As National Doctors’ Day is being celebrated on July 1, I wish to salute an unheralded, ‘camera-shy’, ‘publicity-loathing’ doctor friend of mine.
We did post-graduation in General Surgery together at Medical College, Kottayam in Kerala in early 1990s. Brilliance in academics helped him complete the tough course with aplomb. Much different to the grind I needed to go through to achieve the same. This soft-spoken and unassuming batch mate of mine exhibited the penchant to slog his heart, soul and body for patients placed under his care. Uncompromised patient care was, and continues to be his forte, as corrupt and unethical practices and love for ill-gotten money are his nemesis. There was no giving up until he was convinced that he had given his all for patients. He never hesitated to do extra hours in hospital wards and the ICU if work demanded. His colleagues and teachers, whose admiration he earned had an inkling that the humble young post graduate student was cut out for greater things.
After the course we parted ways. He went on to pursue super-specialization in Cardiothoracic Surgery, arguably the most demanding among surgical disciplines in terms of dedication, and attitude needed to spend hours beside patients, away from family and personal commitments.
After qualifying as a cardiothoracic surgeon, my friend returned to his alma mater to serve in the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery there. With dogged determination and focus he developed the department into one of the finest to provide surgical cardiothoracic care in Kerala’s public sector. The government, convinced of his well-meaning intentions provided him crucial funds to develop the department, of which he was promoted as head. The department of cardiothoracic Surgery of Medical College Kottayam, under my friend’s helmsmanship, unconditional cooperation and dedication from a committed paramedical team and medical colleagues undertook the first ever successful heart transplantation in the government sector in Kerala on September 15, 2015. By undertaking a technically demanding and manpower-intensive procedure in a public sector facility, my friend not only disproved the charges of ‘inferior and lackadaisical work ethics’, ‘inadequate facilities limiting work’ and ‘incapability to rise up to challenges’, that are made against hospitals in the government sector, but also proved beyond doubt the good-old adage, ‘where there’s a will, there’s a way’.
The world, powered by an excited and effusive media applauded the rare feat. My unassuming friend firmly had his feet on the ground. The humble surgeon allergic to flashbulbs, confetti and spotlight preferred to remain where he was always comfortable to be in- the green room, away from the well-lit stage, jostling for space. He let others hog their share of the well-deserved limelight. The government convinced of his immense dedication to the noble profession of medicine and his love for his Alma mater placed on him the responsibility of the office of the Superintendent of the Medical College hospital, Kottayam, which he dons with his characteristic efficiency and calm dedication.
Thomas Gray must have famously quoted ‘full many a gem of purest ray serene, the dark unfathom’d caves of ocean bear’, about the likes of this man who toils 24 x 7 for his patients, (most of them belonging to the poorer section of society) away from limelight, media glare, self-advertisement and self-aggrandizement the science of medicine and its practitioners take to, like fish to water these days. My friend is blessed with a supportive family, which consists of his wife, who heads the Plastic Surgery Department in the same hospital and his two children, whose all-weather support stands him in good stead, even though his presence with them is at a premium.
In the competition for his time and presence between his family, especially his wife and fellow humans who seek his unconditional and dedicated service in the form of patients, the winner is invariably the latter!