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Jan 9, 2014

My Bio Sketch _ Anuj Bhattachan

I come from a rural background in hilly district of western part of Nepal. I received primary & secondary level education in my village, where I have seen both happiness and suffering. I have seen my uncle die young on the way to hospital 3 days away from our village. I have also seen neighbors die untimely just because he could not receive timely quality care. It was common to see people suffering from ailments due to worm infestations, protein energy malnutrition, diarrhea & vomiting, which were thought to be bad omen as a result of angry spirits / local deity. So, it was a common practice to rely on faith healers rather than health professionals. This scenario was of 1980s & 90s that I remember vividly just like yesterday. During those period, I was not aware of what all these mean in a rationale mind. I was only a child with playful innocence as any child, only to be perplexed at a time by suffering or death of near and dear ones. One moment I still remember, our grandmother crying when we had to lose our uncle at a tender age. This had a deep impact on me with some kind of uneasy feeling. Now, I realize what all this means to lose your near and dear ones including good neighbors and villagers to preventable & treatable ailments and what possibly went wrong so we had to lose them. Passing by all this moments in rural environment, I grew up with various impressions on my subconscious mind. After I completed my high school, I entered university to pursue intermediate science (I.Sc.) in Kathmandu. I studied science as a major that included biology, chemistry and physics.

After the completion of I.Sc. I got an opportunity to pursue Bachelor in Medicine and Surgery (M.B.B.S.) in BPK Institute of Health Sciences (BPKIHS, a centre for excellence, located in eastern part of Nepal. After completion of MBBS, I worked for around 2 years in Accident / Emergency and General Outpatient Department (A/E & GOPD) in the same institute. During this period, I had a privilege to partly understand diseases that are rampant in low income countries. Here, I utilized skills to assess and manage variety of medical including paediatrics problems common in developing countries. Managed infectious diseases like Malaria, Visceral leishmaniasis, Acute gastroenteritis including Cholera, Enteric fever, Japanese encephalitis, Dengue fever / Dengue Hemorrhagic fever, Worm infestation, Protein Energy Malnutrition, Acute / Chronic viral hepatitis, Measles / Rubella, Vitamin deficiency, Micro- nutrient deficiencies as well as growing Non –Communicable Diseases (NCD) that require ongoing care like diabetes, hypertension, chronic lung and renal diseases. This was also a turning point for me. I began to realize the importance of preventive care at primordial, primary and secondary level. I felt, we were treating only the negative outcome of poor sanitation and hygiene rather than the cause of all these ailments. So, I headed to take up a job as a surveillance medical officer (SMO) working with World Health Organization (WHO) – Nepal. Our primary task was surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases like paralytic poliomyelitis, neonatal tetanus, measles / rubella and Japanese encephalitis. All of these diseases are / were major cause of child hood morbidity & mortality, while viral encephalitis, which is a major cause of death and neuro – motor handicap, was creating havoc in Terai belt of Nepal. I found this period a real time experience, which enabled me to comprehend wider public health landscape in Nepal. 

During my job as SMO, I worked extensively in public health mode and learnt a lot. However, I equally felt deep down a necessity to upgrade myself with public health core competencies. Fortunately, I got another opportunity to pursue Masters of Public Health (MPH) at Mahidol University, Thailand in 2009. Here, I was able to clarify many unanswered questions which I was unable to understand. I also wrote my dissertation paper on epidemiological profile of paralytic poliomyelitis reported through country wide surveillance network in Nepal. This dissertation was submitted to Child Health Division, Ministry of Health & Population and WHO - Program for Immunization Preventable Diseases (IPD), Nepal. The primary recommendation was of my dissertation paper was to focus surveillance in high risk areas / population. Now, Nepal has achieved WHO - Acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance performance indicator leading to polio free state, which is a great achievement in the field of health sector along with measles / neonatal tetanus elimination / introduction of rubella and Japanese encephalitis vaccine. This dissertation was presented in 15th International Congress on Infectious Disease (ICID), 13 – 16 June, 2012, Bangkok, Thailand.

In 2011, I joined International Vaccine Institute (IVI), Seoul, where my job is to coordinate clinical development process of safe / affordable / effective vaccines against enteric diseases that are still a burden in low income countries. As of now, I have been involved with Killed Whole Cell Oral Cholera Vaccine development, especially the pilot introduction of this vaccine in real public health setting of Orissa, India.  Just recently, I presented a paper on “Cholera in Nepal” in Joint International Tropical Medicine Meeting (JITMM), 11 – 13 Dec, 2013, Bangkok, Thailand to make a case for a research & introduction of cholera vaccination in high risk areas. Let us see how far we can go.

Anuj in Himalayas

Hi i am connecting disqus with my blog for healthy interaction and open dialogue