High Altitude Physiology
A graduate and post-graduate from the Armed Forces Medical College Pune, Col Anuj Chawla is a National Board certified medical physiologist with the Indian Armed Forces for over two and half decades.
Col Chawla’s key area of research has been environmental physiology where he has focused on the effects of environmental stressors on physiological function. This has ranged from researching the effects of heat and hypoxia in the aerospace environment to the extreme cold and hypoxic conditions of high altitude. He has collaborated extensively with research institutes of excellence such as the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and VP Chest Institute Delhi. His research publication on the molecular effects of acute heat stress, published in the international journal Aviation Space and Environmental Medicine was one of the first reports of its kind demonstrating the induction of heat shock protein 70 in red blood cells of humans following one hour of exposure to acute heat stress and suggesting a possible role of this protein as a molecular marker of heat stress.
Having physically served on the Siachen glacier twice, at altitudes greater than 18000 feet, Col Chawla has dedicated his research efforts over the last decade to studying the effects of this harsh environment on the human body. His research initiatives have ranged from studying simple phenomenon such as haemoglobin trends in Indian soldiers stationed in high altitude to researching the most appropriate drug dosage of acetazolamide for the pharmaco-prophylaxis of acute mountain sickness. His numerous publications on effects of high altitude on the human body have been instrumental in enhancing understanding of human physiology at high altitude and suggesting effective steps to prevent high altitude illness.
In recognition of his outstanding expertise in the field of High Altitude Medicine, Col Chawla was invited to author the chapter on High Altitude Illness for the 9thand 10thedition of the API Textbook of Medicine, published by the Association of Physicians of India. Col Chawla was also nominated as an expert on a committee of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, to address the health challenges of the Amarnath Yatra. The committee extensively trained doctors of J&K state to manage medical issues during the AmarnathYatra 2013. These initiatives and interventions resulted in the 2013 AmarnathYatra having the lowest mortality figures of the last decade, which were 90% lower than the previous years.
An outstanding educationist and a fellow of the Foundation for Advancement of International Medical Education and Research, USA, Col Chawla is also recipient of the International Fellowship in Medical Education (IFME) to pursue a Masters’ Programme In Health Professions Education from the University of Keele, UK. His excellence in teaching and initiatives to reform medical education in the country have been duly recognised by the Professor KP Puthuraya award for Best Teacher in Physiology and the ML Gupta award for substantial contribution to medical education by the Association of Physiologists and Pharmacologists of India. Some of his other distinguished awards include Chief of Army Staff Commendation for exemplary service on two occasions, Army Commander Northern Command’s Commendation, Best Reviewer award for the Medical Journal Armed Forces India and the Dr AC Duarte Monterio Oration in Physiology awarded by Seth GS Medical College Mumbai.
Col Chawla serves on the editorial advisory board of three journals and is a reviewer for nine prestigious medical and health professions education journals. Prior to assuming his current appointment of Senior Advisor Physiology, Col Chawla was professor and head of the department of physiology at the Armed Forces Medical College, Pune.
Human Physiology at high altitude: a reflection on three decades of research