Interview with Dr. Sujay Prasad

He is considered as technological arm of Anand Diagnostic Laboratories, Bangalore’s leading independent pathological lab. Industry calls him a “rare jewel” in pathological automation. This knowledge did come easily. When he joined the company in 1995 after finishing his Doctor of Medicine (MD) course from Mumbai University, he first expressed a desire to join computer classes, which was seen as “waste of time”. Today, the lab is among the leaders in laboratory computerisation and automation, thanks to Dr Sujay Prasad, director of ADL and son of Dr Ramaprasad, the founder director of ADL. He spoke to Shilpa Shree about his future plans for the company:

1) Were you clear right from the beginning that you would be joining the lab?
It was clear that I wanted to do medicine during my school days. During my 12th I realised I wanted to do pathology.

2) How did you father’s thoughts influence you?
It was more to do with my father’s comfort with his work. He enjoyed his work and I thought it would be fun to be like him.

3) What are your memories of your day 1 in the lab?
Tense! It was very tense. Not just I had to take care of facing our staff, my father and Dr Jayaram, and most importantly I had to face our patients.

4) You are seen more as technological arm of the lab. What according to you are your contributions that led to the growth of the lab?
Technology is used as a tool to reach the end. It is not an end by itself. Patient satisfaction is the end and technology is a means to that end. Contributions are a combination of team work, technology and common sense. My role in these contributions have been to do with applying the
right technology in the right place at the right time.

5) What have been the biggest challenges you have faced in the lab in the past? How did you over come it?
Understanding staff and bringing in a change, in my opinion, has been the biggest challenge.

6) How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
We do not consider any lab our competitor. The situation we are in today is our competition. At any point in time, our limitation to deliver better healthcare is the “situation” and consequently, that becomes our competition. Our actions are guided by these limitations to overcome them, and not what other labs do or do not do.

7) What are the things you are working on for the further growth of the lab in the immediate future?
We are working on multiple fronts. We are considering expansion of infrastructure, pre-analytical automation, better information management and also looking to improve our test menu.

8) Any other point you would like to add?
In recent times, we have focused our attention of error identification, which has lead to better patient care and we have been adjudged the best lab in Bangalore.

Interview with Dr.N. Jayaram

He seamlessly juggles between being a diagnostician and an academician. Over the last few years, he has been involved in implementing quality control practices in the leading labs of our country as an empanelled lead assessor of National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), an autonomous body under the Government of India that controls the quality of path labs across the country. Dr N Jayaram, director of Anand Diagnostic Laboratories, spoke to Shilpa Shree about the lab’s growth and future plans.

1) When was the first time you heard of Lab?
During the latter part of 1970’s. I came to know that Dr. Ramaprasad quit his professorial post and ventured out into private practice. I had felt at that time that it was a very bold move indeed, as the private sector in laboratory diagnostics was fragmented and virtually non-existent.

2) When and how did you join the lab?
Physically, I joined the lab on July 11, 1988 but was with the lab in spirit ever since my betrothal to Smitha Jayaram in February 1986. I attribute my joining Anand Diagnostic Laboratory to destiny. After my internship, I failed to get a seat in pediatrics / orthopaedics / medicine (these were my choices). During my later attempts (second at PGI Chandigarh), I had put one of my choices as pathology and was selected there

3) What do you remember of your first day at the lab?
My first day in the lab is a haze. I guess I was lost as I moved abruptly from an academic background (from PGI Chandigarh) to the private sector. By the time I joined the lab (1988), we had moved in to a new and larger place (at Blue Cross Chambers) from the earlier location on Infantry Main Road. Dr. Ramaprasad had already put in his hard work of fourteen years to establish a name for the institution and we already had a fairly decent patronage from the public and medical fraternity. Those days we were serving about 100 customers per day. My biggest challenge was when he left me all alone to manage the lab (in 1989) when he left for a holiday to the US. That was a good learning experience for me and somehow I kept the lab together. I guess the strong foundation built by him made it easy for me.

