On A Mission! Edmond Fernandes- Not Just a Doctor, A Good Samaritan Too!
A day before he leaves Mangaluru to Washington DC-USA on Friday 13, 2017, Team Mangalorean caught up with Dr Edmond for an exclusive interview. In his own words, with a Vision : “To create a visible difference for those who are victims of time & circumstance, through my work and through my words.”; with a Mission:To embrace a community called mankind and channel my energies to build a new world Health order so that generations that will come after us, will be grateful because we lived” ; and with his signature statement, “To think like a butterfly which spreads its wing on a bright morning in spring, to appreciate the world go by, to create the meaning of life rather than to find it, to right a wrong, to defend the weak, to encourage the not so motivated and bring out the best in them and to do something worth writing about, also to write something worth reading about. Honor, Love, Humanity. For a Nation to Rejoice.”-we can say that Dr Edmond Fernandes is not just a DOCTOR, but also a ‘GOOD SAMARITAN” too- and he is on a mission to bring a change in the society and in Health Care sector.
Mangaluru: Dr Edmond Fernandes, Founder & CEO, CHD Group and Adjunct Faculty, Dept of Public Health, KSHEMA, Nitte University who has been selected as a Legislative Fellow which is a very prestigious fellowship supported by the US Department of state, is one among the 12 selected for this prestigious fellowship from across the nation and the only one from the state of Karnataka. The goal of this fellowship is to understand and establish networks among mid-level professionals in the US and India. The Fellows will be exposed to the working of the US Government Departments, interface with regard to public policy and relevant streams related to the core nature of their work.
Dr Edmond Fernandes will seek to build and strengthen Indo-US partnerships in terms of Public health and policy domains. While in the USA, he will be travelling to the states of Washington DC, Pennsylvania and then later to New York. Dr Edmond Fernandes will be majorly working in the city of Philadelphia – where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution was signed. The Legislative fellowship will also focus on the structure of the US Government, the legislative processes, role of civil society and the impact of good governance on the lives of civilians.
Dr. Edmond Fernandes will also engage in civic leadership engagements and grass-root level activities while in the US and during the Professional Fellows Congress meet with other mid-level professionals and US Government officials. As part of the fellowship’s diplomatic mandates, he will host an American Counterpart during their visit to India. The Legislative fellowship is managed and implemented by World Learning Inc. Dr Fernandes is also Member- Health Task Force, DDMA, Government of Karnataka and has worked extensively in community empowerment programs in and around the country and across other nations besides enhancing the public health systems wherever the demand is. He leads CHD Group – Center for Health and Development which is a field based and field informed public health organization which engages in public health risk reduction activities, advocacy, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation. He is sought after across the country as a Disaster Health expert.
A day before he leaves Mangaluru to Washington DC on Friday 13, 2017, Team Mangalorean caught up with Dr Edmond for an exclusive interview. In his own words, with a Vision : “To create a visible difference for those who are victims of time & circumstance, through my work and through my words.”; with a Mission:To embrace a community called mankind and channel my energies to build a new world Health order so that generations that will come after us, will be grateful because we lived” ; and with his signature statement, “To think like a butterfly which spreads its wing on a bright morning in spring, to appreciate the world go by, to create the meaning of life rather than to find it, to right a wrong, to defend the weak, to encourage the not so motivated and bring out the best in them and to do something worth writing about, also to write something worth reading about. Honor, Love, Humanity. For a Nation to Rejoice.”-we can say that Dr Edmond Fernandes is not just a DOCTOR, but also a ‘GOOD SAMARITAN” too- and he is on a mission to bring a change in the society and in Health Care sector.
With two books written, 15 Research Publications, 17 Public Policy Advocacy under-taken, with 2 major implementation post advocacy impacting 20 lakh people, over 145 articles written in leading National Media, and with Areas of Professional Interest- Core Focus, like Disaster Risk Reduction & Public Health Emergencies including Road Traffic Injuries; Global Health & Urban Health; Health Policy, Ageing, Mental Health; Road Traffic Injuries, Mangalureans should be proud of Dr Edmond Fernandes. After his M.B.B.S (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery), he completed MD- Community Medicine ( Doctor of Medicine); and PGDip- PHSM (Public Health Service Management). Apart from all theses social activities, his areas of Social Interests are Writing, Leadership, Music, Driving and Football. He was recognized by www.mangalorean.com as “Mangalorean Whizkid”.
