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Year : 2014  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 58-61

A thought that turned into reality -an interview with Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar, founder president AIAARO

President AIAARO, Director, PAMS Health Fitness Yoga and Weight Management Clinic, Bariatric Physician, The Center for Medical Weight Loss - India (CMWL) USA

Date of Web Publication30-Dec-2013

Correspondence Address:
Pallavi Patankar
President AIAARO, Director, PAMS Health Fitness Yoga and Weight Management Clinic, Bariatric Physician, The Center for Medical Weight Loss - India (CMWL) USA

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar, the founder President of the All India Association for Advancing Research in Obesity (AIAARO), is one of the first doctors to treat obesity in India. He has more than 50 publications to his credit. He has treated over 65,000 obese individuals and has worked wonders on many, including several celebrities. He has trained many physicians and dieticians on how to tackle obesity and has organised various camps and lectures. His contribution to the field of obesity has brought him tremendous recognition and fame. Dr. Pallavi Patankar, President AIAARO (who is also one of the founder members of the Association), took some time off one afternoon to interview Dr. Dhurandhar.

Keywords: All India Association for Advancing Research in Obesity Pioneer, obesity, research

How to cite this article:
Patankar P. A thought that turned into reality -an interview with Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar, founder president AIAARO. J Obes Metab Res 2014;1:58-61

How to cite this URL:
Patankar P. A thought that turned into reality -an interview with Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar, founder president AIAARO. J Obes Metab Res [serial online] 2014 [cited 2021 Apr 18];1:58-61. Available from: https://www.jomrjournal.org/text.asp?2014/1/1/58/123937

Dr. Pallavi Patankar (PP): Sir, tell us something about your early days in life?

Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar (VD): I was like any other child, a little chubby in my early days, brought up in the cozy suburb of Vile Parle (E), Mumbai and liked to play cricket and badminton.

PP: When was the decision to be a physician taken in your life - what events, books, or people influenced that choice?

VD: I actually wanted to become a pilot, but at a very early age I was forced to wear corrective lenses and couldn't meet the eligibility criteria to become one. Later, I developed an interest to become an engineer, but was not very comfortable with mathematics. Those days there were very few career options; it was either taking a job or becoming an engineer or doctor. I passed my MBBS from Seth G.S. Medical College/King Edward Memorial Hospital, Mumbai in 1954.

PP: What motivated you to pioneer in this clinical specialty of weight management before it became a battle cry?

VD: Following my post-graduation training, I practiced as a paediatrician from 1957 to 1964. I then worked for Parke Davis for 2 years in the Sales Department as a Medical Advisor and later worked at Hoechst Pharma for 2 years.

I began my career in obesity by treating myself first - I was, at one time, weighing around 200 lbs! I was so fat that even while walking a bit, I used to pant; I lived at Gamadia Road, Mumbai which required an uphill climb. Every time I returned home from my dispensary in Vile Parle, I had a hard time walking uphill.

The first thing I realised was that fitness and obesity could not go together. When I discussed this with my professor, Dr. Murzban Motasha, he told me frankly that I had to lose weight. What surprised me was that in spite of playing eight games of badminton every day (I was a champion in my college), I was overweight. No matter what I did, I ended up being fat. I attended a conference in Calcutta, where, within 4 days I gained 4 kgs of course, I had eaten very well over there. When I returned home I decided that something had to be done regarding my weight!

PP: So, how were you able to lose those extra kilos? when did you start your practice and who was your first client? Kindly share all your experiences with us.

VD: Initially, there were a lot of trial and errors. I first reduced my starch intake. then I ate controlled portions of vegetables, fish and meat that made me reduce 60 pounds in 6 months.

My weight did not increase for 3 years. I realised that if it was possible for me to lose weight and maintain it, I thought to myself why not help others achieve the same goal? that is when I started my obesity practice. I opened my first clinic in 1964. At that time, many people did not know the meaning of obesity. So on the sign board outside my clinic I had to write FAT in thick and fat characters and gradually reduce them to thin and slim ones to simplify obesity. I received a very interesting letter from Purushottam Lakshman Deshpande (the Marathi writer and humourist, popularly known as Pu. L. Deshpande), a very close family friend, who attended the inauguration of my clinic. I would like you to print this image.

PP: Sir, can you summarise the early days, when to form an association to tackle obesity was a thought and how it turned into reality? who were the key people who played a major role in escalating the AIAARO to where it stands today. When and where was the organisation formed?

VD: During my obesity practice, I realised that many slimming centres and obesity clinics were mushrooming around in town and many of them provided unsound medical advice. This disturbed me a lot and I shared these thoughts with my son Nikhil. I was wondering as to how I can tackle this kind of quackery and save people suffering from obesity from becoming victims of this kind of injustice. Nikhil responded 'Baba (Dad) you alone cannot fight this. You need to form a society, where the evidence-based scientific practice is encouraged and quackery is discouraged'. This made sense to me - such a society would discourage quackery and promote treatment based on scientific and sound medical facts about obesity. I had to bring like-minded physicians and obesity practitioners together to form a group. That's how 'A Thought Turned into a Plan'.

The very first meeting of this proposed group, took place at our residence at Nani Nivas, Vile Parle (E), Mumbai, in November 2000. I was unanimously elected as the President of the Association. We started the procedure to form guidelines and the memorandum of the organisation and the documents were submitted to the Charity Commissioner. The Association was registered in March 2001.

The founder members and numerous volunteers have worked selflessly, tirelessly and diligently to make the AIAARO a strong multidisciplinary body. I am thankful to all these volunteers and members of the AIAARO, who have supported our just cause. I am particularly proud that the AIAARO is a member organisation of the International Association for the Studies of Obesity (IASO), which provides international visibility to the Association and its members.

