British-Indian oncoplastic surgeon gets global honour for breast cancer research

“I am only an ordinary individual with an extraordinary urge to succeed and to alleviate suffering," says Dr Jajini Varghese.
“I am only an ordinary individual with an extraordinary urge to succeed and to alleviate suffering," says Dr Jajini Varghese.

S Neeraj Krishna

A GLOBAL non-profit organisation has named a British-Indian oncoplastic surgeon as ‘Outstanding Young Person of the World 2020’ for her research on breast cancer.

The Junior Chamber International (JCI) selected Dr Jajini Varghese, a consultant in oncoplastic breast surgery at Royal Free Hospital and University College London, for the award from among 10 UK nominees under the ‘Medical Innovation’ category.

Every year, JCI honours 10 “incredible leaders and innovators of the future” under the age of 40, after shortlisting nominations from 110 countries, covering various fields such as business, politics, academics, culture, child welfare, world peace, medical innovation, and scientific advancement.

According to the announcement made last week, Dr Varghese Previous will receive a citation and plaque at the JCI annual congress in Japan next month.

Notably, she will join JCI’s hall of fame of past award recipients, including John F. Kennedy, Henry Kissinger, Gerald Ford, Howard Hughes, Nelson Rockefeller, Anthony Robbins, Benigno Aquino, Jackie Chan and Elvis Presley.

Dr Varghese, a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons in Plastic Surgery and member of the Royal College of Surgeons, is also on the board of examiners for the MSc in Plastic Surgery at University College London.

After receiving a PhD in ‘Genetics of Breast Cancer’ at the University of Cambridge, the mother of two focused on identifying genes that make women susceptible to the disease.

This led to the discovery of the gene associated with breast cancer — in collaboration with Harvard University and the Mayo clinic — which enables early detection, prevention and prophylactic treatment of breast cancer.

“I am only an ordinary individual with an extraordinary urge to succeed and to alleviate suffering,” said Dr Varghese, when asked about her achievements.

Even during the recent Covid-19 pandemic, she did her bit to ensure that her patients did not suffer by setting up a virtual clinic.

“I count myself fortunate to be healthy, to love what I do and to be able to help others,” she said. “Cancer will not defeat. We aim to restore people and lives. I can only search for the answers and heal the external scars but, ultimately, only God can heal the mutilations caused by breast cancer.”

Dr Varghese added that her aim was to restore the quality of life of women who survived breast cancer, focusing on resection and immediate reconstruction using implants and autologous tissue, fat grafting using stem cells and body contouring surgery.

She is also “passionate” about encouraging more women surgeons, and “helping every individual to reach their dreams”. The larger goal, she added, was to making “availability of health care a universal and a basic right”.

Noting the dearth of doctors in rural India, for instance, Dr Varghese was instrumental in setting up scholarships for Indian medical students who, on graduating, will spend up to two years in areas lacking medical care.

Dr Varghese has won several other prizes, including at the Association of Breast Surgery Conference, Manchester, UK Radiology International Congress, Addenbrooke’s Hospital Research Conference, and the Raising Standards Research Conference at QE Hospital, London.

She has also presented her research at Kings College London, University of North Carolina, (US), Duke University (US), BAPRAS London, NIHES, Rotterdam, European Genetics Conference- Amsterdam, The American Thorascic Society, The International Cancer Imaging Congress and The Wellcome Sanger Institute among others.

Dr Varghese’s awards list is not limited do the field of medicine. A trained Indian classical dancer and painter and has won several cultural prizes, too.