From Peasantry to Pediatrics, Dr.M.Ramasamy’s Magical Touch Brought Smiles To Children

“Don’t worry, your son is as heavy as an American baby. He is well nourished and has the strength to withstand the whooping cough that is bothering him. Your child will be okay soon, “were the comforting words of the iconic paediatrician Dr.M.Ramaswamy to Aravindakumari and Govindarajulu of Vysial Street. Today the once chubby child Suresh is working as a gemmologist at Toronto in Canada. The magic hand of Dr.Ramaswamy has ensured that many a child became fine. His autobiography ‘A Million Children’s Lives Touched: A Journey from Peasantry to Paediatrics’ is really worth the read. The book is full of illustrations, anecdotes and references all through. Dr.B.K.Krishnaraj Vanavarayar has rendered a fine foreword. The book is dedicated to Nina and Harsha – the grandchildren of Dr.Ramaswamy. It has been published by Meenakshi Ramaswamy and the lovely illustrations (the book is full of them) have been done by V.Saravana Kumar.
Dr.Ramaswamy was born in the year 1940 at Palathurai to Muthuswamy Gounder and Periyamma. His grandfather Ramanna Gounder had been a devotee of Lord Karamadai Ranganathar. The father Muthuswamy Gounder was proficient in Tamil and was adept in singing folk songs. He used to recite stories from the epics of the land – Ramayana and Mahabharatha. The neighbours used to flock at the open courtyard of their house in order to listen to the stories connected with the epics. At times, Muthuswamy Gounder used to mono act some roles and delight the spectators. Doctor’s mother Periyamma was not handicapped by her lack of education. She saw with her eyes, spoke clearly with her tongue, thought rationally with her brain and felt the joy and sorrow with her heart. It was due to interest that doctor become a big person.
The early part of doctor’s education was at the Government Elementary School and this was followed by his studies at the Sri Ramakrishna Mission Vidyalaya founded by T.S.Avinashilingam Chettiar. The students wore homespun cotton fabrics during those early years of our republic. There was more of a patriotic fervor for many had seen the struggling brethren sacrificing their all for freedom. It was in the Vidyalaya that he developed his friendship with V.P.Veluswamy and it has stayed on for good. The PUC was at P.S.G College and the good doctor picked up 100 select verses of Kamba Ramayanam during the programme. Dr.M.Ramaswamy hailed from a family which was farming but it had been doing so on leased land.
Dr.Ramaswamy got his medical admission and began the sojourn by starting off at the St.Josephs College. Father Erhardt had left a good impression on the aspiring young man. He remembers Prof.Kannapiran of P.S.G Arts also. Later, the youngster went on to do his MBBS at MMC (Madras Medical College) which was founded in the year 1835. The Government General Hospital had been founded at Madras in 1664 by the East India Company. Dr.Ramaswamy remembers and has acknowledged the help received from P.T. Ayyaswamy Gounder, R.S.Nanjappa Gounder, Dr.N.Mahalingam and C.K.Kumaraswamy Gounder.
The good doctor cleared his ECFMG (The Educational Council for Foreign Medical Graduates, currently known as USMLE) at Chennai. Thereafter he moved to the USA for his higher education. He got an internship at Saint Peter’s hospital in Albany (New York State). Thomas Alva Edison had been associated to this place. The doctor got himself a Volkswagen beetle car for 1200 $ in the USA. The exchange rate had been 4.50 Rs per dollar those days. Dr.Ramaswamy got an opportunity to attend a guest lecture by one of the eminent paediatricians of North America – Dr.Robert Mckay. He illustrated his talk with Kodak 35 mm transperancies and Dr.Ramaswamy was enchanted by his exposition for he observed enormous clarity and conviction in the great man. Therefore he decided to take up paediatrics.
Dr.Ramaswamy’s Paediatric Residency was at Lincoln Hospital in New York. It was here that he came under the supervision of Prof. Arnold. H.Einhorn. It used to be said that Adolf Hitler shock the tree and America collected the apples. Dr.A.H.Einhorn was one of those apples ! Dr.Einhorn had migrated to the USA in 1956 and was proficient in many languages. Dr.Ramaswamy had everything under the sun and this helped him to assimilate knowledge backed by experience. Besides all this, Dr.Einhorn used to invite everyone to his house for a regular get together regularly for he wanted everyone to feel at home. Dr.Ramaswamy got the chance to meet a number of world leaders in the field of paediatrics – Alexander Nadas from Boston, Prader from Zurich, Merchant from Mumbai, Wilkinson from London. He had also met Swami Satchithananda in the USA.
