Eminent surgical gastroenterologist, surgeon and teacher, N. Rangabashyam, died peacefully in his sleep in his home in Chennai, early on Sunday.
He was 79, and is survived by his wife, a son and a daughter. Dr. Rangabashyam was a pioneer in the field of surgical gastroenterology and proctology in India, and was respected by many in his profession as a senior colleague, an excellent teacher, a guide and even an inspiration for many young students of medicine.
Feted for his achievements by reputed institutions across the world, Dr. Rangabashyam began his illustrious career at one of Tamil Nadu’s premier medical colleges — Madras Medical College. He was first appointed as Professor of Gastroenterology in India in November 1974, and was the first person to start a separate department for Surgical Gastroenterology, and went on to head it. He also started the first to start the M.Ch. (Surgical Gastroenterology) degree course in India.
In fact, he is the claimant to many such firsts in the field of his choice: ostomy department, enterostomal therapy diploma for nurses, reputedly, the first to introduce staplers in surgery in the country, perform laparostomies, and one of the pioneers of hepatobiliary surgery in the country. His contributions on Colitis, Bowel Cancer, and other gastro-intestinal cancers, portal hypertension and bowel disease in the tropics have had a major impact, other experts in the field acknowledge.
With over three decades of experience in teaching at the undergraduate and post graduate levels, he has contributed chapters to the Oxford Textbook of Surgery and in the Recent Advances in Surgery series. He is credited with playing a key role in bringing the FRCS Edinburgh Examination to be conducted in India since 1995. He took a proactive role in conducting awareness camps for the public, and regular continuing medical education programmes for doctors.
He was appointed Honorary Surgeon to the President of India by former President R. Venkataraman and was a consultant surgeon at the Armed Forces Medical College.
Sure enough, recognition and honours found their way to him from across the country and abroad. The Padma Bhushan came in 2002, and Prof. NR, as he was fondly called, received the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award for eminent medical person twice. His name is inscribed in the Wall of Honour of the Royal Society of Medicine, Edinburgh. He received the Living Legend award from the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu in 2010. Apart from honours in surgical gastroenterology, he was also elected Active Member of the Breast Surgery International (BSI) by the International Society of Surgery 1999.
Some of his students, leaders by their own merit today, recalled fondly his guidance, commitment and devotion to the cause of teaching. S.M. Chandramohan, head, Surgical Gastroenterology, Madras Medical College, says “Prof. NR is the perfect example of all a doctor should be. Under his guidance, many fine specialists have emerged, and have been inspired to handle major problems with the same courage and conviction that he showed.”
Another student of his, R. Surendran, former director of Stanley Hospital's Institute of Surgical Gastroenterology and Liver Transplant, says Dr. Rangabashyam was a visionary. “When he started the surgical gastroenterology department, people said there was no need for a separate specialty. Even when he held an honorary position, he would stay in the hospital for long hours, guiding students,” Mr. Surendran said.
The funeral took place on Sunday evening. A condolence meeting has been organised on Monday noon at the seminar hall of Madras Medical College.