Volume 10 - Issue 11
December 2012
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Posted on : Dec 13, 2012


“My Main Aim is to Serve the Lord”

- a short conversation with Dr. V. R. Vasuki

Baba unfurled the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Puttaparthi in November 22, 1991. It started with the Department of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery, and slowly many other disciplines were added. The Department of Urology began in 1992, Ophthalmology in 1994, Plastic Surgery in 1997 and Orthopaedics in 2006.

Till date the Department of Orthopaedics has done close to 9000 surgeries and 170,000 out patient consultations. Dr. V. R. Vasuki, after over a decade of experience in Orthopaedic Surgery joined Baba's Super Specialty Hospital in Puttaparthi in the year of the inception of this department in 2006. Today he is the Head of this Department leading a team of 18 doctors and says, “One probably gets such an opportunity only once in a lifetime – to serve the Lord.”

In this brief conversation with Radio Sai's Bishu Prusty recorded on the eve of SSSIHMS-PG's 21st anniversary, Dr. Vasuki recollects the initial days of the setting up of this department and the journey it has traversed so far, and also what is that which adds so much vibrancy to this relatively new section of the Hospital. This was recorded inside the orthopaedic operation theatre on November 21, 2012.

Radio Sai: Sai Ram! The Department of Orthopaedics in the Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences was started in 2006. Even though it is one of the newer departments in the Hospital, we do know for a fact that it has done tremendous service given the number of cases and the types of cases it has handled. Could you please share with us your recollections about those initial days of the department and where we are today?

Dr. Vasuki: The Department of Orthopaedics was started on Guru Poornima Day in 2006. You would be aware that there are no Orthopaedic facilities in a radius of 200 km around Puttaparthi. Initially, even our hospital did not have a dedicated Orthopaedics department; patients had to go all the way to Bangalore for treatment.

Few Orthopaedic surgeries were performed before the department came into being. All of us used to pray fervently to Bhagawan to start a dedicated department. Our prayers went on for over eight years! Every time we approached Him, He told us to wait. And one fine day Bhagawan told us, “Okay, now go and start the department.”

  DR. VASUKI, orthopedic department, sathya sai super hospital, puttaparthi
  Dr. V. R. Vasuki, Head, Dept. of Orthopaedics, SSSIHMS - PG

Everybody thought the department would be set up in the Super Specialty Hospital in Bangalore. But Bhagawan thought otherwise. He willed that the department be established in Puttaparthi itself. His thoughts were to serve the rural people who were without advanced Orthopaedic services.

When the department came into being, we had to submit a departmental project report in March-April, and the department had to go operational from July – in barely three months! The department had no infrastructure – no operation room or out patient department (OPD). But in due course, we finally identified the location of the Orthopaedic OPD section where activities such as OTA (Orthopaedic Trauma cases) would take place. You would have noticed that the operation theater complex here is modular. They are unique and state of the art. In India, only a few hospitals have such operation theatres.

However, before July 2006 we had hardly anything in place. The instruments for the operation theatres, which were imported from Italy, were lying unused. They had been placed in the hospital a long time ago, but had not been assembled. But Swami’s plans were well ahead. Swami had stated that the equipments would be used for Neurosurgery, but that department was started in Bangalore, not here. Thus, these instruments were now to be used for the new Orthopaedic department!

dr. vasuki with sathya sai baba, sri sathya sai super hospital, puttaparthi  

Next we had to install air conditioning systems in the operation theaters. When we called the technicians and informed them that the systems had to be in place in three months, they replied that it would not be possible before 4-5 months. But Bhagawan sent one person who said he would be able to put it up in just a week!

However, the instruments continued to be a problem. Even the day before the inauguration, the instruments had not been put into place! What were we to do? But Bhagawan’s divine will prevails.

Things fell into place the night before and thus, finally, on the day of inauguration everything was set. It takes about 1–2 years to set up a high-tech Orthopaedic department which includes a lot of ground work infrastructure. But, by His will, the department opened in just three months.

Next was the vital issue of the serving doctors. The department was inaugurated with two doctors – Dr. Varadachari and Dr. Kailash Rao – in the roster. However, Dr. Varadachari, who lived in the US, used to visit the department once every couple of months. I joined the department 15 days after the inauguration. That made it three. Apart from that we had two Orthopaedic specialists to take care of the entire department. That was the picture in 2006.

During those initial days, we were not sure where we were going – what types of patients we were going to treat or the types of surgeries we would perform. Even though we knew what we are trying to do, we didn’t know what type of surgery we would perform as most of our patients were from the villages. And with the entire medical treatment free of cost, we knew we will have patients from across the country.

