In late 50s, one day I was simply thrilled to see a brilliant youngster of less than 30 years, a handsome physician, posted as clinical professor of medicine at the Stanley Medical College and Hospital, Madras, now Chennai. Later, over the years, I considered myself especially fortunate to be his house surgeon, senior house surgeon, post-graduate and assistant professor.
A palpable change followed. Wherever he went, undergraduates and postgraduates would throng him to listen to each word of his — in rapt attention to know the theoretical and clinical aspects of internal medicine and his assessment of the latest developments in the field.
It was more than a learning experience to see him examine a patient. His bedside manners, his language, both verbal and non-verbal, his methodical and relevant history-taking, his keen observation, his thorough clinical examination, his inferences after collecting and processing all the clinical data, his summarising the whole case ending with a provisional diagnosis, with more than 30 students and doctors around all the time, in his soft melodious voice and in chaste, flawless English, was a sheer delight to watch and listen. Day in and day out, bed after bed, patient after patient, this well-orchestrated symphony of art and science, freely flowed.
More than a decade later, in the Government General Hospital, Madras, during his grand rounds, a patient with a vague and dull retrosternal chest pain of a few weeks’ duration, without much of positive clinical findings, was presented to him as a problem case.
My teacher keenly observed the blood vessels at his neck and looked for arterial pulsations at the feet and ankle. Then he took hold of both his upper limbs to feel the radial artery pulsations at the wrists. For a full two-three minutes, he intently concentrated on the characteristics of the pulsations. He turned around and told the eagerly waiting junior audience that the patient was having an abnormal ballooning of the great artery emerging from the heart. He asked me to take the patient safely to the cardiology and radiology departments for detailed study. My teacher was absolutely right. The patient had aneurysm of the aorta. That was the depth of his clinical acumen.
Cases, such as this, running into hundreds, remain dormant but fresh, cryopreserved in my memory.
His constant longing and striving for attaining near perfection in all the specialties of the medical field and spending his entire Sundays in browsing the world’s leading medical journals, many a time, left me awe-struck.
For well over five decades, medicos at all levels had walked fast behind him to catch up with higher knowledge and clinical wisdom, even more than that, for noble values of life.
His very proximity turns even the dull ones into active learners. Just by simply simulating this exemplary teacher over time, many get transformed into ideal medical men.
His methodical patient-centric approach, his concern for the poor, his strict adherence to medical ethics and his sacred commitment to mass transfer all his wisdom to the young aspirants around are something phenomenal.
In this hell of a world, the ordinary and the mundane often mistake the soft and gentle nature of others as weakness and go on inflicting injuries and insults with impunity. Even in adverse circumstances, he stood and walked tall, maintaining his integrity and equanimity, unruffled. He ever remained simple but firm, unassuming but assertive and humble but rigidly straightforward.
Many rewards and recognitions, honours and laurels adorned his path of perfection.
Simple chronological aging does not form a deterrent in his relentless pursuit of excellence.
My teacher is a great clinician; a fine researcher; a teacher par excellence; a perfectionist to the core; a true gentleman and, above all, an excellent human being — a rare combination indeed.
Under the shade of this great personality’s nurture, I learnt medicine in its true sense and perspective. I salute this living legend, the teacher of the teachers in silence, loaded with love, reverence and gratitude.
I opted to remain cryptic to the end, not to mention the name of my teacher.
I cannot contain myself any longer.
Professor Dr. K.V. Thiruvengadam — KVT for short — these three alphabets, firmly bound together, simply cast a mesmerising spell on the world’s medical fraternity.
( The writer is a former Professor of Medicine, Sri Ramachandra University, Chennai. Email: email@example.com )
His methodical patient-centric approach, his concern for the poor, his strict adherence to medical ethics and his sacred commitment to mass transfer all his wisdom to the young aspirants around are something phenomenal