Registered with the Registrar of Newspapers for India under R.N.I 53640/91

Vol. XXXIII No. 8, August 1-15, 2023

Dr. K.S. Sanjivi and the VHS

On June 22, 1965, the Rotary Club of Madras met at the Connemara Hotel to confer its For The Sake of Honour Award on Dr. K.S. Sanjivi. Conferring it was an equally illustrious man of medicine – Dr. R.V. Rajam, noted venereologist. What followed was a delightful tribute by the latter to the former and Dr. Sanjivi’s gracious response. We reproduce the report as it appeared in the Rotary Club of Madras’ in-house magazine The Lighthouse in its issue dated June 29, 1966.

Dr. R.V. Rajam, M.D. M.S. M.R. C.P who presented the award to Dr. Sanjivi said:

“I thank you for asking me to participate in today’s function marking your appreciation of the public work of Dr. Sanjivi, in the domain of health to the community. The legend has it thatin the epic war between Rama and Ravana, Rama and his brother Lakshmana, were temporarily disabled and rendered unconscious from a particularly mental asthiram’ aimed at them by Ravana. The Royal Physician immediately wanted the only rare remedy which will resuscitate the Royal brothers. The ever ready messenger, Hanuman was despatched to obtain the rare herb from the foothills of Himalayas. The air-worthy Hanuman flew to the Himalayas in less time than it takes and unable to identify the particular herbal plant in the dense forest, of the hill, simply dislodged the entire hill and flew back supporting in one hand with a reinforcement by the long posterior appendage. The physician after identifying the particular plant, administered the same to the Royal Brothers, who immediately recovered, fought with greater ferocity and won the war. The parents of the honoured guest of today, had rightly given the name of that wonderful life saving herb Sanjivi.

“I have had the privilege of watching the professional career of Dr. Sanjivi for about four decades, first as a rather shy, soft-voiced, ultra conscientious houseman, then as a physician teacher in training, a professor of medicine and now on the top of the ladder, as the most senior consultant in medicine.

Dr. R.V. Rajam (left) presenting the award to Dr. Sanjeevi (right).

“In the ever widening spectrum of modern medicine, Dr.Sanjivi chose as his speciality, the diseases of the chest with a particular profound study and knowledge of Tuberculosis. He has been taking a continuous lively interest, in Tuberculosis, a No. 1 national health problem, and has contributed a great deal, towards its control in the national organisation. Retrospectively it seems fortunate for the community that he declined the offer of the Director Professorship of the recently established All India Institute of Medical Services at Delhi, and missed the bus of becoming a Director of Medical Services of the State, but through no fault of his own.”

One can safely go to Dr. Sanjivi for a consultation without returning with a two page prescription what with the people’s insatiable desire to take medicine, the doctor’s tendency to overprescribe for every symptom under pressure from graded surgeries and the high pressure salesmanship of the Pharmacetical houses. You will find Dr. Sanjivi a welcome a wholesome relief from the curse of Polypharmacy. But then Dr. Sanjivi is not easily available for a private consultation these days, having committed a sort of Bigamy and wholly preoccupied with the second wife, which goes by the name of the “Voluntary Health Service”.

“Dr. Sanjivi, I have no hesitation, in putting in the category of a Creator, of a Voluntary Community Health Care in our country for the first time; his target, wisely aimed at the marginal lower middle class, who are worse off than the prosperous Industrial Proletarians.”

“The brain behind the germination, sprawling and growth of the young sapling of V.H.S., is almost entirely Dr. Sanjivi. Since 1958, he has worked going about with a whole hearted devotion to make the scheme a success.

“Medicine arises out of primal sympathy of man with man, out of the compassion to help those in sorrow, need and sickness and Dr. Sanjivi has these qualities in abundant measure. With the assistance of a Central Committee of prominent phlanthrophic citizens, and an expert Committee of Doctors, and the generous financial help from generous donors and from the Government – State and Central, Dr. Sanjivi has brought into being a multipurpose Health Centre, affording medical relief, post graduate medical and technical education and research activities pertaining to social and preventive medicine. Enthusiastic young doctors, medical technicians have come forward to help run the show.

