|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 4 | Page : 247-249
Memories of Dr. (Mrs.) A.M. Samuel: An outstanding scientist and highly dynamic administrator
Former Head, Radiation Biology and Health Sciences Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Submission||26-Oct-2022|
|Date of Acceptance||26-Oct-2022|
|Date of Web Publication||04-Nov-2022|
Dr. K P Mishra
Former Head, Radiation Biology and Health Sciences Division, Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Mumbai, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Mishra K P. Memories of Dr. (Mrs.) A.M. Samuel: An outstanding scientist and highly dynamic administrator. J Radiat Cancer Res 2022;13:247-9
| The Last Conversation|| |
It was sometimes in the beginning of February 2020 when I approached Dr Mrs. Samuel inviting her as Guest of Honor in the National Science Day-20 celebration on February 28 at Somaiya University Vidyavihar, Mumbai. Dr R. Chidambaram, former Chairman, AEC and former Principle Scientific Adviser, Government of India was the Chief Guest. In a slow and sweet voice, she informed of her ongoing treatment for cancer but promised to do the honor next time. She regretted her inability to do the honor and wished success of the program. After hearing her voice and the news of the disease, I was speechless, became emotional and could not continue my conversation. After disconnecting the call, I became terribly sad and many thoughts crossed my mind. I decided to call on her personally to inquire about her health and pay respect. But, unfortunately, authorities in our country declared the lockdown due to the fast spreading of COVID-19 pandemic and the highly restricted physical movements of people. I was informed on May 5, 2020 that she departed for the heavenly abode. I was shocked and deeply felt the rude assault of nature. My desire to meet her personally and refresh memories remained unfulfilled. I consider it a privilege to write about her.
| Medical Education and Career Choice|| |
Dr. Samuel was a bright student from her school days. To find admission to prestigious Grant Medical College, Mumbai (then Bombay) based on her merit speaks of her talent. After graduation in medicine, she completed MD degree in pediatrics. While she was set to begin practicing medicine, she met Dr. K.N. Jeejeebhoy, Head of the Radiation Medicine Unit situated at Parel, Mumbai in the campus of Tata Memorial Hospital who persuaded her to join the nuclear medicine program. After due thoughts, she chose nuclear medicine as her career which, that point of time, was not considered very promising and prestigious by the medical graduates. But the kind of person she was, once convinced, nothing could stop her from moving forward whatever challenges faced. Dr. Samuel joined Radiation Medicine Center (RMC) in 1966. By the way, today, many talented young medical graduates aspire to join RMC. Significantly, in a short time, she emerged as a sought-after clinician at the facility.
| Development of Radioimmuno Assay Center|| |
Dr. Samuel did not look back after joining the radiation medicine career. She developed expertise in radioimmunoassay (RIA) which was in its infancy. As a pediatrician, she was quick to realize the importance of RIA in identifying growth disorders in children. She was gifted with the special ability to learn new things by herself. Those were not the days of internet and she used to spend hours after the clinic in the library widening and updating her knowledge in the field. Inspired by the seminal work of Dr. Solomon Berson and Dr. Rosalyn S. Yalow on RIA of insulin, she started an RIA Laboratory at RMC in 1967 to measure growth hormones in children. She was highly motivated by the research results of Dr. Rosalyn Yalow from Bronx Veterans Administration Hospital, New York and visited Yalow's lab under support from the Word Health Organization. In a collaborative framework, Dr. Yalow was invited for visiting RMC in 1969 who trained many young clinicians. It was a pride that Dr Yalow was co-winner for the Nobel Prize in physiology or medicine in 1977 for developing RIA useful in measuring the small quantities of biological molecules in the body. Dr. Yalow was gracious enough to visit RMC in 1977 which was a great credit to Dr. Samuel for developing collaboration. During 1970s, Dr Samuel worked tirelessly to build RIA laboratory despite many odds of import of equipment and chemicals. However, she believed in developing indigenous technologies and succeeded in developing RIA counter with the help of the Electronics Division of Bhabha Atomic Research Center (BARC). She actively collaborated with hospitals and participated in IAEA - Coordinated Research programs (CRP). Due to all her efforts, the RIA lab were well recognized for their skill and expertise. Most importantly, thyroid-related hormones, thyroglobulin, Mycobacterium tuberculosis antigens and antibodies, myoglobin (acute myocardial infarction), and microalbuminuria RIA were developed under her leadership at RMC including the comprehensive tests for thyroid function for the samples received from all over the country.
It is noteworthy that RMC became a center for the learning of RIA by 1995, and many scientists, from developing countries, were deputed by the IAEA for learning and training. RMC scientists were invited to participate in many IAEA-CRPs. With the constant efforts of Dr. Samuel, immunoassay at RMC acquired reputation of a fully automated RIA-lab. RIA is a prominent technique now, but the present nonisotopic ELISA and chemiluminescence grew on the shoulders of RIA, and the technique was recognized as one of the pillars of the peaceful use of nuclear energy in healthcare.
| Manpower Development for Nuclear Medicine|| |
Dr. Samuel could foresee the future requirement of trained staff and clinicians in the nuclear medicine field. While actively engaged in clinical duties, she passionately pursued her clinical research activities. With her continued efforts some courses like legendry DRM and DMRIT postgraduate diploma courses of the RMC recognized by the University of Mumbai became highly popular degrees. She was keen to start a full-fledged DNB Nuclear Medicine Program at RMC but obstacles had their way. The MSc syllabus was adopted in a large way by many other institutes in the country. Dr. Samuel continuously encouraged her successors at RMC to pursue her dream of MD (Doctor of Medicine) course started at RMC. It is remarkable that the MD (NM) course has now been started in 2015 under recognition from Homi Bhabha National Institute (HBNI), a deemed university.
