2, March 2010
By Nirmala M Nagaraj
Dr Devi Shetty - Chairman, Narayana Health City“Heart is simple to understand and easy to replace,” says Dr Devi Prasad Shetty, a heartwarming person and renowned cardiac surgeon. The chairman of Narayana Health City, is the first heart surgeon to perform surgeries on newborn babies in the country. Today, his hospital, Narayana Hrudayala, is almost synonymous with heart procedures and is very popular with people from neighbouring nations like Bangladesh, Pakistan and the Middle–East.
Shetty’s success goes beyond being a good surgeon. It lies in his ability to look at the full healthcare delivery chain. From conceptualising successful programmes such as Yashaswini – a micro health insurance programme – to managing the world’s largest telemedicine programme along with Indian Space Rsearch Organization (ISRO), he has pioneered the path of reaching healthcare at affordable cost to the masses.
With a mission of creating 5000–bed health cities in every state capital, Dr Devi Shetty says, “Power of a leader is not the asset or the bank balance; it is number of talented, passionate people who are willing to follow the leader to build an institution. A person who has loyalty of the maximum number of these people is the most powerful person.”
A brown–belt budokan karate expert, Dr Shetty, recommends martial art to all children. Managing his time as meticulously as the heartbeat, he starts his day at 5.30 am. While still on the treadmill, he finishes with the first round of meetings with surgeons in Calcutta and Bangalore over the phone.
He says he owes his success to his supportive family. Wife Shakunthala is a kindergarten teacher, while elder son Viren is a civil engineer busy with the hospital construction projects. Second son Varun, a doctor, aspires to be a cardiac surgeon, while his third son, Anish, is pursuing his MBBS degree. His youngest child, Ameya, whom he lovingly calls ‘princess’, is in Class 10.
Shetty has a special love for Kolkata. “I started my career in Kolkata, my children were born there, people are warmer and it represents true India for me,” his says. He plans to spend his old age treating people and setting up health institutes in Africa.
What is one thing he’s most proud of ? “When I informed the cooperative society of Karnataka state government that with Rs 5 we run health insurance for the farmers through which they get heart, kidney and other major operations free of cost, they refused to believe. But over a period of six years, the Yashaswini micro health insurance has grown to covering three million farmers.”
His only regret: “I did not invest in buying land to build hospitals in all state capitals of the country when the real estate prices were much lower. Now we have bought 150 acres in many state capitals at much higher price!”
Dr Shetty’s hero is Mother Teresa who, he says, “came into my life as a heart patient and my life has never been the same”.