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June - July 2005
Outstanding Young Person of the World 2004-5: Dr Koshy P. Eapen
It is difficult to comprehend the sense of joy I got when I read about the award of ‘Outstanding Young Person of the World' given to a very young, handsome Indian doctor working at the University of London Hospital. I had never met the young man;but the desire of interviewing him for our readers became intense.
I wrote to him for an interview. We met in a café near Oxford Street. Humble in manners but proud of his achievement, Dr. Koshy Eapen has an infectious optimism about him. A man with a mission, idealistic in his ambitions yet practical in his approach, the young doctor loves to talk about his work with, hold your breath, old people. Geriatric Care, as they call it in medical world. He is a medical researcher on the epidemiology of geriatric care at the University of London. He has won sever awards including this year’s University of London’s Excellence and Achievement Award, and the 2002 outstanding Young Indian of the Year Award for his services to geriatric care. At the apex sits, till now, the ‘Outstanding Young Person of the World –2004-05 bestowed by the Junior Chamber International of the United States.
Born in Kottayam, Kerala, the young Koshy has had a bright educational career. At every step of the educational ladder he was given scholarship which perhaps made him work harder and receive another scholarship.
Koshy was the first Indian doctor to be awarded the full Cambridge Commonwealth Scholarship for his studies on the health care of the elderly. A Cambridge-Nehru scholar, he won the prestigious Harrison Watson and the Cambridge Commonwealth/JNMT scholarships.
He also won awards that enabled him to visit and research at the National Institute of Health at John Hopkins University , Maryland, and the University of North Carolina in the US, and Erasmus University, Holland. After a fellowship in clinical training in Oxford, Dr Eapen joined the University of London where he is now on a Mountbatten Scholarship.
Dr. Eapen loves his work with a passion. He also holds a degree in Management. Passing through such rigorous discipline, he takes an overall view of health care systems and is endeavouring to find an ideal health system for the elderly in India who constitute over 12 per cent of the population in India.
is the study of geriatrics so important, particularly in India where
the resources in medical care are so scarce even for the young people”?
If you consider work participation among the elderly as an index of poverty (if you work when you are old, you only do so because you need to), then in India approximately 60 per cent continue to work beyond 60 whereas in some developed nations only 2% over 65 are part of the labour force. In India, even in the above-80 group, about 20% are forced to work.
is not that the elders who do not participate in the workforce do not
contribute to the economy – only it is not taken into account.
They contribute by bringing up grandchildren, doing voluntary service,
caring for the sick, and often counsel and resolve conflict by virtue
of their position. In many cases they are also repositories of knowledge,
experience, culture and religious heritage.”
can geriatrics be managed in a country like India with limited resources.
How have the developed countries coped? Can the system in developed
countries be replicated in India?”
kind of research are you doing on geriatric management and care?”
research also shows that the age of onset of ill health rises faster
than increases in the life
It is also essential to keep the elderly in the confines of their homes for as long as possible and admission to hospitals for long-term care only after a careful medical/psycho-social assessment and trial of rehabilitation. This is because the morbid elderly living with their families at home recover faster than those in hospital.
The health care system in India relies on the patient approaching the health provider, but this is precisely what the aged do not do. What is needed is a more active health team that goes into the rural areas and slums providing free medical care and counselling for the elderly at their doorsteps. A proactive approach is eminently possible in India, even with its limited resources. That means the tem can also undertake general screening of the elderly for medical problems, psychological problems such as dementia and depression, strength of arms and legs, and living conditions. Promoting daily exercise, quality of the home etc.
It is also imperative to train doctors, especially those working in the rural areas, to handle specific illnesses associated with ageing. A laudable effort in this context is the Kaliandiri experiment in Tamil Nadu, which demonstrates that total health care for the rural aged is possible within the existing infrastructure.”
Dr Koshy Eapen outlined his future projects which will go a long way in establishing a geriatric-care system for each state in India. He only needs a positive nod from any state government in India. He also would like to support charities that are enthusiastically working for the health and welfare of people of India. “We should give back something to the country where we were born and educated”, he said with some emotion.