A lifetime of service

Dr. M.K. Srinivasan’s smile and bright eyes don’t give away his age. Dr. MKS, as he’s affectionately known, celebrated his 90th birthday last week. “People ask me, ‘You’re 90, how is it your hands aren’t shaking?’ I tell them it is because of the charity I do. You cannot stop the aging process, but certain aspects of age do not affect me.” Having started his career in 1951, he practises, operates, and consults till date. “I do general practice, just as I did when I started out.”

A student of Stanley Medical College, Srinivasan did his internship there as well, after which he was transferred to the Government Royapettah Hospital. After resignation from his paid service, he was appointed as honorary surgeon at Royapettah, where for 20 years, he was in charge of a surgical unit. “I was given the freedom to do major operations at 28-30 years of age and this was the peak period in my career. I follow the same system I did then, even now.”

“I continued as honorary till I had a small nursing home built in the neighbourhood, where I continued to operate, after which I ceased my connection with Royapettah.” He adds, “At the time, I was doing honorary service at Public Health Centre, West Mambalam. When the Centre was started in 1953 by Rajaji, there was no electricity; a doctor would function out of a small hut with a lantern. From one or two patients a month, it has expanded into a multi-disciplinary hospital.” Since the inception of the Centre, Srinivasan has been serving in the capacity of on-call surgeon. “Even though the need at home was great, I donated whatever allowance I was paid, back to Public Health Centre, which I do till date for any major or minor surgery I do there.” In time, he was appointed medical director at the Centre, which he’s continuing as, in addition to his operating and consulting there. A number of doctors of eminence have emerged under Srinivasan’s tutelage.

“I always tell my students to call their patients ‘professional clients’. Nobody wants to be dubbed a patient.” He says a doctor must explain the patient’s condition to him/her and answer all their questions. “The tendency these days is for medical graduates to apply for post-graduation as soon as they pass their MBBS. Everyone wants to be a specialist. They don’t want to do general practice, which is the backbone of the profession. The need for general practitioners is very great in our villages; it doesn’t make sense for everyone to be specialists,” he says.

As someone who started practising medicine when Penicillin was the only available antibiotic, he believes in constant learning. “When I was a student, we depended heavily on physical examination of the patient; asked a lot of questions to form a diagnosis. Whereas now, when a patient complains of a cough or stomach pain, the tendency is to order a number of scans. The stethoscope is considered obsolete. But it is absolutely necessary.”

Srinivasan feels that interacting with the patient is most essential. “The patient will be satisfied only if you feel their pulse. Satisfaction of the patient is 50 per cent of the cure,” he says. He feels that junior doctors try to avoid community medicine when they are posted and adds that overlooking any posting is detrimental to a full-rounded medical education.

He lives by the motto ‘Service before self’. When he started out, putting in 18-19 hours a day, even his children could not see him unless they took a token. Even today, he never refuses to see a patient, no matter how his health condition is. “Work never kills a man,” he laughs. “I owe whatever I am to my late wife. I am blessed.”

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Printable version | Nov 24, 2021 4:07:42 PM |

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