Prof Arnold. H. Einhorn requested Dr.M.Ramaswamy to become one of the Chief Residents in the Department of Paediatrics at the City Hospital in New York City. The Residency Programme in North America used to result in non stop work for the trainees. It used to stretch up to 72 hours on certain occasions. Almost the entire learning came by actual management of cases under the supervision of Senior Resident Physicians and attending Paediatricians. Dr.Ramaswamy had made liberal use of the library. He completed and passed the examination by the American Academy of Paediatrics and became a qualified paediatrician. This meant that he could practice in the USA or elsewhere. In fact Prof Einhorn used to jokingly state that ‘Get Married to a French girl and be part of our teaching and training programme.”
Dr.M.Ramaswamy underwent the Socratic method of learning in the USA – A method of learning that relied on asking pertinent questions and obtaining satisfactory answers to solve the problem. “I wish that our educational system fostered this learning method from the early kindergarten years,” smiled Dr.M.Ramaswamy.
However Dr.M.Ramaswamy felt that he should take care of his family and also serve the country. Finally he left the USA in 1968 and set up shop on the Diwali of the same year at Ramnagar in Coimbatore. A complete US yatra was done by him and this was accompanied by a European visit.
Dr.Ramaswamy came back to Coimbatore and did his duty to his parents in accordance with our scriptures. After settling the family he got married to Meenakshi and the couple are blessed with Murali (USA) and Priya (UK). Dr.Ramaswamy was also offering his services on an honourary basis at the Coimbatore Medical College Hospital for sometime and he has been greatly disturbed because of the conditions prevalent in India because of bureaucratic red tapism. The doctor feels that things will have to change in the interest of the people. He had served there at the behest of Dr.Narayanan.
The students at the budding Coimbatore Medical College got an opportunity to learn from the bright young Dr.M.Ramaswamy. The early morning audio visual sessions with colour transparencies were a welcome departure from monotony for the students. He believed in the Chinese proverb – To hear is to forget, to see is to remember and to do is to know it. Dr.Ramaswamy served as a paediatrician and he became very famous. His diagnosis was fantastic and many of his students are famous around the world.
Dr.Ramaswamy joined the game of golf and this led him to do different things. He developed a good friendship with many including G.K.Rajagopal of Lakshmi Mills, who had put the city on the golf map of the country. Dr.V.P.Subbian, G.Venkataraman, Shanthi Gears Subramaniam and Eltex V.Jaganathan were well known to him. Golf and the Masonic movement gave Dr.M.Ramaswamy an opportunity to serve the society in a big manner.
The Masonic Medical Centre came about and grew because of the good work of freemasons. Industrialist G.K.Devarajulu did his part by putting together the property and he was ably supported by many in this venture. Auditor N.R.Doraiswamy played a stellar role. Dr.Krishnaswamy, Dr.Nandini Kumaran, Dr.Usha Ilango, Dr.Ramkumar Raghupathy and many others have found a mention in the autobiography. There is special mention of Dr.Srimathi. Dr.Ramaswamy has acknowledged the role of R.Somasundaram and P.R.Rathinam of the Masonic Movement. More than 300 paediatricians have been trained thus far in the Masonic Hospital.
Dr.M.Ramaswamy has initiated an endowment oration in the name of his mentor Dr.Einhorn in order to celebrate his visit to Coimbatore. The good doctor is of the opinion that advertisements connected with the field of medicine are unethical. He felt that if one puts in public service it is good. Public service will make all the doctors feel at ease and therefore he never wanted a hospital for himself. No wonder he is fully involved with the Masonic Medical Centre for Children.
“It is my conviction that the only way for the vast majority of our people to enjoy the fruits of modern medicine is to ensure, as our former President Dr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam had said, that all public institutions are to be run with modern methods of management. They should continuously strive to be second to none in terms of quality of care,” stated Dr.M.Ramaswamy. It is a real mission statement. Coimbatore is happy to enjoy the benefits of good health care due to the efforts of committed and noble minded doctors like Dr.M.Ramaswamy.
—Rajesh Govindarajulu

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