Simply put, Dr. Arun Garg is an amazing physician, scholar, community leader and individual. Despite his countless professional accomplishments and contributions to his community, Garg continues to push the bar ever so higher and serves as an inspiration for greatness.
“I think I’ve always been committed to be passionate as an individual and a community leader…in that we can play a significant role in society to people with non-Indian heritage and Indian heritage,” says Garg.
With a Masters in Science (M.Sc.), a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) and a Medical Degree (M.D.) with specializations in Biochemistry and Pathology, Garg has over 30 years of experience as a clinical pathologist. He is also the former President of the BC Medical Association; Board Chair, Member and Director to countless committees including the Board of Governors at the University of British Columbia (UBC); and currently serves as the Program Medical Director at the Fraser Health Authority.
Born and raised in Agra, India, Garg excelled in his studies from an early age. After scoring well in a placement exam at just 6 years old, he started school at a Grade 4 level and developed his passions for science and medicine. After finishing secondary school, he earned and completed a M.Sc. in Biochemistry from Agra University by the age of 16.
It is as this point that Garg decided to move to Canada; a decision which was influenced by two key factors. Firstly, he was unable to continue his education and pursue a medical degree in India at the time, as he was too young, which motivated him to move abroad. Second and more importantly, Garg’s father wasn’t able to accept a scholarship to the London School of Economics due to an unfortunate and untimely passing.
His father’s unfulfilled goal to attend higher education was something that his mother often reminded him of, thus motivating Garg to make the most of his opportunities and further his studies when possible. Therefore, the decision to move to Canada was also a sentimental one. He earned a Ph.D. in Biochemistry from the University of Regina and shortly thereafter, enrolled in UBC’s medical school to obtain an M.D. “I always wanted to be in medicine, to clinically help people.”
In June 2011, Garg was awarded with the first ever ‘Dr. Don Rix Award,’ a lifetime achievement recognition that commends physicians for their exemplary leadership and commitment to their community. Rix, a fellow pathologist passed away in 2009 and since then the award was established in honour of his memory to recognize remarkable physicians for their outstanding leadership. “It is very humbling to be recognised by your peers as well to receiving an inaugural award. Being a fellow pathologist, Dr. Rix was a great man, which made receiving this award that much more special.”
Canada India Network Initiative
On top of his core responsibilities as Program Medical Director at Fraser Health Authority, Garg continues to spearhead his efforts in addressing the real need to lower Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) in Indian populations. Therefore in June 2010, Garg and fellow co-founder, Dr. Arun Chockalingam (SFU Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences) developed the Canada India Network Initiative (CINI) to bring awareness to this issue. According to Garg, “Given the tremendous prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in South Asian populations in both countries, we felt the need for the different groups tackling these issues to be connected.”It has thus served as a platform designed to instil change for both countries in regards to academia, research, innovation, industry and public policy. With Canada and India having so much in common, the CINI’s main focus has been to tackle the problem head-on, reduce the onset of CVD in populations in both countries, promote health awareness and build relationships at both the community and country levels.
Currently, the CINI is focused on three projects moving forward. Firstly, at Annamalai University, which is situated in Chidambaram, a research initiative has been started to determine the role of salt in the Indian diet. Diets consistently high in sodium ultimately lead to hypertension, heart failure, breathing difficulties and many other health ailments. Therefore, establishing a causal relationship between salt levels in a typical Indian diet may establish a correlation as to the onset of CVD in Indian populations in addition to genetic and environmental precursors.
Secondly, a project in Hyderabad aimed at endorsing CVD prevention and health promotion is being undertaken by a resident physician there who works in primary care.
Lastly and most significant is the ongoing management of chronic diseases. When one’s own lifestyle plays the largest role, effective self-management allows real positive changes to transpire and helps in combating CVD. This is achieved through behaviour modification and healthy lifestyle changes in which promoting awareness serves as the catalyst.
“There is not one Indian family that hasn’t been touched by a CVD, such as diabetes, stroke, hypertension, heart failure…so we all have to do our part in sharing health promotion and prevention,” says Garg.
Typically, within the South Asian population, people’s general awareness about healthy practices and managing CVD’s is not nearly as good as it should be. Therefore, maintaining a balance between a healthy diet and exercise, taking into account of how many calories one consumes on a daily basis and decreasing the intake of soluble carbohydrates is imperative. One way in which Garg helps bring awareness regarding daily calorie consumption is by asking three necessary questions, a concept he’s coined ‘The 3 K’s:’
The answers to these questions hopefully help people understand how much they are consuming as opposed to how much they should be.
As the frequency of CVD’s are reaching staggering numbers around the globe, especially within South Asian populations residing in Canada and India, the time is now to raise awareness and initiate the change for a healthier and more prosperous lifestyle. Raising awareness in India is especially critical, as the nation has the largest number of diabetics in the world and generally having insufficient knowledge regarding appropriate calorie consumption would benefit the greatest from this education.
Moving forward, Garg and his colleagues at the CINI are focused on continuing to improve communication and research efforts between India and Canada. At the forefront, is to develop a structure around raising awareness as opposed to a collection of individual projects. Given such a large South Asian population in British Columbia and in the Fraser Health, it would make sense to provide a well-developed structure to serve as a formidable platform to work from.
Garg explains “my mother engrained in me when I was a kid, that whatever you do, leave the place better than how you found it. I think that’s what drives me.” Allowing Garg’s philosophy to serve as a personal mantra will undoubtedly lead one to a path of greatness. His continued clinical contributions to the medical sector and unshaken devotion to helping communities both locally and internationally serves as source of inspiration and motivates each of us to be better.