Address by Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu, Honourable Vice President of India at the Graduation Ceremony at Tata Memorial Centre, in Mumbai on January 22, 2018.

Mumbai | January 22, 2018

“I am happy to be with all of you at the graduation ceremony in which the students of the Tata Memorial Centre are being awarded various degrees.

It is a day of celebration and an important day in the life of this illustrious institution that was founded almost eighty years ago. It is a memorable day in the life of the students and teachers as they complete an important milestone in the sacred mission of transmission of knowledge and skills. It is a joyous occasion for the parents of the students as they see their wards move on successfully in their educational journey.

This institution has a long and impressive track record of serving the suffering humanity.

Cancer is a major public health concern in India and has become one of the ten leading causes of deaths.

In India, it is estimated that there are about 3 million cases of cancer at any particular point of time with 10 lakh new cases occurring every year. About 5 lakh deaths occur annually in the country due to cancer in India.

Nearly two-thirds of the patients present themselves in advanced stages that are not amenable to cure. Nearly half of them die within a year of diagnosis.

Fortunately, nearly two-thirds of the cancers are completely preventable and amenable to early detection. Greater awareness and early detection are therefore very critical for reducing the incidence of cancer.

I am pleased to learn that Tata Memorial Centre, a Constituent Institute of Homi Bhabha National Institute (Deemed to be University), which offers super-specialty and PG courses, trains the largest Human Resource for the management of Cancers in India including training of Sub-Saharan African doctors, Nurses and Doctors from Myanmar, Bangladesh and other countries.

I commend TMC for providing its technical know-how for setting up cancer hospitals and cancer wings at Government Medical Colleges and other Centers. I am told that TMC under Department of Atomic Energy has started setting up new Cancer Care Centres at Mohali, Punjab, Banaras Hindu Campus, Varanasi, Railway Cancer Hospital, Varanasi,Cancer Hospital, Vishakhapatnam and Booraha Cancer Institute, Guwahati, Assam.

I am also delighted to learn that Tata Memorial Hospital has launched a new programme called "Navigation Program for Patient Care - KEVAT". For the first time in India, Tata Memorial Centre (TMC) has introduced a new specialty in Healthcare. In collaboration with Tata Institute of Social Sciences and support from Tata Trust, a one year (full time) Advanced Diploma in Patient Navigation(KEVAT) is being offered. I think this is a step in the right direction. Very often, patients and their families don’t understand diagnoses, are not aware of various treatment options and available resources. This course will create a specialized workforce of trained professionals to help patients manage their medical experience. It will assist all sections of society, particularly vulnerable populations, to overcome barriers to health care access.

By assisting patients with navigating through complicated and multi-step health care system, the doctors will earn the much-needed trust and goodwill.

Cancer is one of the dreaded diseases and also a very costly disease in terms of treatment. A better understanding of the likely causes and early detection could help reduce the disease burden in our country. According to projections made by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) in 2016, the total number of new cases is expected to touch 17.3 lakh by 2020. It has been estimated that the number of deaths due to cancer is likely to reach 8.8 lakh cases by 2020. The data also showed that only 12.5 per cent of patients come for treatment in the early stages of the disease. Breast cancer was the most common among women, while the incidence of mouth cancer was highest among men.

The burden of cancer is expected to further increase due to increase in life expectancy, lifestyle factors, unhealthy dietary habits, growing usage of carcinogenic substances such as tobacco, betel nut and alcohol. Infection with certain virus and obesity are directly attributable to cancers of cervix and breast respectively.

In Maharashtra, the leading sites of cancer in men are the cancers of the mouth, throat, lungs, esophagus (food pipe). These cancers are related to use of tobacco, supari and alcohol. Making lifestyle changes by avoiding the cancer-inducing substances can reduce the incidence of these cancers.

In women, the commonest are cancers of cervix, breast and oral cavity. Cervix cancers can be eliminated by providing basic amenities to women such as running water and privacy of a toilet. Awareness has to be created on the need to observe personal hygiene and maintain sanitation. Lack of personal hygiene causes infections like HPV, which in turn has the potential to cause cancer of the cervix.