We started performing simple surgeries and slowly started getting patients with more complications such as deformities, diseases and complicated Orthopaedic trauma. We started with the outpatient section and operation room and then established the emergency department. Our operation theaters are very modern. We started with two operation theaters, now we have one more. We also have a post-operative ICU. You can now visit the entire Orthopaedic theater complex, which is extensive and exclusively dedicated to Orthopaedics. You will find such an exclusively dedicated Orthopaedic operation theatre complex in very few hospitals in the country. In fact, this is the biggest operation theater complex in the entire hospital.

The Orthopaedic Operation Theatre in Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Medical Sciences, Prasanthi Nilayam

Thus, our work grew over a period of time. 50-60 operations in no time became 150. Then it grew to 300. In 2008 a few more doctors joined us. As the doctors got interested in the work, we had to provide them training to improve their skills. Within two years, we were given approval to conduct Post Graduate Diploma courses by the Government of India. This helped bring in junior doctors. The numbers have grown. We now have about 18 doctors. The number of surgeries have tripled. The number of outpatients have also tripled.

We have not only grown in numbers, but have also branched out into related fields. What started from humble beginnings and without proper infrastructure has now become an advanced department.

RS: What makes this department tick?

Dr. Vasuki: The willingness to work and our unity. Everybody is united as a team to work; it is not only just one person, Dr. Vasuki, who works. It also includes the doctors who put their heads together. There is just one thought and unity in work. Every team member is willing to learn and serve. That’s what makes the department tick.

RS: And given that we have this encouraging spirit, you, as the head of the department, must have plans to take the department forward. Where do you see this department in the next 5 –10 years?

Baba inaugurating the International Orthopaedic Conference in SSSIHMS, Puttaparthi in 2009

Dr. Vasuki: We were new about five years ago. Today we are offering our junior doctors training to make them competent Orthopaedic surgeons. We are looking at the areas where we can train Orthopaedic surgeons themselves.

When an Orthopaedic surgeon joins us, he or she would be trained in a particular specialty such as joint replacement. We would now like to train them to refine their knowledge in joint replacement and expand into other areas as well, such as in Paediatric Orthopaedic Surgery. We call these fellowship programs.

We are also interested in research especially with universities. We do all these things with the aim of contributing substantially to the field of Orthopaedics. Thus, our primary aim is to train junior Orthopaedic surgeons and streamline the specialties in Orthopaedics. The Orthopaedics itself has many sub-specialties. We are streamlining ourselves to each sub-specialty. As stated earlier, we will focus on the research and learning so what we can contribute to the development of Orthopaedics. We have now started a Chondrocyte culture cell culture lab. We are probably the only Orthopaedic department in our country that has a cell culture lab attached to the department. I do not think any other Orthopaedic department in this country has a dedicated cell culture lab.

The Vice Chancellor of SSSIHL, Dr. Sashidhar Prasad inaugurating the Chondrocyte Culture Lab at SSSIHMS, July 25 2012

This is the future path of the department. We are interested in delving deeper into advanced research.

RS: One final question: You have been serving in the hospital for 5-6 years now. You are always full of energy and with no regrets of working here for all these years. Earlier you have worked in many other hospitals. How does it feel to work here? What motivates you to come to this hospital to work every morning?

Dr. Vasuki: The main aim here is to serve the patient. My aim is to serve the patient irrespective of whether he or she is rich or poor and his or her socio-economic status. The patient will get the complete treatment that he or she needs.

As doctors, we are not biased. Everybody is a VIP here - we render services completely to our patients. We cannot tell them, “You don’t have money. Go home.” As cost is not a factor here, doctors can offer the best to the patient.

The Chondrocyte Culture Lab is being used as a part of a proposed study being conducted in collaboration with the Department of Biosciences, Sri Sathya Sai Institute of Higher Learning. Seen in the picture are members of the Orthopaedic and Biosciences Dept. (second from right: Dr. Vasuki)

The second thing is learning. We all have the enthusiasm to learn because medical science evolves every day. There are new concepts coming up every day, new things that interest us. This motivates us. The willingness to serve the society as much as we can and the spirit to repay to society whatever we have learnt is what drives us here.

We should repay the society properly and not just for the sake of repayment. The treatment we provide here is of the highest standards. This gives us doctors the drive to achieve our maximum professional potential. The other aspect is that we are all spiritually motivated. The spiritual atmosphere here - the colleagues, the administration, everybody - is motivated to serve the Lord. One probably gets such an opportunity only once in a lifetime – to serve the Lord.

Thank you and loving Sai Ram,
Team Radio Sai

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