Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Center, a pioneer in technology led Diabetes research

Diabetes is a major concern for India. Not only does it affect the individuals directly, but also accelerates

Diabetes is a major concern for India. Not only does it affect the individuals directly, but also accelerates the degeneration of nerves, blood vessels and tissues.

Is it estimated that India has around 40 million diabetics as on today. And this condition is not new to India. Charaka has written about diabetes in his hallmark work Charaka Samhita. The management of diabetes is the key as there is no cure. One must constantly monitor blood sugar levels, diet and exercise. In other words, it is a constant process and needs expertise, advice, motivation and counselling. India has many diabetes management centers. But the Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Center was one of the first and still in a pioneer in Diabetes research. Founded in 1991,  the research based center is the brain child of Dr V Mohan, endocrinologist and pioneer in the field of diabetes research.

Diabetes management has been the corner stone of Dr Mohan’s family. His father the Late Prof Dr M Viswanathan is widely recognized as India’s first endocrinologist who specialized in Diabetes management. He joined Stanley Medical College in Madras (Now Chennai) in 1948 and was responsible for most of the research and the treatment modalities within the government sector at that time. For a long time, the medical institutions did not focus on diabetes management and it was only in 1973 that PGI Chandigarh started post-graduation in endocrinology with 2 seats in that space. The late Prof M Viswanathan continued his work at Stanley medical College till 1971 and then set up his own practice and opened MV Hospital and Diabetes Research Center in the northern part of Madras (Now Chennai).

It was here that Dr Mohan joined his father. Dr Mohan was in first year of MBBS and he used to help his father with research, setting up the laboratory and then helping him with his research papers. This way Dr Mohan’s focus was diabetes from the very beginning of his medical education as this is something rare in the field of medicine as most students decide on their super specialties at a much later stage.

This situation was unique and Dr Mohan travelled extensively with his father listening to his talks and interacting with other experts in the field of diabetes. In 1991 post his super specialization Dr Mohan branched out on his own, setting up Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialties Center in south Madras (now Chennai) . Here is where Dr Mohan introduced what were considered new concepts in India like Computers, Modern Laboratory, Electronic medical records (EMR) and since then, they have been one of the first to adopt new technologies.

They started branches in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad, Lucknow, Bhubaneshwar, Delhi and then now in Karnataka. They opened centers in Whitefiled, Malleswaram, Jaynagar, Mysore and Managlore.

In 2017 Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Specialty Center received private equity and that has helped the group standardize their offering and focus on diabetes care in an effective manner. Today the chain has 32 branches. So over the last 40 years and across 3 generations this chain has tracked, identified and tracked managed Diabetes.

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So I asked Dr Mohan, what’s so unique about his group. I know Diabetes is a challenge for India but how is their philosophy in management of Diabetes different from the others

Based on his responses, here is what I feel are the key investments that set Dr V Mohan’s center apart

  • Research- They have been the pioneers and leaders in Diabetes research. The Madras Diabetes Research Foundation was set up by Dr V Mohan in 1996. This is a 40,000 sq feet facility in Siruseri in Chennai. It is privately funded, staffed by 25 PHDs and 20 Post-Doctoral fellows with the sole intention of research in diabetes care and management. Through the foundation they have released more than 1000 research articles, peer reviewed in International and national journals in the field of diabetes. This foundation serves as a strong backbone of the Diabetes Specialties Center.
  • As part of the research Dr Mohan and his ream have come up with practical solutions in areas like nutrition. So, the research is holistic. One of the solutions so developed is the High Fiber Rice, which has lower glycemic index and can be consumed by patients with diabetes. They have also brought our other variants like high fiber “Rava”. All these were possible due to the partnership with Department of Biotechnology in government of India.
  • The Madras Diabetes Research Foundation has been training post-doctoral fellows for more than 20 years. This has helped them create a pool of diabetes specialists that have formed the core for the expansion of the group. As these doctors are well trained in the approach of running Diabetes management programs, the quality is maintained. A very good lesson for other organizations as they create future leaders that can help organizations grow in the future.
  • They have also been leaders in technology, with being the first to introduce EMRs. The labs and the clinics are certified by ISO 9000, NABL and NABH respectively. In addition, they have collaboration with World Health Organization (WHO), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of health (NIH)

Today Dr Mohan’s Diabetes Research Center has medical records of more than 5,00,000 patients across 25 years and it is probably the largest and longitudinally the longest database for diabetes research. Today they have probably all genotypes and phenotypes for India. And this helps them develop treatment modalities leveraging analytics which mines insights from their data.

I believe that super specialized centers like the one built by Dr Mohan may be the key to managing some of the chronic non-communicable diseases in India. With the emphasis on research and adoption of technology, the future of Diabetes management in the country looks bright.  In the subsequent posts we will publish some controversial questions we asked Dr V Mohan. So stay tuned for those posts.

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