Research share as important as patient care: Dr Nukala

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Australia and India have a lot to learn from each other when it comes to medical research and practice, according to Dr Subrahmanyam Nukala, chief of nuclear medicine at India’s CARE Hospital.

Dr Nukala visited and studied at hospitals in Melbourne and Sydney in 2010 after winning an Australia Awards scholarship to undertake a professional development program in Australia, sponsored by the federal government.

After seeing research and medical practice in both countries, Dr Nukala says knowledge sharing between medical experts in India and Australia should be beefed up.

“It should be much more than what it is because we can gain a lot by going there and even Australian doctors can gain a lot by coming here,” he said.

Dr Nukala said Australian and Indian medical scientists and doctors had interacted and shared research in the past, “but not enough”.

“It should be much, much more; we have common interests and the medical communities should have more interaction,” he said.

Dr Nukala said while Indian medical professionals can learn from Australia’s cutting edge research, Australian experts can learn from India’s pioneering work in budget health care and from working in Indian hospitals.

”Given the opportunity, I would like to go back and do good work in Australia. There are certain things being done in Australia that you even can’t do in the USA, because funding (for research) and things are very good in Australia right now,” he said.

Dr Nukala works in the field of nuclear medicine, which involves using very small doses of radioactive material to diagnose and treat diseases like cancer.

Since receiving his Doctor of Medicine from the renowned All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi in 1986 and being awarded the Talekar Medal for outstanding results, Dr Nukala has published research in journals, presented papers in Europe and the UK, worked in the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Health on a committee to develop nuclear medicine, and worked as a senior consultant at India’s Fortis Hospital. In March he was named an Australia Awards Ambassador for having made, “an invaluable contribution both at home and overseas”.

The 55-year-old said the Indian medical industry has developed rapidly since the country opened up to private investment in the 1990s but medical research has lagged.

“In the last more than 20 years, as far as the treatment quality and technical things being done in India, compared to what it was in previous years, it’s just phenomenal change… there’s been huge technical development,” he said.

“The only thing is here, still research methods, the systems and processes, there’s a lot of scope for improvement. If we can improve the way we conduct research, we have the potential to do research. Compared to what I’ve seen at Peter Mac and Austin (hospitals) in Melbourne, they’re really far ahead both in terms of the way they work and the way they’re doing research,” he said.

Dr Nukala said medical research in India is also restricted somewhat by lack of funding.

As an Australia Awards Ambassador, Dr Nukala will help promote the scholarships program in India by presenting at top research and higher education institutions around the country.

Announcing 26 new Ambassadors and Mentors in March, Australia’s High Commissioner to India Patrick Suckling said the scholarships program was designed to promote stronger education and research ties with India.

“We want to capitalise on their knowledge and experience to promote the benefits of the Australia Award scholarships to other Indian applicants,” Mr Suckling said.

“This elite network of leaders in India will encourage a new generation of high-performing Indian students to broaden their experience through an education scholarship in Australia,” he added.

The federal government has been giving Australia Awards Scholarships to high-achieving students, researchers and professionals from around the world to study in Australian universities or undertake a professional development program for seven years now. Since 2007, a total of 573 scholarships have been offered to outstanding Indian students and executives.

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Published in The Indian Sun

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