Exactly eight years ago (thanks to social media for bringing back this memory!), I landed in Phoenix, Arizona to participate in a unique initiative. The Society of Surgical Oncology (SSO), USA, in collaboration with the Indian Association of Surgical Oncology (IASO) had, for the first time, instituted a career development program to enable surgical oncologists from India to gain exposure to oncology programs at premier hospitals in the USA.
It was a pleasant surprise when I received a call from the secretary of the IASO (the late Dr Dhairyasheel Savant, 4th from the left in the picture) that I had been selected as the first recipient of the award. The selection was based on my professional and academic record, my work at the IASO, and my research paper presented at the IASO Annual meeting 2013. At the time I was already a senior faculty (Professor of Surgical Oncology at St. John’s Medical College Hospital), and I was in two minds about accepting a fellowship program. But I have always believed that learning can happen at every stage of our career.
The program included participation in the SSO annual meeting at Phoenix in March 2014, followed by a few weeks each working at the MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, as well as Chicago University Hospital.
The SSO annual meeting was a very well-orchestrated event. The SSO went out of its way to ensure I was able to interact one-on-one with the big minds in surgical oncology in the US. Spending personal time with them enabled me to learn about their thought processes and their vision. I incorporated many of the things I learned into my own clinical and teaching programs back at St. John’s. I was also able to start a student exchange program of our own, where my students were able to go for a month to the University of Nebraska hospital – many thanks to Dr Chandrakanth Are, Professor of Surgical Oncology, UNMC for this (1st from the left in the picture).
Looking back, the exposure and experience gained at Phoenix helped shape my career in more ways than one. Its never too late to learn and grow!