By Dr. Veena Bharathi
The Mysore Medical College and Research Institute (MMC&RI) will be celebrating its centenary year in 2024 and in this background, the Mysore Medical College Alumni Association (MAA) is organising its annual ‘MAA Utsav’ in a special way along with its Alumni Meet on May 27 at the Platinum Jubilee Hall in JK Grounds.
The Association has been continuously organising creative activities and acting as a bridge between old students, who are spread across the nation and the new students, apart from holding programmes related to medical science.
To coincide with the Alumni Meet, here we publish a feature article on one of the proud alumni of Mysore Medical College (MMC) Dr. M.K. Ramesh, MBBS, MS (General Surgery), FRCS (England), who is the current Vice-Chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), Bengaluru, by Dr. Veena Bharathi, his batchmate. —Ed
The boy in his late teens had meritoriously completed his II PUC from DRM College, Davangere. When he was to get selected as an MBBS candidate, being a Medical seat aspirant, the boy’s father (a Government School teacher) suggested him to opt for Bangalore Medical College (BMC). But, the teenager who was an avid reader of the historical novels in Kannada, was fascinated by Mysore and its Palace. Having read “Huliya Haalina Mevu” and “Chikkadevaraya,” he wanted to study in the very first established, prestigious Medical College of Karnataka and had the intention to visit Mysore Palace every weekend, thus preferred to join MMC (Mysore Medical College).
When he did join MMC, like a few other students, he was put off by the smell of Formalin in the Anatomy Hall. He then decided to call it ‘quits’ for MBBS and join the Engineering College at Suratkal. But, the confused teenager put off his academic plans for an entire year and went back to stay with his parents!
“I just went to Suratkal, but did not join for Engineering,” says that boy, the current Vice-Chancellor of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences (RGUHS), Dr. M.K. Ramesh. He spent a year reading a lot of Kannada novels and then, determinedly went back to rejoin the already procured MBBS seat in MMC. He meritoriously completed his MBBS and MS (General Surgery) post-graduation at MMC and K.R. Hospital.
“The discomfort that I used to feel because of the Formalin smell was somehow mitigated by very good teachers and good classmates and room-mates at the Men’s Hostel on JLB Road in Mysore,” recalls Dr. Ramesh.
Dr. Ramesh, a native of Mayakonda village (about 35 kms from Davangere), has never studied in Private Schools or Colleges. He started revealing his leadership qualities, when he got elected as the Literary Secretary of the College, during the third year of MBBS in 1982. During his tenure, he started a cultural platform called ‘Manthan’ which functioned continuously for three years, having become an annual event.
Even when he became a medical intern (House Surgeon), Dr. Ramesh never dreamt about pursuing a Post-Graduation (PG) in Surgery. “When one becomes a medical intern, he/she not only learns to become responsible towards their future profession, but also learns to balance life with hobbies, friends and family. During internship, whenever time permitted, I used to go trekking in Chikmagaluru with my friends. We also used to watch a lot of English movies in Sterling Theatre and Ganesha Talkies in Mysore,” he reminisces.
Dr. Ramesh also recalls that, when due to a Bandh or a Strike, whenever the Hostel Mess was closed down, he and his friends had to thrive by sharing the food, as their allowances from home were very restricted.
“Till we started getting our own monthly stipend of Rs. 600 during internship, on the days of the Hostel-Mess and College-Canteen closure, we had to make do with eating half masala dosa each and a by-two coffee only once a day! Once when we had exhausted all our finances, my roommate Dr. Koshy George poured all the coins that he had collected over a year and gave it to the Hotel Billing counter telling that we had only that much money for an entire week’s food !” smilingly reminisces Dr. Ramesh about the hardships that he and his friends had to go through.
During his internship, Dr. Ramesh got elected as the President of The Junior Doctors’ Association of MMC. “At that time, there was a proposal by the Government of Karnataka that the K.R. Hospital be handed over to a private educational institution, that was about to start a medical college. But, our Junior Doctors’ Association fought against the implementation of the intended proposal. The then Chief Minister Ramakrishna Hegde, who visited Mysore to meet us, withdrew the proposal of handing over of K.R. Hospital to a private educational institution and thus K.R. Hospital was retained exclusively for MMC students,” says Dr. Ramesh.
After his internship, he served as a Government Medical Officer for five years. (In Molakaalmooru for two years, then again for a year in a PHC near SR Hundi and two more years with a PHC in Mysore proper).
Dr. Ramesh got admission into MS – General Surgery PG in K.R. Hospital, Mysore, having served the PHCs, under the Service Candidates’ Quota.
“My mentors Prof. K.G. Nayak and Prof. Giri Gowda sculpted me to become good in the surgical job. I never had any frightening episodes as a PG surgical student. I got trained to do independently small surgeries like appendicectomy under the expert guidance of my mentors in the second year of the PG course and started doing major surgeries under their guidance in the third year of the PG course. The surgical skills associated with Thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid gland) always used to fascinate me,” says the doctor, whose PG course thesis was on “Perforative peritonitis.”
Dr. Ramesh has retained his habit of walking from along side the Kukkarahalli Kere bund to the Men’s Hostel on JLB Road in Mysuru, whenever he visits Mysuru as a non-official like for an Alumni Meet etc. “This was a routine I cultivated during my PG days, since I stayed in an accommodation in Kuvempunagar,” he says.
After becoming a qualified surgeon, Dr. Ramesh joined as a Lecturer and then as an Associate Professor at BMC. In 2017, Dr. Ramesh was the acting VC at RGUHS for about eighteen months, before which he also had a tenure of being a Registrar (Evaluation) at RGUHS. In 2019, he was transferred back to Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute to head the Department of Surgery.
In 2020, Dr. Ramesh was elected as The President of the PG Medical Higher Education Board of the National Medical Commission, New Delhi. “Though my tenure was for four years, after one-and-a-half years, I needed to resign from the post, as I was selected as the VC of RGUHS by the Government of Karnataka.
I assumed charge as VC in February 2022,” says Dr. Ramesh, who monitors about 1,400 educational institutions under the academic umbrella of RGUHS.
He does not believe in sailing through two boats, hence he does not miss his surgery days. “I do interact with students during the annual convocation days. I do not find my job stressful, since I focus on the work during official hours, and compartmentalise my mind and stay rooted once the official hours are over,” says the Vice-Chancellor, who has not been on the Golf Field since three months due to the heat wave and a busy academic schedule. But he does go for an hour of long walk in the mornings, at least five days in a week.
He aspires to make RGUHS to be more student- friendly (which he already has done, since he keeps permitting a couple of physically challenged medical students to have half an hour of extra writing time during main examinations) and also to promote more research activities in the medical and genetic fields by continued collaborations with IISc, Bengaluru.
A noteworthy alumnus of MMC&RI, Dr. Ramesh has moulded himself in his realm to reflect John Maxwell’s quote that “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.”