The winner of the Heinz Stammberger award for excellence in teaching at this year’s ME OTO, which is taking place between June 18 to 20, is Professor Narayanan Janakiram, an ENT & Skull Base surgeon from India. The professor is renowned world over in the Endoscopic management of Juvenile Nasopharyngeal Angiofibroma (JNA) and for his work in Skull Base surgery. He is currently the Managing Director of Royal Pearl Hospital, Tiruchirapally, India.
The Heinz Stammberger award for excellence honours the legacy of the late Professor Heinz Stammberger and his commitment to teaching surgeons in the far corners of the world. The prize honours Otorhinolaryngologists who have significantly contributed to ENT education. For Professor Janakiram, this award holds an even more special place in his heart as Professor Stammberger was one of his teachers.
He shares: “Inspired by pioneers like Professor Stammberger, I am committed to providing creditworthy education in sinus and skull base surgeries in over 40 countries with the integration of advanced multimedia technology live procedures, orations, lectures and web telecasts. As a training chief of Neuroendoscopy, Asia Pacific, my objective is to improve patient care globally.” Excerpts from the interview:
Tell us about yourself, how did you get into the profession and what inspired you?
I completed my graduation and post-graduation from India’s Madras Medical College. India is a country with enormous diversity with 80 per cent of its population living in villages. Coming from a village in India with an enormous number of underprivileged people, I wanted to serve my community and, hence, my dream was to become a doctor since childhood. Moreover, during my college years, my mother developed oral malignancy, and this was a powerful motive for me to become an ENT surgeon.
Any anecdotes about what your early years at medical school were like?
I did my ENT during an era in which there were no endoscopes or high-end camera systems nor where there high-end surgeries like implants or advanced endoscopic skull base procedures, which are being done now. People from other faculties used to call us "Tonsil Surgeons". I used to feel depressed about it.
When I was doing my Masters in ENT in 1995, that was the first time I had a look into the nasal cavity and Nasopharynx with a cystoscope, which my professor brought from the Urology department. It was the greatest day of my life, which I can never forget. That day I decided I will be a Rhinologist.
Furthermore, my father and grandfather were great teachers and I grew up listening to their classes as a child. So, teaching was in my blood and once I joined ENT, I made up my mind to teach whatever I could to the best of my abilities.
I started teaching at a very early age at Trichy Medical College. I joined the institution as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anatomy. I then got trained by leaders in the field of Rhinology such as Professor DS Sethi, Professor Heinz Stammberger at the University of Graz in Austria, and Professor David Kennedy. My life took a new turn when I met Professor Riccardo Carrau and Professor Amin Kassam. This was the time I decided that I wanted to become a skull base surgeon.
Professor Narayanan Janakiram with the late Professor Heinz Stammberger
Would you like to talk about the students you have trained and about your work with the community?
My students are numerous and are famous all over the world. Some of them include Dr. Shilpee Bhatia Sharma (India), Professor Ksenia Klimenko (Russia), Dr. Mitya Pylpyk (Ukraine) and the list goes on.
As part of the Royal Pearl Hospital, we have written five textbooks with Thieme Publications in the field of Rhinology. These are read by doctors all over the world. We have also been doing a lot of service to humanity by conducting free camps all over our country. The hospital carries out more than 1,000 surgeries free of cost every year. We also do free surgeries regularly in various parts of Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia, Philippines just to name a few.
Are there any aspects of otolaryngology that you are researching currently that you are very excited about?
My contribution is pioneering research on new concepts, classification and improved techniques in the management of Juvenile Nasopharyngeal Angiofibroma (JNA). My academic work is published in an exclusive JNA book that has chapters in neurosurgery from eminent authors.
My other field of interest is Surgery on tumours of the Sellar, Supra Sellar and Parasellar (Cavernous Sinus) lesions. We have a huge series of Pituitary tumours, Craniopharyngiomas, Meningiomas and Cavernous Sinus tumours. We have published a book titled Atlas of Sellar, Suprasellar and Parasellar Lesions with Thieme Publications, which was one of the bestselling books of 2019.
With a background of acting in Tamil films, would you like to share any lessons you learnt from your experiences in the world of film?
My acting stint was almost 20 years ago when I was selected as a model for a multinational company. I did professional modelling for a few years and then had offers to act in Tamil, Malayalam and Telugu movies. I acted as a Hero in four Tamil movies and also produced a movie in Tamil. I was a music composer and playback singer in three movies. A surgeon is basically an artist who sculptures a surgery! These are all manifestations of left-brain activity.
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