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Vol. XXVII No. 6, July 1-15, 2017

90+ and still going strong

by Shobha Menon

Offering ‘a listening ear’ for better health

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Dr. K.V. Thiruvengadam

“6.30 am is when I start myday, generally,” says Dr. K.V. Thiruvengadam, FRCPE, renowned physician and medical teacher. He goes on, “I go through my morning routines and the newspapers till about 9.30. Then it is time to get ready for my patients, who usually come by prior appointment and are referred by other physicians. I look forward to meeting and connecting with them.… and each one has an interesting story. Consultations go on till about 3 pm, and I only see a maximum of about ten patients during that time, as the ‘listening ear’ that guides them onto better health! Now, more than ever, the role of the family physician is crucial.

“In my profession, you see a lot of human misery. Being a good ‘listening’ doctor helps the patient greatly, to sort out struggles in the mind too. I believe firmly in treating the whole patient and not a part of him!! One patient even remarked that I must be from the Stone Age because I spent so much time taking notes on him before I prescribed medicines!!”, he confesses tongue in cheek. When he was younger, the day started at 5.30 am and usually ended only by 11 pm!

“A teacher for 30 years at the General Hospital and then for 25 years at the Railway Hospital, I have aimed at learning to teach and teaching to learn. Many of my students confess that they liked my classes because I treated them as equals!,” says Dr. ‘KVT’ as he is fondly known.

“His eyes light up as he looks at Master Teacher Award conferred by the Indian College of Physicians in 2002. As a former student Dr. Abraham Verghese, (currently at Stanford University Medical School) once reminisced, “It is from Dr. KVT I learnt that the patient’s body tells the story and that it is the power of touch and bedside examination that counts in holistic treatment. Also, the patience and excitement with which he taught us the simplest things, even though he has said and done the same things with thousands of students over the year!”

Dr. KVT continues, “Between 4 and 6 pm I go through medical journals, to keep abreast with the latest medical news. I keep up-to-date with the news on TV, but I’m not much into reading fiction!! I used to enjoy Sherlock Holmes and Thorndyke earlier. My latest gift is a collection from Kahlil Gibran and I am enjoying it very much!” By the way , I am not at all computer savvy and much prefer to keep it that way, Thank you… I like to read holding a book, with some bright lights on !”

Dr. KVT loves music and Maharajapuram Santhanam, M.S. Subbulakshmi and Sudha Raghunathan are favourites. The instrumental music of Lalgudi Jayaraman and Mandolin Srinivas too!

Speaking of a long life, Dr. KVT advises, “As long as you exercise your brain, there is always less risk of Alzheimers. And it is important to move gracefully from an active to a retired life, also to be mentally, physically and emotionally connected to friends. Earlier, I used to teach at many institutions – the General Hospital, the Railway Hospital, the Voluntary Health Services, Ramachandra Medical College, Kalyani Mission Hospital besides my practice. One by one I wound down, till at 90 (he is now 91) I decided that I will only practice from my clinic. My students occasionally come over to meet me, and I still feel nostalgic to think of the wonderful years I have spent teaching!

“Age certainly brings in its wake its own aches and pains, but it is important to keep at a normal life in spite of them! Just make the pain your companion… not an enemy but a friend. With the pain you walk, with the pain you read… it can only get easier as you get more ‘friendly’, Dr. KVT smiles.” ‘In the departure hall, with a boarding pass ready’, I like to focus on doing my best for each patient I meet. Take a minimum of one hour, to unravel family history and personal life. Patience is the key and poruthaal bhumi alwar (The one who is patient, rules the world!), is a phrase I often share with my patients!

“It must be a combination of family genes and a simple vegetarian diet that keeps me going. Clean living and thought, working hard, being kind and forgiving to everyone I meet and a few minutes in prayer is what I try to follow every day. As a student I used to pray only before the exams, but I have changed a bit now,” Dr. KVT says with a twinkle in his eye!

‘KVT Sir’ was known as a dynamic teacher, a fast-walker and very soft spoken. Many old students remember his ward rounds with each one straining to hear the Chief’s views. He still is soft spoken, and his ‘temperament of being accepting of people’ has not changed. “I believe that if you do err, to do so on the side of generosity is wiser. ‘They know not what they do’ is a good dictum to hold fast to when you wish to forgive.”

Dr. K.V. Thiruvengadam graduated from the Stanley Medical College in 1950. He has been the recipient of several prestigious awards including the Padma Shri and the Dr. B.C. Roy Award for Eminent Medical Teacher.

Comments

  1. S. V . Rangarajan says:

    Very happy to read the interview of great Dr.Shri K. V . Thiruvenkadam.i fully support about using of brain for lesser anime disease .i am now only 61 years but still make myself busy in reading slogans ,books ,newspapers by. reading in net only .

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