| Cyclotron Facility and Bioimaging Program|| |
Dr Samuel was a great visionary. She knew the importance of bringing the first Medical Cyclotron (MC) and PET facility in our country. It was not only a great milestone launched in 2002 but also to be the focal point for many similar facilities to follow in the country. The project she steered for the Department of Atomic Energy (DAE) during 1997–2002 was one of the most challenging task limited by several constraints, e.g., limited space, highly complex team of experts from multiple Units of DAE, continual engagement with the vendors to establish various facilities, and systems with need based revision in following the government guidelines and instructions. Without her firm and determined mind, perseverance, tact, and unwavering focus on goal, the Medical Cyclotron Facility of DAE would not have been in its place today. The success of establishing a cyclotron project for the production of many radioisotopes for medical applications is a testament to Dr. Samuel's innovation and leadership initiatives.
| Moving up in Institutional Hierarchy as Director, Biomedical Group, Bhabha Atomic Research Center|| |
It was after a decade of proven scientific and managerial capabilities at RMC then Director, BARC, Dr. Anil Kakodkar invited her to take over as Director Biomedical Group in 1999. By virtue of this position, she earned the distinction of being the only woman scientist in the top policy-making body, Trombay Council (TC) and Chair of Biomedical Scientific Council (TSC) of BARC. She was entrusted with the responsibility of guiding, advising, and administering a large number of scientists from diverse backgrounds encompassing Radiation Biology Division, Cell Biology Division, Molecular Biology Division, Food Technology Division, Low-Level Radiation Research Facility, Nuclear Agriculture and Biotechnology Division, Medical Division staffs. She accepted the responsibilities and moved from RMC to BARC. However, she continued her clinic work concurrent with administrative responsibilities. Remarkably, she was well received by the scientists as well as the staff of the Biomedical Group. It was within a short time that she mastered complete understanding and took the control of scientific programs and administrative tasks in the Group. In administrative matters, she was soft but tough in decisions. Her strength was patient hearing to narrators.
Dr. Samuel easily won the trust and earned the abundant respect of scientists and physicians under her control. Many said, “she represents a new culture of administration.” She strongly believed and practised complete justice and fairness in administrative and professional matters. She was clear-minded and disliked nonsense. She owned an impressive biodata and published close to 400 research papers in her life. She was a preferred research guide by those joining for Ph.D. degree and DNB in nuclear medicine at the center. She superannuated in 2002 but continued to serve patients and specialties in many other capacities.
On a personal note, I recall a moment that I will never forget in my life. There are many other memories, but I will hold them for the limitations of space. When I took over as Head of the Radiation Biology and Health Sciences Division, BARC, she generously found time to drop in my office without information. I considered it a gesture of blessing. Usually, Dr. Samuel was stoic and calm. She offered me many invaluable suggestions and asked me to intensify good science, stay scientifically competitive, catapult research output to folds and administer the Division with responsibility and devotion. I largely owe to her for memorable days at BARC.
| Contributions through Scientific and Regulatory Committees|| |
Dr Samuel was most welcome in many Scientific Committees because of her knowledge and compatibility in the team. Her roles in the advisory Committee of BRNS - Radiation Technology Applications Committee and the DAE's Radiopharmaceuticals Committee (RPC) made significant contribution to set new directions. She was very cautious in making available required radiopharmaceuticals for nuclear medicine practices but kept in focus the high standards of quality, safety, and adherence to guidelines. For example, one of the important products reviewed and approved for clinical use under her leadership at RPC is Lu177-EDTMP for the palliation of metastatic bone pain. Lu-177 chloride as API for peptide labeling in hospital radiopharmacy, Tc-99m-HYNIC-TOC kit for tumor imaging. Her crucial guidance for the clinical evaluation of Lu-177-DOTATATE for the treatment of neuroendocrine tumors metastasis pushed up India to acquire the pioneer status in the field.
| Awards and Associations with Professional Bodies|| |
Dr. Samuel was very enthusiastic in developing new technologies and procedures but always very careful in safety matters and strict in professional discipline. The patient fist was her slogan. She sent a concise and write up in 2014 for the Focus column of the thematic bulletin of IANCAS on “PET: Products and Applications.” she took a keen interest in conveying the right message to the Society of Nuclear Medicine (SNM) India and the Association of Nuclear Medicine Physicians of India (ANMPI). She was honored with the position of President of SNM India in 1986 and the Homi Bhabha Oration award in 1988. She was a founding Fellow of the Indian College of Nuclear Medicine. She was invited to deliver the Dr. SK Sharma Oration in 2007 by the ANMPI. She received the SNM's “Lifetime Achievement Award” in 2019. In 2016, the Association of Medical Consultants felicitated her in Mumbai for her contributions to nuclear medicine specialty.
| Human Qualities|| |
She was generally kind and compassionate in response. A devoted physician with a deep sense of service to the nation and benefit to patients. A person with exemplary modesty, soft spoken, sober, positive attitude, and helpful nature. She treated the staff with due respect and logical response. Dr. Samuel was a unique personality with many rare human qualities. She was an outstanding scientist, passionate researcher, inspiring teacher, effective guide, and motivating mentor. She influenced and taught me many lessons for conducting when in the position of authority. To me, she was a great mentor and motivator and an epitome of humility and politeness. It is a tragedy that God snatched her away from us. Indeed, we will miss her.
| The Family|| |
She leaves behind her husband, Dr. M R Samuel, a Senior Executive in a reputed pharmaceutical company in Mumbai, and two sons; Samson and Reuven.
I pay my deepest personal tribute to her and the family.