He was the first Indian to participate in the Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA) relief missions in the Philippines. The AMDA was involved in relief mission in Estancia, Iloilo, and other parts of the Philippines. Dr. Fernandes, who is the chief executive, Health Concern Foundation, is the youngest doctor to be selected by the AMDA and represent India in a relief mission. Dr Edmond, who has authored the book, Small things that matter much, says the people of the Philippines demonstrated great courage. “They smiled in the midst of such a catastrophe. For the first few days we saw bodies floating on the shores. The desperation was palpable. The selfless humanitarian service you render is something you cannot really put into words. The effort teaches one a lot of lessons,” he recounts.
In my conversation with him, I realised that Dr Edmond has several achievements to be proud of – an honourable mission of service, his ranking in all his academic pursuits, position in the field of his medical career, contribution in books that have been distributed across India and the world. As he started on his journey to becoming a doctor, he began to get a sense of what the real world was like as far as the medical field was concerned. He began to learn about the illusions that society had about doctors & doctors had about themselves and was completely shocked to discover the truth. “As many doctors became better, they would slowly start focussing on patients who were more high-profile and of a higher financial rank.” This trend disturbed Dr Edmond. He made a decision right then and there – to never change the quality of his work based on the financial position of a patient. Dr Edmond who had gained fruitful experience by conducting health, nutrition camps and public health campaigns has appealed to the people to reach out to the homeless and sick, women and aged people in regions affected by a disaster or in their time of needs. Spending more time with those in medical needs made him a better doctor – but more than that, it has made him a better human being.”
Following are the excerpts from the exclusive interview :
Q: What do you expect from the Legislative Fellowship?
The legislative fellowship serves as a platform to magnify public-private partnerships and build new fellowships which would last a lifetime. I hope to forge new partnerships between India and the USA among domains of public health entrepreneurship, collaborative academic co-operations and deepen public health diplomacy at the global level.
Q: Have you never been fascinated by the US or the way it works? Never considered settling in the US?
I did get many invitations to settle in different countries abroad with lucrative job offers, but I think I am too pro-India to consider settling on any other shores. The people of India deserve a new future, a new reality and that is what we must strive to build and create collectively. The USA is a great country and they have much learning experience to offer and they have so much to also learn from India. India has so much to teach the world and any visionary would appreciate that. The common ground is to figure out what we can mutually learn, un-learn and re-learn between our two great nations.
Q: What do you feel must be the right way of leadership?
Leadership comes in many shapes and there is no one size fits all approach. A good leader, in my opinion, is one that builds other leaders and encourages other to grow and shine. A true leader will never pull others down, they will enable their growth. That is what we strive to do at CHD Group among those passionate, powerful youngsters who wish to associate with us in some way or the other. Everyone has a leader in them. Irrespective of whether you are a doctor, an engineer, a politician, a musician, a teacher, a home-maker, a space scientist, a tiny kid, a street sweeper, everyone has something to teach others. The secret is to learn from all.
Q: How do you see the developments taking place in India today?
India is a diverse country deeply rooted with cultural and religious values and virtues. India has survived on-slaughts of different kinds. Every political party comes in with its set of priorities. If the people of India are happy and comfortable, who am I to judge?
What we must remember, is that the power of the people of India is greater than the people in power. I hope all officials in government offices both at state level and in the centre remember always that they are there to serve, to provide a new direction and vision and to ensure inclusive growth and goodwill for all times to come. What do we live for, if not to help others.
Q: Who inspires you and what motivates you?
When a child dies because of gaps in hospital systems and failed governance policies, when politics of motherhood remains the cause of maternal deaths, when socio-economic development becomes a water-shed moment due to natural disasters, when ordinary Indians die from a preventable road traffic accident and when the last man on the ground does not get the health care he deserves because, he is far away, he cannot afford private healthcare, that is what inspires me, what motivates me. My parents and my close friends have been very supportive & inspirational at every stage. This has enabled me to pursue a different path.
