A SOUTHAMPTON doctor has received a prestigious award for helping children with lung diseases in India.

Dr Gary Connett, a consultant in paediatric respiratory medicine, has been presented with the prestigious ‘Professor Somu award’.

It is only the second time this award has been given to a clinician outside of India.

Dr Connett, worked at a project aimed at identifying children suffering with cystic fibrosis - an inherited condition in which the lungs and digestive system can become clogged with thick, sticky mucus, causing

problems with breathing and digestion.

It was in 1999 that the children’s cystic fibrosis team in Southampton initiated a series of exchange visits with the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Hospital in New Delhi.

At that time there was little knowledge of the condition in India and there were around 50 diagnosed children at the AIIMS Hospital in New Delhi and a smaller number in other hospitals across India – although the actual figure was thought to be a lot higher.

Dr Connett and his team worked along with Indian professionals to increase awareness of the condition.

They aimed to identify undiagnosed children and set up services to deliver more effective and affordable care as well as training and supporting the country’s first paediatric nurse specialist in cystic fibrosis.

Dr Connett said: “It was a great honour to receive the Professor Somu award. On my visit earlier this year, I was pleased to discover that AIIMS now has more than 500 children with cystic fibrosis under its care, making it one of the biggest paediatric cystic fibrosis centres in the world. There are now paediatric cystic fibrosis services in many of the large cities in India caring for hundreds of children where previously only a small number had been identified. It is gratifying to know that the Southampton team has helped change the way cystic fibrosis is diagnosed and treated in a country with more than 1.3 billion people.”