Breast cancer can be controlled by measures for obesity control. Simple interventions such as Visual Examination of Cervix by health worker and regular breast self examination have proven to be beneficial for early detection.

With non-communicable diseases on the rise, concerted action is need from all stakeholders, including health professionals on creating awareness among the people, particularly youngsters, on the need to lead healthy lifestyles and avoid consumption of junk food, alcohol and tobacco.

According to Factsheet of Global Adult Tobacco Survey, India 2016-17 (GATS-2), 19.0 per cent of men, 12.8 per cent of women and 21.4 per cent of all adults smoke tobacco; 42. 4 per cent of men, 14.2 per cent of women and 28.6 per cent of all adults either smoke tobacco and/ or use smokeless tobacco.

Right from school days, Yoga training should be imparted to students as part of ensuring healthy lifestyles. I would like to emphasize that Yoga is a holistic approach to healthy living and there is evidence that it enhances the well being and quality of life.

As regards treatment of cancer patients, there is a need to operate more number of palliative care centres or hospices. Such centres are needed to provide relief from pain and emotional distress to suffering patients.

I am glad that Tata Memorial Centre with its mission of “service, education & research”, is one of the largest tertiary cancer centres in India and is serving the needs of a large population with a record of 65,000 new cases registered and five to six lakh cases coming for follow-up at Tata Memorial Hospital.

Dear students,

You are privileged to be graduating from this institution of excellence. You have successfully acquired new knowledge and skills.

You have chosen a profession that is the noblest among all the professions. In the Indian tradition, doctors are considered to be embodiments of divinity because they can make a difference between life and death. One of the 1000 names of Lord Vishnu, incidentally, is ‘VAIDYA’.

The patients come to the doctor with great expectations. They look for soothing words, healing touch and a medicine that will restore them to good health.

Your specialization here is even more challenging because cancer is generally perceived as an incurable disease and impossible to root out.

The prolonged treatment with its attendant pain and financial resource drain can be so stressful to the patients and their families. There is tremendous suffering, anxiety and it is usually a traumatic experience for the entire family.

Dear students,

You have multiple challenges ahead of you but I am sure many of the basic skills you need in your profession, you have already acquired during your stay in this institute. But, then, there are no full stops in education. There are only commas and semi-colons. You will have to constantly learn. You must strive to be the best in your field.

I congratulate each one of you on your achievements for which you are being awarded degrees today. I do hope you will continue to research the causes of cancer and find new ways to alleviate human suffering.

I would urge you to broaden your knowledge base and practice medicine with greater competence, confidence and compassion.

You should try to explore if the ancient Indian medical systems like Ayurveda can offer some alternative solutions. According to some scholars, cancer treatment with Ayurveda goes back to 7th century BC, where Atreya and Dhanwanthari used herbal medicines for treating early stages of cancer. We should see if there are some indigenous cost-effective solutions that may be useful to make cancer treatment more affordable.

I urge all the medical researchers across the country to focus on research and come up with path breaking advances in the prevention and treatment of cancer. In fact, as a country, we must devote more energy to research and development. We may get some insights from the past that may be useful to illuminate the future. We must access the state of the art from the countries around the world.

I am extremely pleased that that the Tata family has established this Centre and also many institutions of excellence. The private sector has been playing an important role in nation building and the Tatas have been the forerunners in many ways. I hope many other industrial houses will demonstrate their social commitment by establishing many more social enterprises and institutions for the larger public good.

I congratulate the Dean and the faculty members of the Tata Memorial Centre who are shaping this institution as a centre of excellence in teaching and research.

I wish you and the Centre many more fruitful years in your most noble endeavour to bring relief to the patients suffering from cancer. I am glad that the Homi Bhabha National Institute is harnessing nuclear power for improving the quality of life of our citizens and has set new benchmarks of academic excellence. My sincerest appreciation to the Vice Chancellor and his dedicated team of professionals.

I once again appreciate the commitment and caring attitude of the doctors in this centre.

I wish them all the very best in their efforts to ensure that the students are exposed to the state of the art in the specialized fields each of them is pursuing here.