‘Promote grassroots research’: Padma awardee Bawaskar to government
Dr Himmatrao Bawaskar, who runs a hospital in Maharashtra’s Mahad, is also known for his research on the management of scorpion stings and snake bites
MUMBAI: In 2013, Dr Himmatrao Bawaskar received a ₹1,200 cheque from a laboratory after one of his patients went there for a CT scan. Bawaskar, 71, returned the cheque and filed a complaint against the lab with the Medical Council of India, exposing the system of “cut practice”.
Bawaskar, who runs a hospital in Maharashtra’s Mahad, is also known for his research on the management of scorpion stings and snake bites for over four decades. He has also highlighted the threats of polluted drinking water in rural areas. Bawaskar’s work was recognised when he was awarded India’s fourth-highest civilian award Padma Shri this week.
“It is important to understand the challenges and problems faced by people at the grassroots. The government has to promote research, especially directed at the grassroots to identify the issues. I have been doing just that for years and will continue to do so,” said Bawaskar.
Born in Jalna, Bawaskar did his MBBS from Nagpur and then pursued an MD in medicine from Pune. In the late 1970s, when he was posted at a Primary Health Centre in Raigad, he focussed on the high mortality due to scorpion bites.
“I was perplexed, and wondered how an animal bite was causing so many deaths,” he said. He added the higher mortality prompted him to research the subject. In a research paper, Bawaskar highlighted the use of the hypertension drug Prazosin for the management of cardiovascular manifestations of scorpion sting. He researched another hypertension drug Nifedipine in combination with Prazosin. Bawaskar’s work on Prazosin was recognised internationally and replicated in many parts of the world.
Over the past few years, Bawaskar has focussed on snakebite deaths. He wants the government to make snakebite deaths notifiable like HIV and TB. He has published research papers on snakebite deaths and envenoming and the lack of knowledge among doctors about the right dosage of anti-snake venom (ASV) and its rampant shortage.
“In India, there is always a short supply of ASV. Medical officers are untrained and usually have never examined or managed a snake bite case before,” Bawaskar wrote in 2014 in the Indian Journal of Critical Care Medicine. “To reduce the crisis of ASV supply medical officers should be given training regarding dose and indication of ASV.”
Social activist Dr Abhay Bang said Bawaskar, who was his junior at the Nagpur medical college, has come up despite a lot of financial hardships. “He did odd jobs to fund his education. He also battled mental health issues and rose as a grassroots doctor finding solutions to the problems faced by the rural poor.”