Saturday, June 27, 2020

Dr. BS Ajaikumar and How He Created a World Class Cancer Hospital Chain

In this interview, Dr. B. S. Ajaikumar talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about his book, Excellence Has No Borders: How A Doctorpreneur Created A World-Class Cancer Hospital Chain.

“Anybody can be good. It depends who you are and what kind of passion you have.” ~Dr. BS Ajaikumar

Dr. Ajaikumar’s father was the dean of a law school who had a passion for medicine. Dr. Ajaikumar’s older brother then went into medicine, which was a “gateway” for him to get into medicine, which he had always had a passion for and felt he could make a difference in that field. He had a vision of serving people in the rural areas of India, and while he was one of the top graduates in cardiology he wanted to learn more about the “high end” aspects of cardiology. Since India didn’t offer him that kind of opportunity, he emigrated to the United States, where he became interested in, and challenged by, oncology while undertaking his rotating internship. He thus transferred from the hospital he was then working at, at the University of Virginia, to MD Anderson Hospital in Texas. He made the long trip to the hospital, and despite no opening being immediately available, he impressed the higher-ups enough that they offered him a position, which he took.

Oncology in the 1970s, according to Dr. Ajaikumar, focused on palliative care and wasn’t that well understood, compared to cardiology. He wanted to understand what oncology was all about and improve the methodologies of the field, particularly as few doctors didn’t want to go into the field, due to the mortality rate associated with it. Dr. Ajaikumar liked challenges, and he took this on and met patients from several countries. Practicing oncology in the United States was an enlightening experience for him, and the biggest learning for him was the reflective mindset he learned, and what true friendship was all about, while treating his patients, giving the example of a patient who consoled him before she passed away.

While practicing in the United States, Anderson wanted Dr. Ajaikumar to run the lung cancer program. While that was okay with him, he realized he would remain in academia. As he already wanted to set up cancer centers in India by that time, he went out and set up a center from scratch, and within a few months he was “overloaded” with seeing 150 patients a month - an indication of his success.

Dr. Ajaikumar had long wanted to return to India, during his years practicing in the United States, as he understood what the situation was where cancer treatment was in that nation. By the time he moved back to India, in 2003, shortly after he suffered losses from his stock market investments and after he had set up women’s empowerment programs in India, he had enough technical knowledge as well as experience with setting up a medical center to work on creating medical facilities that gave world-class treatment to cancer patients. (Also driving him to do so, despite his financial situation, was his desire to meet and surmount challenges, a trait which he has had all his life.) He was able to use some of his earnings as seed capital for his first cancer center, which was located in Mysore, and he realized that setting up the center as a non-profit center wasn’t sustainable, so it was then that he looked around for investors.

The investment climate in India in the early 2000s wasn’t “good,” according to Dr. Ajaikumar, with high interest rates and high customs duties. He needed to provide results as an entrepreneur before he could get good investors, and one of the ways he did this was by going to big companies and negotiating for good rates for the equipment he would get. He first made sure his center was running efficiently before looking for investors, and while he received a lot of rejections, he eventually managed to get some investors onboard. Dr. Ajaikumar is up front about returns not being guaranteed, to the point of once turning down a potential investor who wanted 25% return on investment.

Dr. Ajaikumar notes that he never took a grant from the Indian government, as he wants his company, HealthCare Global Enterprises (HCG), to succeed on its own. He works to keep his organization operating in a transparent and legal manner and focuses on doing the right thing for the patient. Where treating people is concerned, he doesn’t deny treatment to anyone, pointing out the cost of a particular service is a fraction of that same service which is offered in the United States and Singapore - a helpful boon in a country where medical insurance isn’t commonplace, which means that people pay for the treatment out of their own pockets. One of the ways he does so is by utilizing the available equipment as much as possible, such as giving treatments late at night, when things aren’t busy. As Dr. Ajaikumar noted, the equipment is already there, so might as well use it, adding that balancing technology, finances and keeping things “patient-centric” are the hallmark of his organization.

At the moment, Dr. Ajaikumar’s unique business model is one which Harvard has taken note of, and has created a case study for. “All the money we generate is put back into the system to bring in more technology and train doctors,” he remarks of his organization’s policy of not giving dividends - a style of management which has enabled HCG to presently create 24 centers in India and Africa.

The experiences and challenges he faced throughout his life, as well as those with his son (who has lived for thirty years despite not being expected to live beyond 15 years of age due to muscular dystrophy) were what made him think about writing a book about his experiences. The title, Excellence Has No Borders, was suggested by his son-in-law, who said that, “Where excellence is concerned, there should be no borders.”