“Dr. Sanjivi, is an epitome, of silent service, sacrifice, patience and a purposeful live wire and an innate capacity for public relations. He has the seeming softness that turns away opposition, the deferential word, the interview query, the enthusiastic exclamation, the understanding nod, the tactful gesture. and the kindly laugh. That bring him men and money to his cause. It is a matter of genuine satisfaction and pleasure that the elite, the Rotarians have thought it to honour my professional colleague in recognition of the good work he is doing to the community.

“I feel it a privilege that I have been asked to present to you, Dr. Sanjivi, the token of their appreciation. Institutions have a fatal tendency to follow partisans in their law of unplanned expansion, increasing complexity and inactive decay. But I am quite confident that under Dr. Sanjivi’s stewardship, the Voluntary Health Service Medical Centre will grow from strength to manageable strength in the years to come.

“To the Rotarians and through them to the enlightened citizens of Madras, may I make an appeal for generous financial help to this growing sapling to attain its full maturity.”

Dr. K.S. Sanjivi’s reply:

Receiving the award, Dr. K.S. Sanjivi said:

“I am deeply grateful to the Rotary Club of Madras for this very high honour just conferred on me. When your President so kindly told me about the award, my first reaction was to decline it with grateful thanks — for the simple reason that if I accepted the credit for the implementation of the Voluntary Health Services’ projects I would be qualifying for the award, if there were one, of the title of ‘arch imposter’. For, the V.H.S. is the combined effort of many well-known citizens of Madras not only fellow doctors, but also leaders in other walks of life. Without the sustained co-operation of all these friends and without discriminating assistance from the Union and State Governments and international foundations, it would have been impossible to translate certain ideas into concrete shape in the measure and in the manner in which we seem to have succeeded.

“Your President then showed me a leaflet issued by Rotarian Swamy, Director, Vocational Service, which made it clear that the emphasis of the award was on the contribution to the ideal of service through one’s own vocation. If I may so, the Rotary stressing the worthiness of all useful occupations as an opportunity to serve society is a most commendable idea, very much in the nature of the principle of Swadharma. No doubt there are master minds amongst us who can successively talk on international law, Kalidasa’s poetry and the conquest of space. These rare individuals apart, India’s crying need today is for each one of us to concentrate his thoughts and energies on the limited field of his own vocation bearing in mind that Gokhale’s Mahavakiya that we should spiritualise our public life is equally applicable to our professional life.

“The V.H.S. is an experiment in the organisation of medical care. Very briefly the projects are based on the following concepts. A National Health Service on the British pattern is, for several reasons, out of the question in India today, financial barriers should not stand in the way of any citizen obtaining the best in preventive and curative medical care; health activities should be planned on the basis of a personal service organised and run by the residents of the area; a voluntary health insurance plan which is medical expense insurance though not a disability benefit insurance; many communicable diseases now rampant in India can be prevented by each family setting apart just 1/4 per cent of their annual income; education of doctors, paramedical personnel and the lay public is a function of every Hospital and the arbitrary division of hospitals into teaching and non-teaching should go; and most important of all that every health activity should be centered round the family as the unit and operated through General Practitioners. I do not propose to weary you with further details of the numerous projects already in working at the V.H.S. Medical Centre or about the more numerous problems we have to face in running those projects.

“I wish, however, to stress one point, viz., that whether it is running a Hospital, family planning, tuberculosis control or the operation of an efficient blood transfusion service, doctors by themselves can do very little. The face of India’s health can be changed only, by the devoted work of organisations like yours and individuals who are prepared to place service above self. There is no doubt that sharing of joys and sorrows will enrich us as human beings and strengthen our character.

“Every voluntary health agency urgently requires sincere volunteers who will give two or three hours each week for planned and systematic social work. May I appeal to you, and through you to your families and friends, to help in building up this live corps of volunteers?

“If my words are too feeble, listen to Vivekananda’s teaching,”The poor, the illiterate, the ignorant the afflicted – let these be your God. Know that service to these alone is the highest religion” or to President Kennedy’s warning: “If the free society cannot help the many who are poor it can never save the few who are rich.”

“In this year of international co-operation let us first start with an effective fulfilment of a programme of internal co-operation, co-ordination and mutual understanding between different organisations, devoted to the same ideal of service to fellowmen.

“Let me thank you again for this award which I shall receive with pride and joy.”

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