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Establishment of AHA approved Basic and Advanced Cardiac Life Support

My journey of over two decades from 1998 through 2020 was an adventurous venture that fulfilled my vision to bring advanced life support into the mainstream of medical practice in India. The following narrative is just a brief outline- a detailed account may run into many pages.

The sudden loss of my father and then of my brother at the prime of his life made me realize that physicians in Hyderabad, even those working in the government and private hospitals, were not aware of the potential benefit of emergency cardiac care and advanced life support that we in the west take for granted. After months of introspection, I concluded that introducing American Heart Association sponsored certification programs in the twin cities is a worthy cause.

Regretfully, some of my Indian physician friends were very skeptical and even some of my colleagues in the US had doubts about the utility of introducing AHA programs even at the teaching institutions in India, where we obtained our medical training.

My conviction that the lifesaving potential of two-day American Heart Association basic and advanced life support courses including hands-on training was the best means to acquire the skills to recognize pre-arrest and acute respiratory and cardiac emergencies. This led me to this arduous, long journey.

I started giving overview presentations of advanced cardiac life support in Hyderabad. At the end of one of these programs, Dr. Hari Prasad of Apollo helped me to conduct the first ACLS course in Andhra Pradesh in 1998. I recruited Dr. Ramon Dunkin and Andrew Bowman, RN, who accompanied me on the first trip to Hyderabad in August 1998. Forty physicians from different parts of India attended the first such course held in the state.

The following year, Dr. Joseph Florence and Eric Kornefel, EMT.P accompanied me. Drs. P.S. Reddy; Kalpalatha Guntupalli, EV Sunderrajan, Hari Prasad, Sunil Kumar, Vijay Kumar, Amir Sitafawalla, R. Vishwanath, Surender Vuthoori and Maheshwar Reddy assisted in conducting three ACLS courses at different venues, MediCiti Hospitals, Hotel Viceroy (courtesy of Apollo Hospitals, HYD), and Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi. The year 1999 proved to be very successful when over 100 physicians were trained in the three courses.

The following is an year by year chronology of the training programs conducted.

