CHENNAI: Paediatrician Dr Chitra Ayyappan and orthopedician Dr R Shivakumar from Madurai were among the physicians who were felicitated by the Tamil Nadu Medical Council, for their impeccable service in the medical field, at Raj Bhavan on Monday. They recently received the Doctor’s Day Medical Excellence Award. Dr Shivakumar is the chairman and executive director of Preethi Institute of Medical Sciences & Research Center (PIMS) in Madurai whereas Dr Chitra works with Apollo Madurai. The medical practitioners interacted with CE about their journey and the changes in the health sector in Madurai in the last two decades.
What inspired you to become a doctor?
Chitra: Five generations of my family have been doctors. My mother Dr Lalitha Ananthasubramaniam is who primarily inspired me to take up medicine. She felt determined to contribute to the field of medicine and observing her from close quarters, motivated me to excel as well. I have held different posts in the government health sector for about 28 years. After retiring as the director of the Institute of Child Health and Hospital for Children, Egmore, I am now a senior consulting physician in Apollo Madurai. My desire to look at this profession as a service keeps me going.
Shivakumar: I come from a middle-class background and my parents were government school teachers. I wanted to do well in academics and a desire to pursue medicine developed gradually. Once I entered Madurai Medical College, I was keen to specialise in orthopaedics. I have been in this field for 26 years now and have received over nine awards from the state. My major inspirations in life are teachers who have taught some invaluable life lessons during college.
What do you consider your biggest achievement or contribution to the medical field?
C: A doctor’s best achievement is a happy patient. The words we hear from them when they are cured are what we treasure. Apart from being a paediatrician, I also specialised in neonatology and played a role in developing the neonatology unit in Madurai GH.
I have been part of plenty of public health camps, open forums and awareness sessions in the rural areas around Madurai. I am satisfied I have been able to reach out to a lot of women and children in this region.S: Poliomyelitis was once a widely spread disease that resulted in physical disabilities in people. Over time, it has been eradicated considerably. Similarly, cerebral palsy is now becoming a threatening disease among newborns.
With the help of a local group called Sankalp, I have been actively involved in helping patients with cerebral palsy. I have performed over 350 successful surgeries so far. Though it is a lifetime condition, through these surgeries, we can improve the quality of life in children. These surgeries are also performed at a subsidised cost. Apart from this, I have also been conducting free awareness camps about the same around Madurai.
How has the health sector in Madurai changed in the last two decades?
C: Madurai has come a long way in terms of medical infrastructure and facilities; the number of super specialty hospitals in the city has increased over the years. This is natural considering the fact that Tamil Nadu is a hub for medical tourism and has world-class medical facilities. When it comes to medical insurance given by the government too, the monetary benefits provided to all are excellent.
S: In Madurai, the diagnostic approach of the hospitals in identifying and treating ailments has improvised over the years. When it comes to cardiology, orthopaedics, diabetes, electro physiology and many other branches in medicine, we have world-class equipment as well as physicians. While you have to wait for three to six months in a country like UK to get a single MRI scan done, you can do it in a matter of few hours in Madurai or in most cities in India. That is a privilege we don’t value enough. With AIIMS coming to the city soon, the future of the health sector here looks bright.
What are some of the challenges medical practitioners face?
C: As a doctor, you tend to compromise on your own health and personal time, and prioritise patients and their needs. When you have a career spanning more than two decades, at some point, you start questioning whether your efforts are truly valued by others. Though you don’t get definitive answers for this, you have to continue providing your service wholeheartedly.
S: In this digital age where a lot of information about health is available online, I think the trust that patients had on doctors has gone down. While we understand people’s intent to remain health conscious, it is not advisable to gain half-knowledge about what your illnesses are, through the Internet. Select a doctor or a hospital and believe that they are here only to help you.