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Year : 2017  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 701-

Dr. Ranjana Srivastava – oncologist extraordinaire

Sunil K Pandya 
 Department of Neurosurgery, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. G. V. Deshmukh Marg, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Correspondence Address:
Sunil K Pandya
Department of Neurosurgery, Jaslok Hospital and Research Centre, Dr. G. V. Deshmukh Marg, Mumbai, Maharashtra

How to cite this article:
Pandya SK. Dr. Ranjana Srivastava – oncologist extraordinaire.Indian J Cancer 2017;54:701-701

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Pandya SK. Dr. Ranjana Srivastava – oncologist extraordinaire. Indian J Cancer [serial online] 2017 [cited 2021 Oct 18 ];54:701-701
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Dr. Srivastava was born in Canberra, Australia to parents who hailed from Bhagalpur, Bihar. Her father was a physicist whose occupation necessitated travel. As a consequence Dr. Srivastava was educated in India, Australia, the United States, and the United Kingdom. She graduated in medicine from Monash University. She won a Fulbright Award offered by the University of Chicago and returned to Melbourne, pregnant with twins. She describes what happened then in her essay that must be made required reading for every medical student and resident.[1]

She was touched by the fact her experienced obstetrician wept as he delivered the ominous news to her. “Until then, in 13 years of medical training, I had never seen a doctor cry…My obstetrician's tears stunned me but also provided immediate comfort. They normalized the mad grief that had begun to set inside me. Yes, the doctor's expression said, this is truly awful and I feel sad too… I coped better because the first doctor had told the truth…”

As an oncologist, this experience modified her attitude toward her patients for the better. “How I would interpret the needs of my patients was fundamentally altered now that I had been one myself.” She had been made a member of Albert Schweitzer's Fellowship of Those Who Bear the Mark of Pain.

She pointed out in this essay that cancer patients are very particular about how much truth they want to know and when. “I don't decide for them but if they ask me I always tell the truth. A wife brings in her husband and his horrendous scans trigger a gasp of astonishment among even the non-oncologists. 'Doctor, will he die from this?' she asks me. 'I am afraid so,' I answer gently, 'but I will do everything in my power to keep him well as long as I can.' It is the only truthful promise I can make…”

Each of her essays is replete with similar sensitivity and humanism. I have benefited greatly from reading them.

In 2014, Dr. Srivastava was named Distinguished Alumnus of the Year by Monash University. Her writing has been published in Time, The Week, medical journals, such as The New England Journal of Medicine, The Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association, and Journal of Hospice and Palliative Care Management. In 2008 her story Ode to a Patient won the Cancer Council Victoria Arts Award for outstanding writing. Her column in Melbourne Magazine was featured in the Best Australian Science Writing of 2012. She is a regular columnist for The Guardian. She also presents information on health on ABC Television and ABC 774 Radio. Last year she was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia.

Her website features several of her essays that are at once informative, stimulating, thought-provoking, and ennobling. It also enables you to listen to some of her talks and watch her at work and as she discusses topics of great interest to us. I strongly commend it to you.


1Srivastava R. Losing my twin baby boys forever changed the way I treat my patients. The Guardian 15 June 2015.