Southampton doctor receives prestigious award for services to children across India

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A doctor from Southampton Children’s Hospital has received the highest possible accolade for his services to children with lung disease across India.

Dr Gary Connett, a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, was presented with the prestigious ‘Professor Somu award’ – named after the country’s first children’s respiratory specialist – at a ceremony earlier this year.

It is only the second time this award has been given to a clinician outside of India.

Links were first established in 1999 when the children’s cystic fibrosis team in Southampton initiated a series of exchange visits with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Hospital in New Delhi.

The project was set up through Child Health International (CHI) – a charity based in Winchester which works to improve the lives of children and young adults with cystic fibrosis across the world by arranging partnerships between UK-based experts and their equivalents in countries which require extra support and training.

At that time there was little knowledge of the condition in India and, as a result, it was considered extremely rare.

When the team first arrived in New Delhi there were around 50 diagnosed children at the AIIMS Hospital and a smaller number in other hospitals across India – although the actual figure was thought to be a lot higher.

Dr Connett and his team hosted a conference for respiratory paediatricians across the Indian sub-continent and a series of exchange visits of health care professionals. Together they developed a strategy to increase awareness of the condition, including diagnosis and treatment and how to improve life expectancy and quality of life.

The overall aim was to identify undiagnosed children and set up services to deliver more effective and affordable care as well as training and supporting the country’s first paediatric nurse specialist in cystic fibrosis – who was also India’s first nurse specialist in any paediatric specialty.

“It was a great honour to receive the Professor Somu award,” said Dr Connett. “This award also represents the hard work and commitment from the whole multi-professional cystic fibrosis team in Southampton who gave their time and commitment to help change the lives and outcomes of children with cystic fibrosis in India.”

He added: “On my visit earlier this year, I was pleased to discover that AIIMS now has more than 500 children with cystic fibrosis under its care, making it one of the biggest paediatric cystic fibrosis centres in the world.”

“There are now paediatric cystic fibrosis services in many of the large cities in India caring for hundreds of children where previously only a small number had been identified. It is gratifying to know that the Southampton team has helped change the way cystic fibrosis is diagnosed and treated in a country with more than 1.3 billion people.”

The cystic fibrosis service at Southampton Children’s Hospital is supported by Southampton Children’s Hospital Charity, which is part of Southampton Hospital Charity. For more information visit

Posted on Tuesday 12 December 2017