school children) aware of various cardiovascular diseases, their risk factors and personal preventive strategies would be a major focus of our activities.
There is an urgency to extend initiatives for cardiovascular health protection, such as increasing awareness for improved life style, nutritious and healthy food, promote health wellness programmes, and promotion of meditation and Yoga to full effect to combat heart diseases. We intend to provide public health education in a variety of ways. We have designed a newsletter “Matters of the Heart” for public distribution. We hope we would be able to produce the newsletter in different Indian languages. The first issue is scheduled to be launched during the forthcoming annual meeting. We have also a plan to produce an educational film aimed at youngsters for increasing awareness about cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors.
The Government of India has recently launched a National Non Communicable Diseases (NCD) program which includes cardiovascular diseases and focuses on prevention and awareness, and innovations in medical and mobile technology for early detection and monitoring of NCDs. Our Academy would strive to the successful implementation of this program by collaborating with various stakeholder groups including Government agencies, health care providers as well as pharmaceutical and medical technology companies.
We are also discussing about measures to strengthen and improve training infrastructure for interdisciplinary cardiovascular research and also promote India specific research programs. We expect to establish fellowships for PhD students in universities and research laboratories for short term visits to large cardiac care centers to raise awareness about human diseases and their management, and for clinical trainees for visits to premier cardiovascular research institutions for exposure to laboratory investigations. Hopefully such a program would help in unifying the thinking and philosophy of experimental and clinical cardiologists and encourage close cooperation between them. All being well, this venture can be expanded linking the Indian institutions with centers associated with other sections of IACS , facilitating collaborative research in domains of mutual interest.
In addition to the annual meetings, the India section proposes to organize periodic workshops for young investigators to enhance skills in cardiovascular research tools. We also expect to institute an Academy Chair program under which erudite scholars from both India and abroad can conduct lecture tours to institutions in different regions of India and inspire young investigators.
As of today we have no document on the science and technology efforts in cardiovascular sciences that have been made since India became independent and the scientific achievements in cardiovascular research. The Academy wishes to evaluate the overall scientific and technological achievements of cardiovascular scientists in India, and attitude of clinicians, funding agencies and the public towards these efforts. This analysis could pave way for improving the focus and quality of cardiovascular research in the country.
I have been immensely benefited by my association with IACS during the past 14 years. I would hence strive for the growth of the Indian Section and help young investigators in their pursuits and success in their career. I pray for guidance and support from all members of the India Section as well as distinguished Fellows of IACS.
Let us together preserve and translate the dreams of the founder of IACS for human well- being.
“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their own dreams” - Eleanor Roosevelt