The members of the oncology community who spend time and energy addressing the growing global cancer burden in low- and middle-income countries have a kind of selfless dedication beyond the scope of the profession itself. One such medical oncologist was Gouri Shankar Bhattacharyya, MD, FRCP, a valued board member of JCO Global Oncology.
Gouri Shankar Bhattacharyya, MD, FRCP
Speaking at the 2019 ASCO Annual Meeting, Dr. Bhattacharyya said: “We need to develop global health-care policy without playing health-care politics. By that, I mean we can’t have fly-by-night going into low- and middle-income countries saying, ‘We will take care of your burden.’ We have to act with resoluteness and develop a global health-care governance system that prioritizes needs on a per-country basis. We also need to spread awareness within developed nations about addressing global cancer care inequities.”
Dr. Bhattacharyya died on April 30, 2021, of COVID-19–related complications.
‘Indefatigable Advocate for Cancer Research’
When Dr. Bhattacharyya’s death was officially announced, tributes from his many colleagues were posted on Twitter and other social media. One in particular came from Gilberto De Lima Lopes, MD, Associate Director of Global Oncology, Medical Director for International Programs at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami in Florida: “Over the years, Dr. Bhattacharyya and I met during ASCO meetings in Chicago; WHO groups in Geneva; and in his hometown, Kolkata. Regardless of location and setting, he was always an indefatigable advocate for cancer research and control in resource-limited settings. He will be missed and remembered by all those of us who work in global oncology. Rest in peace my friend.”
At the time of his death, Dr. Bhattacharyya led the Department of Medical Oncology, at FORTIS Hospital in India. Over his 25-year career, Dr. Bhattacharyya’s special interests were many; in addition to global oncology, they included biologic response modifiers, the tumor microenvironment, palliative care, and geriatric oncology.
In 2013, the International Association for Hospice & Palliative Care presented Dr. Bhattacharyya with a certificate of recognition for Promotion and Development of Palliative Care in the World. Dr. Bhattacharyya was also Past President of the Indian Society of Medical and Pediatric Oncology. He had published more than 200 papers and had been an investigator on more than 50 phase II/III clinical trials.
Tributes From Colleagues
Alex Adjei, MD, PhD, FACP, Editor of the Journal of Thoracic Oncology (JTO), shared his thoughts about Dr. Bhattacharyya. “Gouri would make you feel like he had known you for years, even if you just met him. He drew you in with his friendliness and infectious smile. He was energetic, smart, engaging, dependable, and thoughtful. He was a tireless supporter of JTO and a preeminent editorial board member, and I will miss his smile and good counsel.”
According to his colleague and friend, Ullas Batra, MBBS, MD, DM, Dr. Bhattacharyya was a mentor and guide to a number of early-career oncologists in India. “He was one of the main physicians to discuss oncology care in India on the world stage. He made it possible for young oncologists like myself to believe that progress was possible,” said Dr. Batra.
Before contracting COVID-19, Dr. Bhattacharyya was running for a seat on the International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer (IASLC) Board of Directors. Long known for his efforts to improve the cost of and access to care, Dr. Bhattacharyya was passionate about bridging the gaps in lung cancer education and care by connecting, supporting, informing, and empowering caregivers and the community.