The Dr will see you now: Doctors for Seva featured in Bangalore mirror

The Dr will see you now
If women won't come for cancer screening, Dr Dayaprasad Kulkarni will take it to them

Initiative: Doctors For Seva
​Face behind it: Dr Dayaprasad Kulkarni, 30
Nominated for: Bringing breast cancer screening, among other medical services, to the underprivileged

According to statistics of the Indian Council of Medical Research, breast cancer cases in Bangalore have risen from 16% in 1998 to 34.1% in 2008 for every 1,00,000 women. In hospital-based cancer registries, cancer of the cervix is recorded as the leading site of cancer among women.
And yet, a dismal 1% of Karnataka's women undergo a mammography, says Dr Dayaprasad Kulkarni. In the US, the number stands at 70%.
"It's not surprising then that most breast cancer cases are detected when they are in stage 3 or 4," says the 30-year-old, who heads Doctors for Seva (DFS), a project that provides medical services to the deprived in and around Bangalore.
Which is why when he heard that a US-based oncologist behind non-profit Poornasudha Cancer Foundation had acquired an on-site mammography bus, he decided to make a pitch to use its services. "Maharashtra and Uttarakhand have been using them for screening, which explains why cancer-related mortality rate is lower," he says.
The MOM Express, Karnataka's first breast cancer screening bus, comes equipped with a mammogram machine and an examination table. By getting volunteer radiologists to pool in, Kulkarni has extended DFS's services to cervical cancer screening, too. "It is just a question of conducting a Pap smear, and preparing the slide. So, why not?" he says, seated in the bus stationed at Basavanagudi when we meet him. MOM's first mammogram was conducted on October 2, a day when more than 200 women climbed in for screenings. In it waited doctors and radiologists hand-picked by Kulkarni.
The young doctor says the real challenge awaits them in the city's 900 notified slums, where most families don't have access to medical services. "One major illness in the family is enough to saddle them with life-long debt," he says.
Kulkarni's social responsibility initiative kicked off in 2005, when armed with an MBBS degree from the Devaraj Urs Medical College in Kolar, he had wrapped up a stint with Doctors Without Borders in Chhattisgarh. "It was strange that in the presence of several international organisations like the Red Cross and iVolunteers, there wasn't a single Indian agency or medical professional," he remembers. A meeting with Venkatesh Murthy, founder of Youth for Seva, led him to set up DFS in 2010.
"DFS," he says, "isn't a parallel system. It's about strengthening the existing government healthcare system." This it has done by getting the right professionals to meet the need of the patient, instead of a single doctor looking into everything from a cough to tuberculosis, thereby preventing wastage of resources and time. In three years, DFS is ready to spin off into an independent organisation, and the excitement is palpable among the volunteers on the MOM.


Gets my vote
Every doctor starts off wanting to serve society. Dr Dayaprasad has stuck to his ideals with sincerity —Dr Shubha Badami, President, Indian Academy of Pediatrics

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