City’s Nonagenarian Doctor Has No Plans To Call It A Day
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02 July 2010
By Pushpa Narayan
Dr Venugopal, 93, Is Still A Sought–after Urologist
Dr A Venugopal could not take many calls on Thursday from people who wanted to wish him a happy Doctors’ Day. For he was attending to a patient in an intensive care unit. Nothing unusual for a busy urologist, but for his age. At 93, Venugopal is the oldest practising doctor in the city. And he has no plans to retire.
Everyday, this nonagenarian sees at least eight patients, does his ward visits, updates himself on the latest advancements in medicine reading medical journals, and offers opinion to fellow doctors who seek his help. He is planning to publish his latest book on urology.
"I don’t know what I would do if I don’t go to my clinic. I have been going there since 1947," he says. Born to Dr Lakshmanaswami Mudaliar, a renowned obstetrician–gynaecologist and former vice–chancellor of the University of Madras on June 18, 1917, Dr Venugopal has always been passionate about medicine. Though his two other siblings A Rao and AL Mudaliar chose other professions, he went to Madras Medical College and graduated in 1940.
He did his post–graduation in surgery at the same college. Two years later, he started his own hospital on Poonamallee High Road, then known as Chennai’s Harley Street for the clinics and hospitals it housed.
"I was called to work as an honorary clinical professor of surgery at MMC in 1952 and I worked there for 37 years," he reminisces, sitting at his 860, Poonamallee High Road residence, dressed in a smart yellow shirt and dark trousers.
He started the first urology department in the country at the college in 1967. "There were four golden rules of medicine framed by my father – you should be accountable, approachable, affordable and achievable. I worked hard to be each of this," he says.
Other doctors vouch for it. "We have always been in awe of Dr Venugopal for his knowledge and his caring attitude," says Dr BS Tiruvadanan, general surgeon at Sundaravadanan Nursing Home.
During his stint at MMC, Dr Venugopal suggested the setting up of a medical university, which was later accepted by the government. "Today, I am unhappy that the powers given to universities are so limited. I wonder how the Medical Council of India can be the sole authority on medical education. It’s like having a Supreme Court and no lower court," he says.
He wakes up at 5 am and is in the clinic at 8 am. "I need at least half an hour with each patient. I listen to them, examine them and counsel them. This takes time. I have slowly withdrawn from surgery, but I do see patients post–operation," he says. His patients come from all over the country. While most of them are complex cases referred by senior doctors, others are patients who he has been following up for four decades.
Dr Venugopal has authored scores of articles, editorials and research papers in medical journals, besides contributing to text books for medical students. "I have just finished an update on a text book of urology which will be printed soon. There is more to do," he says, retiring to his library packed with the latest medical journals.