He believes that doctors should look upon their patients the way they would a close relative, and that that attitude can carry on where relating to the world is concerned. “If we can contribute, we can make a world of a difference,” he notes, adding that, one should be reflective and be conscious of oneself, as well as have positive vibrations, which aid greatly with interacting with the world and others in a positive way.

Purchase from Amazon: Excellence Has No Borders: How A Doctorpreneur Created A World-Class Cancer Hospital Chain by Dr. BS Ajaikumar

Friday, June 12, 2020

Susie George on Sustainability, Sustainable Business, and Sustainable Living | Branching Together & Chew on That

In this interview, Susie George talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her YouTube channel, Chew on That and Branching Together, her online project to reconnect to one another and the earth.

“Remembering that everything is connected is key to living a sustainable lifestyle.” ~Susie George

Chew on That is a channel that Susie started as a capstone project for her Master’s degree in Sustainable Business, and for that project she highlighted restaurants which were undertaking sustainable practices. Susie points out that sustainability isn’t seen as “relevant” for most people, and she hopes her channel will challenge the viewpoint that sustainability is accessible rather than far-fetched, and to highlight that sustainability and, thus, care for the environment, can be integrated into one’s life as a logical practice. Her degree is actually called a “Sustainable MBA,” which is a standard MBA which focuses on integrating sustainability and environmental awareness into business practices while still maintaining business value. The “triple bottom line” that sustainable businesses aim to strive for are, according to her, “people, planet and profit,” which is different from the standard view of profit coming first and the impact of the planet comes last. A sustainable business, Susie remarks, should be as potentially long-lasting as present-day businesses running on the conventional, profit-based model. Apart from her YouTube channel, Susie also has a website called Branching Together, whose mission is to empower people through education, inspiration, and products to become stewards of the earth and of each other.

Ever since she was young, Susie has practiced sustainability, such as when her mother practiced curbside recycling, so much so that she was amazed when she saw her friends tossing recyclables in the trash. She also spent a lot of time outdoors, connecting with Nature, and this, she admits, grew her “protective” nature where the environment is concerned. “Waste is a big concern, and always has been,” she remarks, and the linkage between this, human actions and what we see in the world around is one of the things that interests her. “The research is already there, “Susie notes; “the disconnect is with our actions.”

Susie points out that the actions of large corporations and agricultural systems have severely impacted the world’s climate, and if changes can be done on a large scale, then an improvement in the world’s climate will be noticeable. There are many ways in which people live unsustainably, and one of these is single-use packaging, be it chip bags to laundry soap packaging, which are tossed out after these are used. Individually, such waste isn’t much, but cumulatively such will have an impact. Using such, however, is “indicative of a mindset of putting convenience first,” she notes, and long-term solutions need to be implemented with the environment first and convenience second. “This concept, in our human history, is relatively new,” Susie points out, and this will need to change, along with other unsustainable practices. Bringing one’s own containers to a bulk store would be the best solution for single-use containers, Susie notes; and she likewise notes that society is already starting to lean away from single-use containers as well as find other solutions which have yet to be created. As another example, Susie gives the practice of making one’s own snacks and storing it for later use; and for this practice to become widespread, a “cultural shift” is necessary, given today’s presently busy workplace practices. 

Sustainability, according to Susie, is a holistic mindset about existing long-term on and with the Earth and its systems, at its heart, noting that the term has taken on a different meaning in the environmental sphere. “Business that adopt environmentally sustainable practices are going to be able to exist long-term,” she notes, “because that’s where the priority is.” Susie notes that the impact of changes to creating sustainability will not be felt by the present generation but by future ones, which means that a lot of investment must be made over time.

“Individual action is extremely important,” Susie notes, “but climate change is seen on a larger scale than individual.” That said, those individuals who adopt sustainable practices will eventually ripple out to leadership, as well as to companies and politics, which is why the focus on individual action is important. Susie gives the example of mass meat production being unsustainable, as farming animals in tight quarters releases vast amounts of the greenhouse gas methane, which contributes to the changing climate. Reducing meat consumption, or a consumer purchasing meat from a small farm, which is likely to have more sustainable practices than large farms, is a way to create sustainability. “People are really embracing individual responsibility,” Susie remarks, noting that the shift is taking place.

