A Canadian newspaper once described Dr Krishna Kumar as a neurosurgeon who has dedicated his career to easing chronic pain. Acclaimed as among the top half a dozen in his field of speciality, the Regina-based Kumar has over the course of a medical practice 48 years old and counting, pioneered a deep brain stimulation technique in which an electrode he implants in the brain, using his own innovative technique, delivers low voltage stimulation to reduce chronic pain. Pain is universal, Kumar explains, but “the sad part is we don’t recognize it. There’s suffering everywhere. Many people don’t attend to it, and so brain gets affected. No matter what pain it is, it changes the functioning of the brain – and over time, it gets worse. You ignore back pain for five years, there is a 50 percent chance of a cure. If you leave it unattended for 10 years or more, there is only a 10 percent chance of successful cure.
” Pain is not genetic, and it has no bearing on ethnicity, Kumar points out. In fact, people from Asian nations have less brain-related problems because of the family support system they can count on, says Kumar, Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Saskatchewan’s College of Medicine. “That helps Indians and other Asian people to be able to cope with this (pain).” Kumar’s achievements include developing a programmable and implantable pump for patients with back pain, as part of a treatment that enables them to cope without consuming pain killers. His work in the field was the subject of a documentary, Living with Pain. An estimated six per cent of all Canadians live with chronic pain, and contributing factors are numerous. Kumar says his researches show that “chronic pain is real and it alters a person”; his work, he says, consists of “tickling the brain and observing the results.
” The enormous amount of research Kumar has done in brainrelated fields is reflected in the 200-plus papers he has written, that have helped create global awareness of the need to treat chronic pain at the earliest possible. Thanks to his work, he ranks alongside other Canadian neurosurgeons like Dr Lin Jacques from the Montreal Neurological Institute; Dr Chris Honey of Vancouver General Hospital; Dr Ivar Mendezs from Halifax, Nova Scotia and Drs Mark Bernstein and Andres Lazano from Toronto Western Hospital. His interest in neurological diseases prompted Kumar to take the lead in establishing the Canadian Neuromodulation Society, which now boasts about 70 members who are all expert in the planting of electrodes in the brain to facilitate treatment.
The society had its first major conference in June this year in Halifax, Nova Scotia. The society’s mission statement is that of dedication to the propagation of neuromodulation therapy ‘through education, training, dissemination and support of research and encouragement of best practices, as well as professional development and leadership in health policy on chronic pain management and other neurological disorders.’ For his work both as clinical professor and as a leading researcher in neurosurgery, and for the development of innovative brain and spinal implants used for the treatment of chronic pain, Kumar was honored earlier this year with the Order of Canada, the nation’s highest civilian award. Last year, he was named Saskatchewan Physician of the Year and earlier, in October 2000, Kumar received the prestigious Saskatchewan Order of Merit, thus entering a very elite club of super achievers who have won both honors.
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