Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Who's this person - 2

So after profiling Dr.Sudarshan (who incidentally, no one i know, knew), here's another doctor. But this is a medical doctor. People in India should be able to identify this gentleman easily since he is in the news.

Well, this is Dr. P. Venugopal. He's the director (ex-Director after today and you'll soon know why) of the All India Institute of Medical Studies (AIIMS), one of India's premier medical education, research and treatment facilties - and a government funded institute.

A gold medalist at the undergraduate and post-graduate level. Also spent time training under the legendary heart surgeaon Dr. Cooley and the Texas Heart Institute. Regarded as the foremost heart-surgeon on the country he is also the pioneer of open-heart surgery. He performed the first heart transplant in India in the year 1994. He was also in the news last year for his thoughts on stem-cell* research which promises to revolutionarize heart-surgery.

*Stem cells are a unique type of cells which have the potential to become many different types of cells and are capable of renewing themselves indefinitely. For an excellent source of information on stem cell research, see the interactive tutorial at the University of Michigan's site here).

For all his achievements, he is known to be an extremely media-shy person; he once retorted to a journalist who wanted to interview him saying - "I have nothing to tell you and i do not want the publicity".

His decades of dedication at AIIMS have rewarded him with great respect by patients, students and colleagues (except for some, and you'll soon know who).

Patients talk about how they'd rather come to AIIMS rather than go to a private hospital even if they can afford the private hospitals since Dr. Venugopal personally interacts with patients. Students and colleagues are in awe of him.

Unfortunately the dedication for him has come at personal time lost - for a man in his 60s he has a seven year old daughter.

As a person
Known to be down-to-earth, no-nonsense (which has made him unpopular, especially among politicians, you'll know who soon) and a father-figure in the department.

When we himself had to get a heart-operation done last year, he chose his junior-most staff-member(Dr. Bisnoi) to do it saying he is proud of his students and if it was 'good enough for his patients, it was good enough for him too'.

After the operation, the first words on gaining consciousness was asking the doctor on how the other patients were. Read the account here.

Status at present

With 46 (!) years of service at AIIMS, having overseen 50,000 open heart surgeries and 15,000 closed-heart surgeries and tremendous respect all around, you expect the government to treat him well, right? Well, in case you haven't read about it - they sacked him two days ago. With immediate effect.

Yep. Sacked. C'mon, don't put on that shocked face - after all, they're giving him three months salary.

So here's the answer to all the three 'you'll soon know who' stuff that was in the brackets above.

Health minister Ramadoss said he was being sacked on disciplinarian grounds. Dr. Venugopal's fault? He criticized the government for interfering in the hospital's administration. Apparently technically you cannot do this. Something to do with the fact that you are a govt. servant. Talk of freedom of speech. Fact is that the interference was subtantiated by the Public Accounts Committee tabled in Parliament - it talked of excessive intererence impacting the efficiency of the institute.

The best is the way, he was ousted.
1) He was not even on the agenda in the meeting where his fate was sealed!
2) When the topic was brought up, he was asked to leave the room without even getting a chance to explain himself. The minister did not bother about heeding others' advice on this issue.
3) Of the 17 people in that room, most are affiliated to the health ministry. So what do you expect. There were only three dissenting voices. Even those who did not dissent were unhappy with the way the minister rammed his way through. Except one who agreed with the minister. Who was he? MP from TN. Expected.
4) All the time, Dr. Venugopal was waiting outside the room like a petty peon.

When the news was anounced, he was visibly shaken and had to be assisted to his car. The govt. doesn't care if you put your heart and soul into the institute for close to half a century. The govt. is only bothered about power and wants people to keep licking.

And oh, by the way, the person who heads the selection committee at AIIMS is a close relative of Ramadoss. Shameless fellows.

Anyway, Dr. V might should have expected all this. First, he was accused of supporting anti-reservation students, which was not liked by the minister. Of course, this charge has been openly stated to be false. The person who headed the anti-reservation strike said that, on the other hand, Dr. V called him and warned him to call off the strike. Read this here.

When he was on leave last month, two of his aides were removed and replaced with the minister's henchmen. Moreover, the fact that Dr V. was appointed by the previous BJP government apparently wasn't liked by the minister.

So what's next?

Political front: The BJP and the left have both criticized the move. BJP leader, V.K.Malhotra who was in that room and one of three dissenting voices, calls it a black day and speaks of how the autonomy of the institute was being eroded brick by brick.
The Congress - can't expect anything better- says the issue should not be politicized (!) and it was a matter between the ministry and AIIMS. Aiyee?

One more thing - the recommendation of the governing bidy has to be approved by the cabinet. So let's see. But can't see much hope there.

Judicial front: Only hope. Already a petition has been filed by the head of the neurosurgery dept. at AIIMS and 7 others against politicizing the governing body of AIIMS.

Today the Supreme Court severely criticized the minister and told the govt. to "be a model employer"

1 comment:

Sandeep Bhasin said...

India is a democracy. Here, you can do what you like. Even walk away with a murder as well, if you have power! No wonder, my grand father always said that Britishers were better.

Long live Indian democracy!!!