  • 2000: the team was led by Florence and Mark Jones. Drs. Maheshwar Reddy, Vijay Kumar, Vishwanath and Kotur joined us to conduct two ACLS courses, one at MediCiti Hospitals in Hyderabad and subsequently one at Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka. The instructor faculty had to travel by train with all the necessary equipment to Belgaum for this undertaking. We were apprehensive when we noticed that there was an overflowing river right beneath the bridge over which our train was traveling.
  • 2001: Florence, Damodar and Maheshwar led the team, which included Raghu Sundaram, Naga Srinivas, Captain Krishna Rao, Mohammed Samiuddin. In January, we conducted ACLS provider courses at Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences in Trivandrum. Additional courses were offered at Hotel Viceroy sponsored by Mediciti Hospital.We also conducted a workshop on BLS and ACLS at Kurnool Medical College. Drs. Florence, and Krishna Rao and Maheshwar led a small team with all their equipment. On their way back to Hyderabad from Kurnool, unfortunately, they were involved in a motor vehicle accident and Florence sustained a chest wall injury with contusion to the ribs and Krishna Rao sustained a fractured femur. Fortunately, both recovered very well.
  • 2003 was another momentous year for us. First, I shipped a crate of ACLS equipment prior to my departure from the United States, for distribution to three medical colleges under the auspices of Osmania University Medical Alumni Association. This was made possible by a generous donor, Dr. Pulipaka Bheemeshwar Rao. Just prior to my departure, my mother passed away, but that did not stop us from continuing with the program. However, we faced a lot more hurdles for conducting the classes. At first, the shipment was detained in Bombay, where the container was opened and few boxes were lost. However, on our request, this was shifted to Hyderabad where again they detained the container. Desperately, I had to seek the help of a family friend, Mr. Keshav Reddy, a retired superintendent of police, who intervened and got the equipment released. Maheshwar stayed back in Hyderabad after we left for Warangal and finally, he obtained release of the equipment and reached Warangal at 3 a.m. hours before we started the ACLS course. We followed that up with another course at Osmania Medical College.
  • 2004: The year was another hectic chapter in our program. In December in conjunction with the golden jubilee celebrations of Gandhi Medical College, we successfully conducted courses in the college. Also with the help of Indian Institute of Emergency Medical Services, workshops on basic trauma life support and RP programs were conducted at Gandhi Medical College.
  • 2005: The first ACLS provider course was sponsored by Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences in Trivandrum. We conducted it and subsequently also held a one-day ACLS overview program at Owaisi Hospital, Deccan College of Medical Sciences, and Indian Medical Associations, Sultan Bazaar.
  • 2006: It was a landmark in that the Gandhi Medical College Alumni Education Center was inaugurated in January. We conducted an eight day program from January 7th to 15th, which included basic life support, and advanced cardiac life support provider classes, and also instructor classes. This was very well attended and received by the students and the candidates who obtained instructor certification. This firmly established the program at Alumni Education Center.
  • 2007: BLS & ACLS courses in MediCiti Hospital in Ghanpur.
  • 2008: BLS & ACLS at Alumni Education Center. One at Padma Rao Nagar ICCHA building in Hyderabad and yet another one at Kerala Institute of Medical Sciences in Trivandrum.
  • 2009: US faculty travel plans had to be canceled due to the terrorist attack on Mumbai.
  • 2009-2013: Dr.Maheshwar Reddy with the invaluable assistance of course coordinatorDr. Vemuri Murthy* has continued to conduct courses regularly. Over 1000 physicians and 40 instructors were trained over the years and it was especially gratifying to point out that basic life support was made mandatory for all house surgeons in the state. We have conducted over 30 programs up to 2008 and after the unfortunate cancellation in 2009, more than 30 programs were conducted till the end of 2013.
  • 2016-2017: NTR University Hospitals, 72 sessions – Trained 2500 Interns in BLS>
  • 2017-2018: At AEC – 84 sessions, trained 2800.
  • 2018-2019: 90 sessions, 2950 trained.
  • 2019-2020: 88 sessions, 2850 sessions
  • 2020- 2021: Despite the pandemic, whenever feasible with appropriate precautions, 38 sessions were conducted, primarily didactic lectures.

*( Dr.Vemuri Murthy, a graduate of Guntur Medical College and All India Institute of Medical Sciences was honored with a medal from U.S Congressman as Global Champion of Resuscitation, “Lifetime Achievement Award, and Distinguished Physician Award from the Indian American Association, Illinois.

Dr. Ramon Dunkin of Winona, Indianapolis AHA affiliate was instrumental in bringing the first ACLS course to Hyderabad and Dr. Joseph Florence of Kentucky has been steadfast in his support in the first decade of this journey as lead instructor and helped us to establish the program on a firm footing. I am grateful to them and also to Dr. Maheshwar, who has been the coordinator and the backbone of the program since inception and continues as the leader of the program. My apologies to those whom I may have inadvertently  failed to express my appreciation to some persons. The program would not have been possible without the invaluable help of  the faculty from USA, Pune, and Hyderabad, Viceroy Hotel, St.Clare’s Medical Center and  several other  organizations.

I acknowledge the support given to us by OUMA through their charitable foundation, Gandhi Medical College Alumni Association and Gandhi Medical College Global Alliance (GMCGA).

For establishing the Surakanti Mallareddy Memorial Hall, I owe special thanks to my brother, Devender who has been of immense help. My spouse Rani had to endure my absence with patience and concern for my safety always on her mind as did both my sons, Dushyanth and Jayanth who were supportive during this journey.

It is most gratifying to find that the Alumni Education Center, which I envisioned in the year 2002, is now a reality and the center of continuing medical education activities at Gandhi Medical College, of which American Heart Association courses are the prime examples.

The success of this project illustrates that we, Gandhi Medical College Alumni, can make a difference and make long lasting contributions. I am very optimistic that, with similar dedication and support from alumni, if other projects like human patient simulation labs are taken up, GMCGA can deliver services to advance medical education and patient care on par with the corporate hospitals in India.