The Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh underwent a multiple bypass surgery at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) a few days ago. Dr. Singh is a diabetic and has a history of heart ailments. He has had a bypass surgery almost 20 years ago and also had to undergo an angioplasty subsequently. Dr. Singh is 76. The surgery was performed by the eminent cardiac surgeon Dr. Ramakant Panda, who is considered to be the foremost expert in ‘redo’ bypass surgeries. Dr. Panda, who is presently the CEO of the Asian Heart Institute, Mumbai is also an alumni of the prestigious AIIMS.
While the extremely challenging surgery went of well and the Prime Minister is recovering, I could not help but wonder at the Marketing opportunity celebrity patients present for the hospital and the doctors.
Dr. Ramakant Panda is a very well known surgeon but the kind of fame that operating on the Prime Minister will bring to him would do his already busy practice a world of good. It would also rub off on the Asian Heart Institute, which he heads. AIIMS of course is the premium medical institute in the country. That the Prime Minister chose it over any other hospital in the country is a great vote of confidence in the medical capabilities of the doctors and medical team at AIIMS.
Many years ago Atal Behari Vajpaye, the than Prime Minister of India had had a knee replacement surgery at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. Dr. Chitranjan Ranawat, a surgeon of Indian origin based in New York had operated on the Prime Minister. The hospital had remained in the limelight for many weeks, with the tremendous media coverage around the event. Though the Prime Minister recovered, his unseemly tottering gait remained a poor advertisement for the surgery.
Amitabh Bachhan, has similarly made Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai famous. It continues to his hospital of choice. Earlier, many years ago after sustaining a life threatening injury during the shooting of a movie, he had spent weeks at the Breach Candy Hospital in Mumbai. Pramod Mahajan the BJP stalwart, succumbed to a gun shot injury after a valiant two weeks fight at the Hinduja Hospital in Mumbai. During his stay at the hospital the drama of his fluctuating condition, surgeons arriving from the UK to attempt an almost impossible Liver transplant, the prayers and the havans and the daily media briefings remain etched in my mind.
Honestly, from a hospital’s perspective, a celebrity choosing it for his surgery is perhaps the biggest endorsement of the hospital. It makes a powerful statement and the hospital can take just pride in it. Unlike other forms of endorsements, where he audience knows that it is an advertisement paid for by the advertiser and the celebrity is saying what the advertiser wants it to say (and not what the celebrity really believes in), a hospital endorsement is a great statement of trust.
Finally, my hats off to Dr. Singh for choosing AIIMS for his surgery. It wasn’t such a long time ago when our celebrities routinely flew abroad for surgeries and in many a quarters this was considered the ultimate fashion statement. Now, with Dr. Singh choosing AIIMS, the message to the world is loud and clear. The expertise of Indian doctors and the quality of healthcare in Indian medical institutes is second to none.
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