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Hope, the balm of life

IN 1991, the doctor who spearheaded the team that created India’s first scientifically documented test tube baby in 1986, set up one of the first In-vitro Fertilisation (IVF) centres in Bangalore.

Today, his family is in the process of closing down the clinic as there is no one to run it. Dr T C Anand Kumar’s Hope Clinic, which gave the gift of hope and fulfilment to scores of childless couples through the IVF reproductive method and later became a research foundation, trained many doctors in infertility procedures. However, after his death at the age of 74, in January this year, things have come to a standstill.

A reproductive biologist, Dr Kumar set up the Hope Clinic after retiring as director of Mumbai-based Institute of Research in Reproduction. Concerned about the mushrooming of IVF treatment centres in the late 1990s, Dr Kumar felt the need to standardise the treatment and consequently, along with the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and other doctors, formed the guidelines for Artificial Reproductive Techniques (ART) at the start of the 21st century. Dr Kumar was conferred the Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar Award and the Sanjay Gandhi National Award.

For his students, his death came as a shock. However, they felt that he somehow had a premonition. “The clinic initially began with providing IVF treatment to people. When more IVF centres started coming up, Dr Kumar decided to move to research,” recalled Dr Rajvi Mehta, who started as a research fellow under him and later joined the clinic.

Genetic defects
She explained that there were discussions about taking up various research projects. In fact, Dr Kumar was in talks with NIMHANS to set up a Pre implantation Genetic Diagnosis lab, where genetic defects could be detected before implanting the embryo in a patient. However, when the time came to sign an agreement, Dr Kumar did not feel up to it.

“Maybe he had some premonition that he would not live long,” Dr Mehta believed.
In retrospect, this belief became stronger when Dr Kumar asked Dr Mehta to collect the Lifetime Achievement Award by Indian Society for the Study of Reproduction and Fertility in February, this year.

“I saw Sir in December 2009, as he wasn’t keeping well for sometime. He asked me to go to the award ceremony. I took it lightly but he sent a letter to the President of the society and told him that he would not be able to attend and I would collect the award,” she said. He also donated his huge collection of scientific journals to University of Jodhpur from where he received his doctorate.

To commemorate his first death anniversary, some of his students and colleagues have decided to arrange a free conference that would discuss about the current situation in various reproductive subjects that Dr Kumar studied as part of his research.

Remembering him, Dr Mehta feels that although his clinic may have shut down, his contribution to the progress of the IVF movement will continue to benefit many.  He is survived by wife, a daughter and a son, who are not doctors.

(Published in Deccan Herald 23rd October, 2010)

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