The journey to what Cessna is today has been long and hard. But the people behind it are determined to make more breakthroughs in veterinary care.

From one room clinic to 3 hospitals How Blurus Cessna came to lead veterinary care
news Human interest Monday, July 09, 2018 - 18:59

Like many young medical students, Dr Pawan Kumar had dreams of completing his MBBS, MS and becoming a successful medical surgeon. But when he started volunteering at an animal rescue NGO in Haryana, where he is originally from, he did not know it would take his life in another direction altogether.

Dr Pawan (41) is a veterinary surgeon and a Chief Medical Officer at Cessna Lifeline Hospitals in Bengaluru. To animal lovers and pet owners in the city, he is a well-known name. The story of Cessna that presently has three branches – two in Bengaluru, and one in Gurugram –began in 2005 in a humble one room clinic in Indiranagar.

Taking the plunge into veterinary care

Dr Pawan was still finishing medical school in Haryana when he began volunteering with Blue Cross there. And while they dealt mostly with cattle, he felt an empathy for animals which grew stronger with every passing day.

So, from 2000 to 2003, Dr Pawan pursued his masters in veterinary surgery in Bengaluru. After that, he even landed a government job which took him to Gurugram. However, realizing it wasn’t for him, he quit within six months, came back to Bengaluru, and started volunteering with Compassion Unlimited Plus Action (CUPA), an NGO which cares for injured and sick animals in the city.

Passionate about surgery, Dr Pawan travelled to South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia and other countries to learn new techniques in veterinary surgery in 2004. Once he came back, he took a step which changed his life forever.

He rented a 120 sq ft room in Indiranagar and started his own veterinary practice. “There was a lot of uncertainty… Pressure from family also because I had given up a cozy government job, and I didn’t know if I would be successful,” Dr Pawan recounts.

Dr Pawan at the first clinic in Indiranagar

Often, he had only one patient in two days. He also did several house calls to attend to sick pets. And even a year or so later, the number only grew marginally.

All this while, he continued volunteered with CUPA at night.  

Growing and taking risks

In 2007, Dr Pawan decided to relocate the clinic to a 2500 sq ft 3BHK apartment in Indiranagar. Three years later, in 2010, he was joined by Dr Ramesh, a childhood friend. The duo had been together from class 10 and were only apart when Dr Ramesh left for a government job posting in Haryana government after they completed their post-graduation in Bengaluru.

The second clinic in Indiranagar

Six months after Dr Ramesh joined, they started looking for bigger premises. “We had 65-70 patients a day at the time. Our diagnostic services were not as good because of space constraints and we didn’t even have an in-house lab. If we wanted to set up all this, we needed more space,” Dr Ramesh tells TNM.

So, in 2011, they pooled together some funds, took a loan which ran into several crores, and bought a place in Domlur. This is where the Cessna Lifeline Hospital presently stands.

Challenges

When they bought the property in Domlur, it only comprised of foundation and pillars. The first challenge they faced was designing the hospital. “At that time, the architects we consulted did not know how to design veterinary hospitals. So, I had to do my research and help with that,” he recalls.

Next, the problem came with licensing. “We were just stuck for 8-10 months,” Dr Ramesh recounts. “When you talk about a hospital for animals, the neighbours and nearby localities get very apprehensive. We faced the same issue. We had to run from pillar to post in the BBMP for a long time before we could get the license,” Dr Pawan adds.

Cessna Lifeline Hospital, Domlur

Finally, on December 3, 2013, Cessna opened their first hospital in Domlur.

But there were yet more hurdles. “There are standard courses for training doctors for children, women and people in general. But at the time, there was no standard course for training staff and medical practitioners for veterinary hospitals. So, we researched, looked at courses in developed countries and drew on our own experiences to design a course,” Dr Pawan shares.

The triumphs, and what makes it worth it all

Cessna has now come a long way. They opened a branch in Electronic City in Bengaluru last year and one in Gurugram eight months ago – there is another one in the works on the outskirts of Gurugram for large animals like cows and buffaloes too.

Dr Sharanya Prakash, who joined Cessna four years ago, says that there are several things she has learnt here that are not there in the shelters and private clinics she worked at previously. For instance, she appreciates the emphasis on cleanliness here. “It’s not as easy to keep a hospital for animals clean, as compared to a hospital for people. The record keeping is also digitized, and not just written on a paper and given to the pet owners,” she notes.  

However, Dr Pawan rues that India’s veterinary care still has a long way to go. “There are not as many rules and standards here – for instance there is no protocol for setting up blood banks for veterinary needs. Isn’t that something basic?” he questions.

Dr Pawan

This makes the small strides they have made matter even more – for instance, Dr Pawan says that when he was studying, the only option for hip dysplasia in dogs (which rendered them unable to walk), was to put them to sleep. “Now, we have developing techniques for surgery and recuperation,” he says.

From three doctors in the previous clinic, they now have 13 doctors who clock at least 10 hours a day. “But it has gotten better. There were times where we would only take 10-15 minutes off in the afternoon and then get back to work,” Dr Ramesh notes.

But what makes it all worthwhile for them?

“If someone offers me a prestigious post to be a surgeon for people today, I know I wouldn’t be happy. There is something inexplicably joyous when you are able to relieve an animal from its pain. They do not talk, but the love in their eyes, and the wag of their tail is worth it all for me,” Dr Pawan says.   

Become a TNM Member for just Rs 999!
You can also support us with a one-time payment.