4) What according to you are your contributions that led to the growth of the lab?
I joined the lab equipped with few strengths derived from my training at PGI Chandigarh – which was rated as among the best institutions for Pathology training in the country. Dr Ramaprasad, being proactive, had already assessed my strengths and had provided the necessary infrastructure. My early personal contributions to the growth of the lab was to establish for the first time in the private sector (at least in south India) the facilities for immunofluorescence microscopy and for tissue cross match (a procedure performed prior to organ transplant). I also introduced the facility for Fine Needle Aspiration Cytology (which is a simple procedure involving extracting cells / fluid from a tumour and trying to provide a diagnosis). I strengthened the histopathology (biopsy) facility. We (Dr Ramaprasad and I) also had been putting in our efforts to streamline and improve the working of other areas of the lab. With our limited knowledge and aptitude, we laid the foundation for computerising our registration and report issue, automating our testing activities and also introduced barcoding technology in a limited way. I guess my passion for academics helped project ADL to the national front. Dr Ramaprasad was already a known figure, but with some push from his friend Dr (Late). SJ Nagalotimath (head of department of pathology JNMC, Belgaum), I started getting more and more opportunities to participate as faculty in various continuing medical education (CMEs), workshops and conferences across Karnataka and also at a national level. At that time I was perhaps one of the few private laboratory professionals amongst the large number of institution based teachers.

5) What are the biggest challenges you have faced in the lab in the past? How did you over come it?
My biggest challenge in the lab has been to interact with the customer – especially the one who comes with a complaint. Dr Ramaprasad had made it a point to talk to the patients and collect the blood samples himself, during the morning hours. I used to tag along and assist him and also would do the procedures like FNAC and bone marrow. If given a chance, I would slip away from there and spend my time inside the lab. I have not been a very patient listener and still find it difficult to accept a complaint when we are not a fault, but time is the best teacher and I guess I am slightly better now. Even now, if given a chance, I push complaint handling on to Dr Sujay.

6) How do you differentiate yourself from the competition?
Right from the beginning, ADL has had the policy of “LIVE AND LET LIVE” – we have not considered any lab as a competitor and have not done anything drastic to kill our competition. At personal level and as an institution, ADL has always helped and continues to help fellow laboratories in times of need. I remember the year 1991 when Medinova first set foot in Bangalore. During the first 6 months there was a definite dip in our work (we never considered our work as business) but after that, there was a rebound increase. From the beginning, our only “marketing” was customer satisfaction and focus on quality of results. We have grown through all those years by “word of mouth” propaganda. Dr Ramaprasad has always believed and we continue to believe in the practice of pouring all what we earn back to the lab. Every pie earned is accounted for and put back. This has increased our capability to clear off our supplier bills early and has earned a lot of respect from that industry. Even today, our marketing efforts in no way match that of the industry (after 2003 we have begun to understand that we are after all an industry). ADL continues to play a major role in helping other laboratories improve their quality. It is the nodal centre for a quality control program called Inter Laboratory Quality Assessment (ILQA) Bangalore (a registered society) and has participation from labs across the country.

7) What are the things you are working on for the further growth of the lab in the immediate future?
As a team, we at ADL are currently working on increasing our walk-in customer load (this is the biggest challenge for a lab) by opening more and more collection and wellness centers across Bangalore and perhaps across Karnataka. We are in the process of shifting our testing activities to a separate place.

8) Any other point you would like to add?
We, the core of ADL, are a diverse team working in unity. Dr. Sujay has a mind that is five years ahead if not more. He constantly comes up with proposals that perhaps none (in the country / world) would have thought of. I believe in consolidation and he believes in growth and together we strive to have a blend of both. Sheela Ashok manages the lab quality assurance and accreditation activities. Smitha Jayaram has her hand in many pies but has contributed considerably at tightening the loopholes in our finances. Dr Ramaprasad is always there and the core principles that he has founded are strictly adhered to and professed by all of us. Of course, we now have the next generation of budding professionals who are putting in their inputs through group mails. Over and above all, we are blessed with a wonderful team of dedicated staff. People can make / break an organisation and here, ADL is very fortunate indeed.

Published On: February 19th, 2021 / Categories: General Health /

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