On the topic of sustainability in skin care, Susie points out that people can create their own products made of natural, organic ingredients, and that these are actually better for one’s body. Where effects are concerned, the results aren’t instant, but are longer-lasting and healthier, as one creates a relationship with one’s skin, as well as reducing the consumption of single-use packaging.

To those who would want to start off on a journey into sustainable practices, Susie recommends that people read up even an article from an environmental professional or a documentary about the environment or nature and human interaction with it. This is due to the need to create the kind of mindset from which sustainable practices spring. “Connection is the bottom line of sustainability,” she adds.


Sunday, June 7, 2020

Elizabeth K. Englander Reveals the Myths of Bullying and Cyberbullying

In this interview, Dr. Elizabeth K. Englander talks to Alexander “The Engineer” Lim, host of AuthorStory by, about her book, 25 Myths About Bullying and Cyberbullying.

“Myths can really hold you back.” ~Dr. Elizabeth K. Englander

Dr. Englander is a researcher, trainer and college professor who has been studying children and violence for some 25 years. She applied for a fellowship in 2004 to found the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center, a center which presently works with schools around the world, creating programs designed to deal with bullying and cyberbullying, which enables the center to reach some 200,000 children a year. Dr. Englander noted that a lot of violence that, while most of the violence students experienced was violence in the school, compared to violence in the streets, for example, cyberbullying really began to pick up in 2005, due to the increasing prevalence of social media. She had always been interested in technology and how people worked with it, and she combined these two interests into her present research into cyberbullying.

Dr. Englander differentiates being mean from bullying, as being mean is an occasional or unintentional act, whereas bullying is when a more powerful individual or group targets someone who can’t defend themselves, in a continuous campaign of repeated targeting. Such campaigns are destructive and difference from mean things that happen just once, and Dr. Englander points out that what is done is less important than how it’s done and how often and how consistently it’s done, citing the example of consistent staring as one such method. She also remarks that, when a child complains about such non-physical acts, adults tend to brush off this off without asking the child the context in which such acts took place, which leads to a lack of understanding about what is going on and what the impact is on the child.

Children always give signs when they struggle with something, such as changes in their eating or sleeping patterns, or change the people they interact with, and the lack of information on what’s causing this can confuse parents, Dr. Englander notes, which means that parents need to talk to children to find out what is going on. She also remarks that this is particularly confusing with teenagers, who don’t want to talk to their parents about what goes on in their lives, but while this is so, teenagers also appreciate it when parents try to keep the lines of communication open. “You get credit, just for asking,” Dr. Englander comments, giving the example of one of her kids.

Bullying, Dr. Englander remarks, might not be rare, but it’s also not commonplace, adding that, while all kids experience meanness at some point in their lives, one in four children will be affected by bullying at some point in their lives. This is “exacerbated” by the way parents raise children nowadays, she notes. Where a parent being told that their child is being bullied is concerned, Dr. Englander remarks that the parent should stay calm and talk to the child to get the details of what is going on. The way to move forward becomes clear once such details are known, particularly since the circumstances of bullying differ from one child to another. Such details need to include where and when and how often such acts occur, as well as who is involved, and who are those who know what’s going on. Letting the school know about cyberbullying can also enable the school to help out, even if they don’t have total control over the situation, and letting the child know one can handle the situation, and creating a plan to work on, gives the child more confidence that they can be supported. “The number one reason children don’t tell their parents,” Dr. Englander says about her research, “is that their parents run around and get hysterical.”

Dr. Englander remarks that she wrote the book to help make clear what does and doesn’t work, where responding to bullying is concerned, citing the myth of bystanders stepping in to confront a bully as being effective, as such a strategy could backfire. (In that situation, Dr. Englander notes that bystanders helping the target and ignoring the bully would be far more effective.) Where cyberbullying is concerned, the concept that the school can’t do anything is a myth, particularly since, among teenagers, the target is very likely to be bullied by someone they know in school, rather than an anonymous person.

The most common way for the target of bullying to get through the situation is by getting social support - being around friends and family and people who can show that one is a likeable person - as well as pursuing one’s own interests, which help one feel good about oneself. “This is true for adults as well as for kids,” Dr. Englander also adds, remarking that such is a learned skill that needs to be taught to kids. She also remarks that these are “anxious” times for parents, and that focusing on human connections and getting away from screens really pays off where creating more resilient and more able children are concerned.

Purchase from Amazon: 
25 Myths About Bullying and Cyberbullying by Dr. Elizabeth K. Englander