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Hanumappa Sudarshan: the quiet reformer

BMJ 2009; 338 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.b1794 (Published 30 April 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;338:b1794
  1. Rebecca Coombes
  1. 1London

    Hanumappa Sudarshan is battling on two fronts in India: for rural health facilities and against corruption. He tells Rebecca Coombes that he would have been murdered if he was living in the more political northern areas of the country

    Dr Hanumappa Sudarshan has spent his career working on the fringes of Indian society, among tribal and rural people. In 1979, as an idealistic young doctor, he went to work with the Soliga tribal people in Karnataka, southeast India, initially discovering it impossible to find patients because local people distrusted him and kept their distance.

    In a country with severe inequalities in health care, where poor patients mostly have to pay for their own health care, Sudarshan has, over the course of 30 years, established free comprehensive health services to some of its most impoverished people. His public-private partnership model for primary health care has now spread to several other states.

    Today, his influence is felt well beyond the remote Biligirirangan hills where he started to practise. This is partly down to his ability to establish primary health care in difficult and geographically remote areas, demonstrated by the fact that the Karuna Trust, established by Sudarshan, today provides services to about 600 000 rural poor. But his name is also associated with cleaning up corruption in the Indian healthcare sector and exposing quackery, a role that involves taking on powerful figures and organisations.

    Sudarshan’s international reputation was bolstered last month when he was voted runner-up for the lifetime achievement award at the inaugural BMJ Awards. When he was …

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