Dr Vinod Kumar Joshi receives OBE for exceptional services in fighting cancer

Dr Vinod Kumar Joshi receives OBE for exceptional services in fighting cancer

The Malaysian cancer specialist has spent his life and career furthering support and care for head and neck cancer patients

DR Vinod Kumar Joshi was conferred the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) on behalf of the late Queen Elizabeth II by British High Commissioner Charles Hay at his official residence on Monday. The award recognises Dr Joshi’s exceptional services in fighting cancer.

The 71-year-old dental specialist established the Mouth Cancer Foundation in 2004 to provide professional support to patients, carers, and survivors of mouth cancer, as well as head and neck cancers. Apart from connecting patients through a community forum and website, he also started his long-running campaign to encourage all dentists to be alert to the risk of mouth cancer through screening, and created a hugely successful self-examination programme where the general public can check themselves for mouth cancer at home.

He retired from the National Health Services (UK) in 2011 to join the Faculty of Dentistry at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur as a consultant, where he helped set up its dental service for patients with special needs. He remains on the Mouth Cancer Foundation’s Board of Trustees.

“I never expected that I would be receiving this award through my work. I would like to thank all the patients whom I met along the way who have assisted me in my vision. Without their assistance, the Mouth Cancer Foundation would not be what it is today.

“I would also like to thank my family who were instrumental in assisting me in carrying out my duties from my wife who helped post out pamphlets, and to my son who helped designed the organisation’s website,” Dr Joshi remarked during his speech after receiving the award.

Hay described Dr Joshi as “exemplary” and highlighted his continued dedication and service in his field. “Throughout his successful career in the UK and Malaysia, Dr Joshi’s dedication and service to fighting cancer has simply been exemplary. On realising the huge psychological impact of mouth cancer on patients, carers and survivors, Dr Joshi created the much-needed support network to connect like-minded patients, which evolved into a charity.

“As well as sharing a wealth of resources on mouth cancer, Dr Joshi and his Foundation have also been instrumental in encouraging screening as early diagnosis saves lives,” Hay added.

In an exclusive interview with The Vibes, Dr Joshi credits his strong educational upbringing at the Gurney Road School and the Royal Military College for instilling in him discipline and a sense of service. His early undergraduate days at the University of Singapore would also become an important marker.

As he describes it, “while we were students, my lecturer and oral surgeon Dr Henry Lee encouraged me to become ambidextrous and to pursue postgraduate fellowship qualifications. I was influenced by him and learnt to give injections and do extractions with either hand. This avoided adopting an awkward posture. He also wired up my fractured jaw when I broke my mandible during a hockey game in the early months of my final year.

“I think this difficult period taught me empathy for my future patients. I missed six weeks of class, which resulted in my not completing my practical requirements in Conservative Dentistry. I was allowed to sit the exams but was held back for an additional six months to fulfil a new schedule of requirements. I think this prolonged training made me a better dentist. The irony is that I was to go on to become a consultant in that specialty many years later.”

While working as a registrar for the National Health Services (NHS) in Leeds, he obtained a Diploma in Restorative Dentistry from the Royal College of Surgeons (Edinburgh), and a Fellowship in Dental Surgery from the Royal College of Surgeons and Physicians (Glasgow).

In May 2001, he set up the Restorative Dentistry Oncology Clinic (RDOC) service to provide oral care and advice before, during and after cancer treatment, for head and neck cancer patients in the two hospitals where he was employed. It was the first dedicated dental clinic in the UK.

“These patients needed support groups and I was involved in supporting them. There was then no UK Web site that focused on mouth cancer awareness, early detection, and the information and support needs of patients with these cancers. I decided to set this up.

“Dentists, doctors, and other health professionals would also benefit from access to a one-stop web site portal for information on head and neck cancers. The public would also benefit from information on prevention,” Dr Joshi said.

“I started this project in June 2001. I surfed the Internet for useful sites and materials to link to. As the material was gathered and sifted, the various sections required for the website became apparent. I wanted the user experience to be a positive one and not morose.

“A source for dental cartoons was contacted and permission was obtained to present the cartoonist’s collection exclusively on the website. It took about seven months before the Restorative Dentistry Oncology clinic (RDOC) website went live on 7th January 2002. An online support group with discussion forums was added the following year.

“The RDOC website and online support group supported the work in my clinic, and beyond. The website created a virtual information and support nexus for head and neck cancer patients. It contributed significantly to providing free information for the general public and dentists on early detection of mouth cancers,” he added.

This project then grew to become the Mouth Cancer Foundation (MCF). “I realised that unlike breast cancer and prostate cancer, there was no charity focused solely on support for head and neck cancer patients and patient advocacy.

“Head and neck cancer patients and carers needed a strong patient-focused organisation solely dedicated to helping them face the crisis of their cancer and survival.

“So, I set up the Mouth Cancer Foundation (MCF) in 2004 and the RDOC website and support group became part of the Mouth Cancer Foundation. MCF attained charity status in 2005.”

Through MCF, Dr Joshi organised the first annual Mouth Cancer Walk event in Hyde Park, London in November 2006. It has since become an annual event bringing patients and cancer survivors from all over the country. MCF also introduced the Mouth Cancer Voice Awards in 2007. This event encouraged young people to participate in an online talent show in which they used their voices, to regain their self-confidence and remove any societal stigmas.

“I hope that the younger generation of our medical fraternity will be inspired to look into the community they live in and think of what they could do to make things better and just do it. You don’t need anyone’s permission to do what is right. This is what I did. In the end, you will feel better for doing something worthwhile,” Dr Joshi added.

source – The Vibes

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