PIKEVILLE - Dr. Raghuram S. Modur retires today, July 5, from his position as Medical Director of Radiation Oncology at the Pikeville Medical Leonard Lawson Cancer Center.
The 66-year-old radiation oncologist spent half of his life treating cancer patients living in the region.
In 33 years of service to PMC, he was instrumental in developing the hospital’s cancer care program. He watched it grow into an award-winning cancer center that has saved thousands of lives and influenced the way physicians at other hospitals care for cancer patients.
â€œDr. Modur was very influential in developing the hospital’s cancer center as well as protocol for providing quality patient care,â€ said Walter E. May, PMC President/CEO. â€œHe has dedicated half of his life caring for patients at our hospital. Pikeville Medical Center appreciates his deep level of commitment and wishes him well in all future endeavors.â€
Dr. Modur attended the JIPMER Medical School in southern India in the 1960s and 1970s. After completing an internship and residency at JIPMER Hospital, he moved to the United Kingdom and served as a resident at the North Staffs Royal Infirmary in Stoke on Trent (1974-1976). He moved to the U.S. in 1976 to join the Harvard Neurosurgical Services at Boston City Hospital (1976-1977) and did his radiation oncology residency at the University Hospital in Boston, Mass. (1977-1980).
In 2000, Dr. Modur earned the status of Fellow by the American College of Oncology.
PMC was one of four hospitals that offered him a job when he completed his residency program. He accepted the position of Medical Director of Radiation Oncology in 1980 because he knew he could help build and lead PMC’s cancer program. He joked about how he learned of PMC.
â€œDr. Gene Combs was a radiologist here at that time,â€ Dr. Modur said. â€œHe was doing cancer treatments and diagnostic radiology in eastern Kentucky and he needed a doctor to take care of cancer patients. He called my home in Boston and my wife picked up the phone, and he liked her English very much. He said, â€˜Oh, we should get them to Pikeville. So, I say that my wife got me the job.â€
Dr. Modur was inspired by his father, a general practitioner in Southern India, to become a physician. He followed several of his siblings and moved to America.
He had training in general surgery and other medical fields, but ultimately decided to work in radiology because he wanted to be involved in cancer treatment. His brother is also a radiation oncologist in another state.
When he came to PMC, the hospital did not have a cancer program. Working with other specialists in Pikeville, Dr. Modur helped to establish the Leonard Lawson Cancer Center, which opened in 1996.
â€œWhen I came here in 1980, there were only three or four people in the department,â€ he said. â€œWe had one low energy Linear Accelerator. I believe at that time, we were seeing 120-130 patients with cancer every year. Now we treat between 400 and 500 patients every year.â€
Starting the program was challenging. In the early 1980s, due to lack of technologists, Dr. Modur worked nonstop for approximately six weeks caring for patients and assisting in the recruitment of new specialists and staff.
Internist/Infectious Disease Specialist/Oncologist Dr. Tamara Musgrave, who came on board in 1995, â€œgrew the department by leaps and bounds,â€ he said.
Dr. Modur’s influence did not remain behind PMC walls. In the 1990s, he was appointed by then-Governor Paul Patton and First Lady Judy Patton to serve on the Breast Cancer Task Force, which studied the occurrence of breast cancer in Kentucky and made recommendations for improvement of care.
While working at PMC in the 1980s, Dr. Modur traveled to hospitals in Floyd County, Johnson County and Perry County to help them establish cancer conferences, a practice he learned while working at Boston University Hospital. PMC cancer specialists still host these conferences.
â€œAt these cancer conferences, we bring together doctors of all specialties and discuss the patient’s problems and the best way to take care of them,â€ he said. â€œSo, this concept was introduced in eastern Kentucky, and now, some of those hospitals have their own cancer care conferences and cancer centers.â€
â€œI always pushed for newer and newer techniques in everything so that we could improve treatment in women’s cancer, like breast cancer and cancer of the uterus or cervix,â€ he said. â€œAnd then, we worked on how to get a higher quality of diagnosis and a higher quality of mammograms, diagnosing early - that was always the aim - how to cut down smoking, cut down lung cancer and how to increase our colon cancer diagnosis. These things were achieved by the doctors participating in these cancer care conferences.â€
Dr. Modur is satisfied with his accomplishments at PMC.
â€œI will be retiring with a happy mind,â€ he said. â€œI wonder whether all of us get to do what we want and get to accomplish it and walk away. I feel that I am very blessed and lucky, to have attained my goals in helping people.â€
He acknowledged the hard work and dedication of President/CEO Walter E. May, the hospital’s leadership team, cancer center physicians, radiation therapists and nurses â€“ particularly the nurses on 8B, who care for cancer patients in the hospital.
By practicing medicine in Pikeville, Dr. Modur was fulfilling something he learned about life decades ago.
â€œI think people should know if you come to one place, stay there long enough and work hard, you will achieve your goals,â€ he said. â€œPeople should keep in mind that they don’t have to move, but stay in one place and try to improve that place. We’re always improving many parts of the world. We have dreams, but we cannot do it all at one time. We can only do one little area at a time. So if everyone can improve a little bit of an area, the whole place, the whole world gets better.â€
He and his wife, Sujatha, raised both of their daughters, Subha and Shobana, in Pike-ville. Subha now works as an advertising executive in New York. Shobana is teaching English at a middle school in rural China as part of a university fellowship.
He is thankful for the people he has met in eastern Kentucky, and he hopes to hear from his patients.
â€œThese eastern Kentucky people are very good, and it has been a privilege to serve them,â€ he said.
Dr. Modur said the family will â€œslowlyâ€ get prepared to sell their home in Pikeville. When they move, however, they will not stay gone for long. They plan to visit from time to time.
â€œThis place will always be close to our hearts,â€ he said. â€œMy children were born here and we can never forget this place and we will be visiting here very often. I am from southern India and I do visit my hometown every other year for the past 38-39 years. So we can never say â€˜goodbye’ to this place,â€ he said.