We are surrounded by friends and enemies. And we ought to know about them. Not knowing about a friend is a great loss and missing out on an enemy is quite dangerous. I found about one of my biggest enemies, quite close to me, pretty late in life.
It was my dream and an inherent desire since 1999 to do clinical research and publish quality articles in international prestigious journals. I always felt that by doing so, you not only contribute, howsoever miniscule, to the global welfare but you also leave a legacy. If your research is of fair quality, you might be quoted or remembered years after you have gone !
I had no experience or expertise in this field (research). In 2004, I wrote, rather attempted to write, a case report on a new finding while putting a central venous line. After completing the article, I was keen to send it to Indian Journal of Surgery but couldn’t muster courage to send it. The quality was evidently below par. I even mailed the article to a friend in PGI, Chandigarh for suggestions to upgrade the quality. The dream remained a dream to be fulfilled some other day. The article was frozen in a cold store for the next four years.
In August 2007, while I was in Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, USA as a visiting Clinician, I had a conversation with Prof Jagat Narula, an eminent and reputed Cardiologist in USA. He was the editor of one of the topmost Cardiology journal in the world- JACC (Journal of American College of Cardiology). When I expressed my hidden desire to learn research, he asked me “ Do you seriously intend to learn research?”. I immediately said “yes”. “Come to me in Irvine”, he said. Dr Narula was Chief of Cardiology in University of California, Irvine. Confused, I asked “But sir, I am a Surgeon and you are a Cardiologist. How would I learn research from you?”. He said with a little smile and a heart capturing style “Pankaj ji, research is research. And human body is one. Come over to me for 4 weeks and you would learn the ‘state of the art’ research”. Ironically, turning points in life come without knocking but the echo of their knock can be heard throughout the life. So mesmerizing was his aura, so contagious the confidence, so captivating the humility and so instant the connection, I stood there awestruck and my lips could only move in one direction- “Yes”.
On 29th August 2007, Prof Jagat, his deputy and myself were sitting in his office. After much deliberation, 4 projects were zeroed upon. These were to be completed, written and submitted by 26th September, the last date for the Paper submission for American College of Cardiology (ACC) annual meeting to be held in Chicago in March 2008. I was to work with a team of four people (3 medicine residents and one undergraduate student) collaborating with Dr Jagat’s deputy and under the overall guidance of Prof Jagat.
Those four weeks, from 30 August to 26 September, were full of hard work and responsibility. Though a bit stressful yet it was one of the most memorable and enjoyable times of my life. We worked day and night literally and on 26th night, all the four abstracts (papers) were submitted online. I was the first author in all of them.
During the month’s stay, we were always discussing about the well known revered names and top most journals in the world and submitting articles in these journals. I also assisted Prof Jagat on a Review article on Vulnerable plaques (the blockages which cause heart attack) which was subsequently published in Nature series journal, one of the top ranking cardiology journal in the world. The whole experience was an eye-opener as ‘only in dreams’ could I think of publishing articles in such prestigious journals. The biggest realization was that the doyens and stalwarts in any field are not ‘imported from some other planet’ but are very much ‘human. The things that makes them stand apart is uninhibited original thinking, good environment (facilities), dexterity and able mentors. So the goals which seem unachievable or beyond reach are so because of the barricades built by our own mind. Once these are broken, no goal is unattainable.
Two out of the four papers were accepted for presentation in American College of Cardiology, one was presented in American Diabetes Association (ADA) and one in American Society of Cardiovascular Computed Tomography (SCCT) conference in July 2008.
I came back to India in October 2007 but without the barricades. There has been no looking back since then. In the last 5 years, we could publish more than 30 quality papers in topmost US & European journals. As a matter of routine, we only send articles to US & European journals. And in 2008, the first article on central venous line, lying in cold store, was rewritten and was accepted for publication in the Indian Journal of Surgery, the only article we sent to an Indian journal.
Yes, I had discovered my biggest enemy- my own mind and the barricades erected by it.