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Vol. XXVII No. 2, May 1-15, 2017

90+ and still going strong – 1

A new series by Shobha Menon

Physician and Surgeon, Dr. M.K. Srinivasan, started his medical career in 1951, and still continues to practise and operate too! He has to his credit over 60 years of voluntary service at the Public Health Centre, West Mambalam, and has been its Medical Director for over 15 years.

Over sixty years volunteering medicare

Just mention ‘Dr. MKS’ in and around busy T’Nagar, and anybody will direct you to this very popular doctor’s home in one of its quiet residential neighbourhoods, nondescript Moosa Street. Not surprising at all! His yeoman service to patients across all cross-sections has been available in the area for over sixty years now!

When people ask, “At this age, how is it you can still operate without your hands shaking?” he answers, “Certain aspects of age seem not to affect me… maybe because of the charity I do. And I certainly don’t feel 90! Maybe others too feel reluctant to say I am?” he muses, with a characteristic twinkle in his eye.

“My association with government hospitals and public service is like my life breath! I was born in a government hospital in Guntur, worked as a student and P.G. in another government hospital, and continued as honorary surgeon in one more!” says this former student of Stanley Medical College, whose internship there was followed by stints at the Government Royapettah Hospital, his ‘parent’, as honorary surgeon. “I could complete my medical studies only with financial help from a relative, and across all the years of my practice I have ensured that my service should reach the common man who cannot afford to pay much for treatment”, he says.

“In my younger days, working 18 hours a day was the norm, beginning at 4 am, and ending by midnight. Now, I have the prerogative of waking up by 6 am and taking a two hour nap in the afternoon! There is a wonderful attraction to hospital work that keeps me going. The day I do not connect with a hospital atmosphere, I feel very restless!

“After my morning routines and light breakfast, I see patients till 2 pm. 3 pm to 5 pm is rest time, then 6 pm to 9 pm I am in my clinic. ‘Normal food’ is what I enjoy, but always less food and more vegetables! And I usually only think of food when there is no work.” Only natural that he has no hypertension and no diabetes, because ‘Service before Self’ is a motto that spurs him on!

As someone who started practising medicine when Penicillin was the only available antibiotic, he believes in constant learning, every day and every moment. “I take care to see that I keep abreast with scientific advancement. When I was a student, we depended heavily on physical examination of the patient and asked a lot of questions before a diagnosis. In my practice today too, I focus on being a ‘generalist’ first, and then only a specialist. The ‘referral syndrome’ is too common these days,” he feels.

“Involvement and Dedication are the best foundations. I often remember a nurse at the Public Health Centre who would personally sweep away cobwebs on the roof because she wanted her ward to be clean! I too follow this principle… there can be no work that is infra dig, if you want to be really involved and sincere.” When Dr. MKS operates on a patient, he has never had qualms about simpler activities like dressing wounds! Among the very few who was closely associated with West Mambalam’s Public Health Centre’s founder, the late Mr. M.C. Subrahmanyam, he has never charged any fees for his services, including surgeries, and returns all funds that come in through him back to the Centre! He has also tutored many eminent juniors.

Regularly invited to talks on medical concepts and subjects, he reiterates to younger colleagues, “Do your duty for duty’s sake and the money will come, surely.

“When I started out, gruelling hours meant even my children needed to take a token to meet me. Routines are lighter now. But even today, even if I am indisposed, I don’t like to turn away a patient. Work never kills a man,” he laughs.

A patron of the Chakra Vinayagar Temple in the neighbourhood, he conducts all festivals and meetings at his own cost. “I enjoy reading (and re-reading!) literature of different religions, and regularly conduct religious discourses on a variety of subjects at various forums. I see great similarities between the tenets of Islam and the Bhagavad Gita.
“It is important to keep learning in every area you can associate with. And absolutely no harm in accepting that you do not know. Often, my daughter reminds me, that ‘I do not know, what I do not know’! And now I am determined to move ahead with my next goal… to do a laparoscopic surgery! I have to first study and practise the technique and then help patients, while I can still operate!” Dr. MKS’s eyes shine with anticipative excitement.

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