A small dream about the health of newborn babies that was seen 25 years back by a committed doctor at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, has developed into a medical discipline in the country. Dr Omkar Nath Bhakoo, who is fondly called the father of neonatology in India, expresses satisfaction on the journey as the neonatology branch celebrates silver jubilee this week in the country.
It was 25 years ago when two foreign-trained visionary doctors — Dr Omkar Nath Bhakoo and Prof Anil Narang — at the PGIMER had the foresight to realise that the country needed trained neonatologists to improve the quality of newborn care and to assist the government in framing appropriate policies to improve health of newborn, says Prof Praveen Kumar, head, newborn unit, PGIMER.
Recounting the journey of neonatology in India, Dr Bhakoo, who is now a professor emeritus at the PGIMER and runs his own clinic in Panchkula, says the PGIMER was the first institute in India to acknowledge it as a separate discipline of medical science and to start DM-neonatology programme in the country in 1989.
“Newborn babies are a source of joy but it is also the most risky period of one’s entire life, so we felt that it requires super specialists to deal with. When we first shared the idea, everybody at the institute welcomed it,” he recalls.
Following the PGIMER footsteps, several years later other paediatric departments at various academic centres in India started their own DM-neonatology programmes, and for that they sought the expertise and advice of the PGIMER neonatology unit. Since inception, 68 candidates have joined the prestigious DM-neonatology programme at the PGIMER. Now, there are 11 centres in the country that offer this programme
“It was a friend of mine in the US who told me what neonatologists call me in India,” smiles Dr Bhakoo.
Adapting to outside world tough for babies
Paediatrics deals with care of children of all age groups while neonatology is a super-specialty branch that deals with the care of newborn babies.
In medical jargon, a “neonate” is a newborn infant and the neonatal period is said to extend up to the first 28 days of life. Newborn infants are not just miniature children but they have a unique physiology and requirements.
According to experts, it is tough being a newborn as adapting to the outside world within minutes of being born is not an easy task and this process places immense demands on a newly born baby.
Adjusting to the room temperature after having spent nine months in a thermostatically controlled environment, living in a terrestrial environment rather than the aquatic environment of the womb and having to actively imbibe milk instead of passively receiving nutrition through the umbilical cord are all challenging, full-time jobs.