Q: Most of the doctors want a lucrative life, why do you want to work for society?
Working with people has come naturally to me, but I recognize that the trust society puts in you is permanent and it calls for greater responsibility, demands more accountability and transparency. I started discovering a world beyond myself early in life, which catered to the larger populations and which brought invisible and satisfying change. I think doctors work hard and not everyone enjoys a lucrative life. It is just that I chose passion instead of work. So I do not feel I ever work, I just do things I believe passionately. So every day is a new day to look forward to, new people, new energies and new challenges as well. There is enough in this world for man’s need, not for man’s greed. I work for people because I believe in them. That simple.
Q: Your favorite movie?
Q: How do you see the manner in which health is addressed in India ? What can be done to improve the same?
Health in all policies will set the tone for reforms in health care. I have a dream. A dream that one day in India, every single person, both the young and the young in heart will have access to quality, affordable and accessible health care forever. It will happen in our lifetime.
Q: What is your vision for CHD Group?
CHD Group has grown because of the trust people have placed in us. I tell our team that whenever any Government, any organization, any corporate supports CHD Group in cash and kind, remember that it is not our money, it is not our creation, but it is the trust and faith they have placed in us for which we must be extremely honest, extremely kind and always work towards achieving key deliverables factoring in evidence based public health and public policy. CHD Group must be remembered and recognized as a public health organization which takes healthcare to the door-steps, which addresses social determinants of health and which brings a lasting change in the lives of people with whom we interact and work with. In short, to build a new reality for our people.
Q: What are your favorite past-times?
I like driving, spending time at the parks, picnics by the waters, chirping of birds and watching rosy sunsets.
Q: What is your message for youth today?
Have a purpose in life, otherwise what is the difference between humans, the trees, the animals. They also come into existence, decay and die. I would sincerely request them to have an element of activism in them, avoid the so-called sexy pub cultures and drinks which many subscribe to. Build a value proposition. You miss the 20s and 30s of your life, it is over. Don’t let your story end, before it starts.
Q: If not a doctor/Policy Expert what would you have been?
That’s interesting. May be a career diplomat!
Q: Your favorite Author?
Well, there are many good authors. But I like reading Bertrand Russell.
Q: Are you writing any more books?
Two more. One on Disaster Management and another on Public Health
Q: Your message for doctors and would be doctors?
Follow your heart and your dreams. Make the world a healthier place to be in. The power is within you.
Q: How do you see the emergence of disasters after disasters and what the Government of India must do?
The Asia Pacific region is vulnerable and the Indian sub-continent also prone to natural disasters very often. The Government of India must mainstream disaster management and ensure that states and district level mechanisms are put in place. We must bring more quality and commitment in the processes of building Disaster Risk Reduction.
Q: Couple of years ago you had started a campaign that doctors and medical students should stop wearing white coats-How far has this campaign been successful?
Oh wow! Well it was not a campaign, but a scientific commentary which I had written in the British Medical Journal. It was also raised in Parliament, I am told. I only floated an idea keeping in mind our scientific temper and the inherent need to reduce the disease burden towards what we can and what could be easily achievable. It was a policy advocacy left for the wisdom of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India to decide upon. I am still amused and fascinated with learned medicos roaming the streets with white coats. Time will guide the policies necessary to take preventive measures to stop this menace.
Q: What other changes should doctors and medical students adapt to for a better hygienic and safety environment in healthcare facilities?
The need to ensure public health in all policies and see public health as a way of life is an urgency that borders on desperation. The time has come when public health needs to be put first.
Q: Don’t you think that other doctors in their spare time also should take some social responsibilities in the community like you have been doing?
Haha ! Well do they have spare time in the first place? But yeah, I know some of them who really engage in social responsibility as per their prerogative and a handful of them who also join us in the field works and for trainings. It is just that they may not be spotted by the media, but truly I tell you, many good souls exist among the medical profession. If you don’t find them, I will help you reach them. ( Smiles).