A new prescription

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Railways and the Indian Institute of Technology lend Kharagpur its instant recall value. On February 5, 2019, IIT Kharagpur embarked on a new initiative with South Eastern Railway Hospital that is likely to make the town a major destination for medical research and education as well as medical care. The MoU signed between the two premier institutions cements an arrangement in which both will cooperate and collaborate to further mutually beneficial academic, research and clinical activities.

In accordance with the arrangement, IIT Kharagpur and the SE Railway Hospital, which is a 340 bed Heritage hospital, will provide diagnostic services support to each other and take up joint research projects. SE Railway Hospital will provide access to IIT Kharagpur’s physician faculty, PG physician students and UG medical students to in-patient and out-patient wards, clinics and laboratories for clinical exposure, patient contact, teaching and validation studies. Apart from mutual exchange programs involving faculty, medical professionals, doctors, researchers and students, IIT Kharagpur will also support SE Railway hospital for conducting post-graduate training in various medical disciplines in its premises.

The development corresponds to IIT Kharagpur’s emphasis on medical research and education and the upcoming 400 bed super-speciality hospital inside its campus. Various departments of IIT Kharagpur, particularly the School of Medical Science and Technology, are engaged in research projects and the development of medical technology. In a new development, IIT Kharagpur is also developing a Common Research and Technology Development Hub, supported by the Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, Government of India, that will not only develop medical technology but also help transfer technology to MSMEs to reduce the dependence on imported healthcare technologies.

The development of medical technology requires exposure to hospitals in order to access patient-related data, images and laboratories where various diagnostic tests are conducted. As Prof. Suman Chakraborty, Head of SMST, pointed out, “A major thrust of IIT Kharagpur is to commercialize medical devices in order to promote its aim of affordable healthcare. But engineering design and engineering manufacturing is one aspect. The other aspect is validation, which today is linked to data analytics coupled with Machine Learning techniques that require enormous amount of patient data. Such validation can happen only if we have a large hospital such as the SE Railway Hospital in our collaborative ambit.”

He pointed out that the MoU with the hospital does not end with this facilitation. “This MoU,” he said, “allows us to develop a deeper bond in medical research and education. And this will happen through exchange of doctors and students. SE Railway Hospital can work with our students, jointly supervise projects with IIT Kharagpur, and mentor students in these advanced projects that will lead to the development of medical devices and products to be implemented on actual patients.”

Concurring with Prof. Chakraborty, Mr K.R.K. Reddy, Divisional Railway Manager, Kharagpur Division, said, “With the kind of super-speciality hospital that IIT Kharagpur is coming up, we provide a tremendous amount of clinical data with patients showing various symptoms and conditions which they can study and leverage for their research. We can also benefit from that expertise given that we are also trying to set up a post-graduate institute of medical educational research and perhaps a school of nursing.”

The MoU also assures IIT Kharagpur emergency medical services from SE Railway Hospital for all patients referred to it by the Institute and complete in-patient services. While commenting on the significance of the arrangement with the hospital, the Deputy Director of IIT Kharagpur, Prof. Sriman Kumar Bhattacharyya, pointed to a long understanding between the two institutions by virtue of which IIT Kharagpur has always been able to depend on SE Railway Hospital for the treatment of critical patients. He said, “If students, faculty members and staff and their families are critically ill and we don’t have the facilities here, we would like to fall back on the Railway Hospital, to which they have readily agreed.”

Prof. (Dr) Satadal Saha, Visiting Professor, SMST, who will be a key person in the implementation of the MoU in the super-speciality hospital, also pointed out that given its coverage of academic, research and clinical aspects, the MoU was “truly comprehensive”. Through the MoU, IIT Kharagpur and the SE Railway Hospital have also assured to provide specialist doctors’ services to each other through the specialists available in each facility mutually.

IIT Kharagpur has welcomed Dr S.A. Nazmi, ACMS, Kharagpur from the SE Railway Hospital to visit the Institute with his team and work out a realistic mechanism through which the MoU can be implemented. Dr Nazmi is himself looks after diagnostics at the hospital and given that the Institute’s emphasis on developing low cost diagnostic devices, there is a chance that diagnostics will be the first stepping stone for the collaboration to hit off.

Photograph: Suman Sutradhar

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