Although space does not allow me to provide a comprehensive list, I would like to mention at least a few names with whom, I worked shoulder-to-shoulder to build up this organisation. They are Dr. Milind Shejwal, Dr. Girish Gadkari, Dr. Ramen Goel, Dr. Rama Vaidya, Dr. Shashank Joshi, Dr. Hemraj Chandalia, Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar, Dr. Rajesh Parekh, Dr. Rajul Meswani, Dr. Janaki Srinath and of course yourself (Dr. Pallavi Patankar). In addition, from time-to-time, we have received valuable inputs from Dr. R. D. Lele and Dr. Ashok Vaidya.

PP: Your comprehensive, but extremely readable and motivational book 'Battle of the Bulge' was one of the first publications of its kind in India. Please share with us what motivated you to write this book.

VD: I wanted to share my experiences and practical tips learned during my practice. The motivation was to reach out to the readers with useful information that they could use to fight the battle against obesity. I wanted to reach out to bariatric physicians as well as those struggling with their weight. Fortunately, the book, which was launched by Justice Chandrachud, was very well-received by the general public and medical practitioners alike.

PP: Sir, we would like to know about Dr. Nikhil Dhurandhar. What aroused his interest in the field of obesity and research and what are his achievements and contributions to the AIAARO.

VD: When Nikhil was young, he grew up listening to my conversations about obesity at the dinner table - problems patients had to face and also how quacks were taking advantage of those suffering from obesity. Over the years, these conversations kindled the interest in Nikhil. He wanted to do something to help the obese and overweight people.

After he became a doctor, Nikhil learnt to treat the obese from me. In 8 years of his practice, he must have treated more than 10,000 patients. However, somewhere inside him he was not happy with the mediocre results we achieved with our treatment. He wanted to bring about a real change so that people can experience substantial and sustained weight loss, without having to struggle too much.

Dr. Nikhil also realised it was easier to advice about dietary restrictions than for patients to follow the advice. This pushed him towards obesity research - to develop techniques to better empower obese patients in their struggle to manage weight. He researched on humans as well as with animal models. But again, he realised that he needed formal training to conduct advanced research. That's when he obtained a Master's degree in Food and Nutrition from the USA (North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND) and upon return to India, joined the University Department of Chemical Technology (now called the Institute of Chemical Technology) in Matunga, Mumbai, for a PhD programme in Biochemistry.

Regarding his achievements, it gives me pride in mentioning that early in his career, in 1990, he won the 'Young Scientist Award' presented by the Nutrition Society of India for his talk 'Prevalence of Obesity in Bombay'. In 1991, he was awarded the 'Dr. D.V. Tamhane Memorial Award' for discovering the adipogenic properties of avian adenovirus SMAM1, in an all India research competition in food and biotechnology. In 1998, he was selected for a Dannon Leadership Institute Program in the USA. In 1999, he was awarded the William Hardy Endowed Chair in Obesity Research. In 2007, he was listed as one of the brightest minds by Esquire magazine. In 2012, he was awarded the John H. Hernandez Professorship in Health Promotion. Currently, he is the Vice President of The Obesity Society of North America and is poised to be the President in 2014.

His contribution to AIAARO - he was the one to sow the seed in my mind and has played a pivotal role in helping shape the organisation. He introduced the AIAARO to the IASO.

PP: Sir, you had a vision to create a chair for a Professor of Bariatrics at the University of Mumbai, which is now the Maharashtra University of Health Sciences (MUHS). Do you suggest that we pursue the matter with them?

VD: Yes, I tried very hard to create a position of Professor, of Bariatrics at the University, but because of the lengthy procedures and lack of encouragement I could not pursue the matter for long. I also wanted to have Obesity as a topic in the medical curriculum. This will provide a strong message to medical students regarding the management of obesity as they enter medical practice.

I will be more than happy for you to follow up this matter with the MUHS.

PP: Since the formation of the AIAARO, we have always known that Madam Anuradha played a very vital role behind the scenes. Sir, kindly share your feelings about this.

VD: Very true Pallavi. Anuradha has nurtured AIAARO as if it were her baby - who else can be happier than her to see it grow successfully. During the early days of the organisation, her face reflected the emotions behind all the challenges and successes we had. She has stood by me, not only on this front, but all, throughout my life. The credit for my success and achievements in life goes to her. Words are not enough to convey what my wife has done for me.

PP: As the Founder President of AIAARO, what are your suggestions for the new Journal that is being launched?

VD: The Journal is a very important platform. It represents the organisation in many ways. I trust that a very high quality of standard will be maintained and that it becomes the most widely read journal in the field in the coming years. I would also suggest to include 'An interview' with eminent scientists and scholars, as a regular feature in the Journal. I know that the operations of the Journal are in the very capable hands of Dr. Ashok Vaidya and Dr. Ramen Goel. I know that I don't need to make suggestions. Now, I would love to sit back, relax and see the Journal take off to great heights.

Pallavi, I would like to suggest to the members and eminent scientists of India to focus more on the research aspects related to obesity.

I convey my best wishes to the team of the Journal of Obesity and Metabolic Research and many good wishes to all my AIAARO members!

PP: Before I end this interview, I must mention that during my tenure as the Honorary Secretary of the AIAARO and when Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar was the President, I had never seen a President so efficient and humble and full of respect for his Committee Members. Words are not enough to express his goodness. It gives me great pleasure in sharing with our readers that during the National Conferences of the AIAARO every year we are having 'Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar Oration' in his honour. My salutations to him.

Thank you.

Dr. Vinod Dhurandhar can be reached at 69 Dixit Road, Vile Parle (East), Mumbai 400 057, India.


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