Dr. C. N. Chaudhari, Head, Laboratory Medicine, Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai

You are a person known to possess rich experience in the field of laboratory services; can you brief our readers regarding the reason behind your chief interest in the field of Microbiology? Kindly do share with us regarding your journey in this field.

I got interested in Microbiology particularly in Immunology during my undergraduate days. We had an excellent teacher in Immunology; which prompted me to choose Microbiology for post-graduation. I had a short stint at JJ and KEM Hospitals, Mumbai. During, 92 & 93 Mumbai riots, me and Dr Samuel (then resident microbiology) looked after entire clinical microbiology at KEM for almost three weeks in different spells. On joining the Indian Navy, I got training in all aspects of laboratory and transfusion services; it gave me a 360-degree overview of lab medicine. I had an opportunity to serve at secondary care hospitals as independent Laboratory Specialist. On contrary, I had served for more than 16 years (one of the luckiest person) at INHS Asvini, Mumbai and Armed Forces Medical College, Pune. I had an opportunity to work on latest technologies. More importantly, working with some of the doyens of clinical and laboratory medicine of Armed Forces was extremely rewarding. I got opportunities to hone my skills on regular basis; thanks to robust clinical and leadership development program of the Armed Forces. I had participated in a humanitarian mission on board USNS Mercy,  a thousand bedded tertiary care hospital ship; where learned best laboratory practices and frozen RBC techniques from multi-national laboratory experts. The Australian Leadership Awards Fellowship was one of the high points of my professional career; it has changed my outlook towards HIV.

Dr Chaudhari, we know that you have completed several research projects as principal investigator and as co-investigator in numerous areas; can you share your experiences in performing these projects, with our readers?

Some of my research projects include – efficacy of Rubella vaccinations, Hepatitis B vaccination in renal transplant and health care workers; antibiotic resistance of ESKAPE group of organisms responsible for hospitalacquired infections; allo-immunisation and transfusion transmitted infection in transfusion recipients; immune response in HIV or molecular biology techniques in the rapid diagnosis of Infections.  We had best facilities at AFMC & INHS Asvini. We had bright & brilliant coworkers and it was fun working with such multifaceted professionals. The frequent transfer was one of the challenging parts; however, Armed Forces Medical Research committee was supportive and generous in funding research projects.

What is your opinion regarding the role of laboratory diagnostics in shaping the future of healthcare industry?

We are facing a number of health challenges. At one hand microbial infections including emerging, reemerging and multidrug resistance infections continue to play havoc. On the other hand, we have an increasing prevalence of malignancy and lifestyle diseases. The laboratory medicine is going to play a vital role in prevention and clinical management of these conditions.  We can’t manage MDR infections or various other noninfectious diseases without laboratory diagnostics support.  Today, the sizable number of advance laboratory tests is available at Point of Care Testing platform including some of the molecular tests. There cost is decreasing day by day. This is bound to make difference in shaping National and Global health care policies.

Dr. Chaudhari, do you think that the laboratory and diagnostic market is poised for a consistent steady growth upwards holding great potential in the future?

It is estimated that over 60% of clinical decisions are made based on diagnostics. Its role is going to increase, as we move from evidence-based medicine to precision-based medicine/ personalized medicine. No two individual are similar; same conditions have varied clinical presentation and outcome in two different patients. Take an example of dengue- a dengue viral infection in one patient is just an uneventful viral fever; while in other, it can lead to multi-organ failure; why? We need real-time answers to these. Technologies such as genomics, omics, biomarkers, biosensors have potential to answers some of these dilemmas in clinical medicine. They are going to disrupt the current practice of laboratories diagnostics.

In which way do the laboratory services offered by Apollo Hospitals, Navi Mumbai differ from the laboratory services offered by other centers?

The Laboratory of Apollo Hospitals Navi Mumbai is in the growth phase. Our portfolio and volume are increasing at an exponential rate. We do have the best equipment. We are in process of acquiring latest platforms. Our driving principle is quality; we adhere to best laboratory practices. We work with technologies but have maintained human approach in dealing with all patients’ needs.

Where in the next decade do you see the stand of laboratory services in India? What according to you should be the change in the trend of laboratory services offered in our country?

Laboratory diagnostics is going to grow by leap and bounds. The spoke and hub model of diagnostics is already offering specialized investigation to small towns. POCT platform or lab on chip techniques will make these tests available in remote places. There will be demand for quality assurance on all laboratory activities. Preventive laboratory diagnostic is going to be one of the major drivers of lab diagnostic growth story. Currently middle-aged person makes choices of food based on their blood glucose or lipid levels; however, days are not far, where such choices will be based on individual’s genetic makeup!

What is your opinion regarding the status of present healthcare delivery system in India, and what according to you should be done to achieve better healthcare?

We have the highest global burden of both communicable and non-communicable diseases. The Govt. spent on the health care is very meager. The primary health care is in shambles. We do have a shortage of healthcare professional. The problems are known to everyone.  The Govt. needs to invest more in health care. Health insurance for poor announce in this budget is a step in right direction. Govt. needs to invest in basic sanitation, safe drinking water, nutrition and vaccinations. They need to build sustainable primary and secondary care facilities along with laboratory diagnostics. We need to have enabling policies for private investment in building the infrastructure of tertiary health care hospitals or center of excellence.