A tribute to Dr Chandrasekhar:
My memory of Dr Chandrasekhar goes back to 1979 as a medical student doing clinical rotations at St Martha’s Hospital. In1982-83, Dr Chandrasekhar took charge as the chief of pediatrics at St Johns Medical College Hospital. It was during that time, the clinical faculty of both St Martha’s hospital and St Johns merged to start clinical services at the newly completed St Johns Medical College Hospital. I still remember the double excitement in the campus about the historic initiation of postgraduate courses at St John’s and about the expansion of all the existing departments. I was fortunate to join as a pediatric postgraduate trainee in the first batch under Dr Chandrasekhar in 1983.
Dr. Chandrasekhar was really a breath of fresh air for the new postgraduate program. He provided the much-needed leadership to rally his faculty to take up the challenges of starting a new postgraduate training program in a very short time. As the new chief of pediatrics, he was full of energy and eager to teach. There was a unique, impressive flair about his clinical and teaching style. During the ward rounds, he would patiently listen to his students and residents with keen interest, paying attention to every detail of the cases presented to him. Students and residents were at ease as there were no frequent interruptions and or belittling of the presenter (used to be called ‘fingering’ then!). No case presentation was complete for him without the urine and stool analysis report. If a resident did not know them, he sure did! A great daily lesson that he taught was to pay attention to small details and to justify one’s clinical decisions based on evidence! He was a pioneer in practicing what we now call ‘Evidence Based Medicine’ way ahead of his times!
Although soft spoken and mild mannered, he pointed out mistakes, provided meaningful feedback to PGs and students alike. Meticulous in his clinical exam, he spent time with each patient, making sure to bring on a smile from patients by doing his hallmark funny faces and or funny sounds. His rounds could last several hours. I recall days when the rounds would start with the morning shift of nurses but end with afternoon shift of nurses. Nurses would quietly slip away for lunch in between replacing themselves with their substitutes. But we, poor PGs and interns, had no choice but to follow him ignoring our growling stomachs and hypoglycemia!
He managed to infuse his love for pediatrics beyond his work arena, and into his family too. Very soon, his beautiful wife Shanti would also become a pediatrician! During my second year, I went through a complicated pregnancy that ended in an emergency C Section on a Sunday night. After the surgery, I learned that Dr Chandrasekhar literarily flew in, was present in the operating room throughout the surgery, ready to resuscitate the baby if needed. In fact, he brought with him his personal neonatal resuscitation kit that night but admitted he did not have to use it as the baby cried immediately after birth.
Rain or shine, hot or cold, Dr Chandrasekhar came impeccably dressed in his suit every working day. He was frank in his discussions and had the humility to admit things he did not know. During the first year of St Johns and St Martha’s separation, when politics and polarization was the norm and topic of campus-wide discussion at teatime and lunchtime breaks, Dr. Chandrasekhar remained above politics, focused on his duties of patient care and clinical teaching. A true grounding, a real role model for all of us then. Every now and then, Dr Chandrasekhar revealed his creative side to us, his PGs. One of his passions was poetry. He wrote short, simple, funny and sweet poetry, often with philosophical undertones to it. Although I cannot remember the exact lines, I still recollect one such poetry somewhat vaguely. It compared human life from conception to the process of making an omelet! Perhaps his family could share his collection of poetry. Since leaving St Johns in 1985, I have visited Dr Chandrasekhar 4-5 times on my vacation trips to India.
Dr Chandrasekhar was a well-rounded pediatric clinician, equally strong in all areas of pediatrics. Later in my own pediatric training, it all made sense to me knowing the fact that he had a well rounded pediatric residency training from the US. In short, Dr Chandrasekhar was my first, best, mentor, teacher and pediatrician role model. I hold great respect for him for laying that early foundation for me with his unique style and approach to pediatrics i.e. with a sense of child-like intrigue and a pure joy!
Dr Chandrasekhar will always be remembered as a great pediatrician, clinical educator and a true legend in his field. I extend my heartfelt condolences to his wife Shanti and his children. May his soul rest in peace and may the good God bless his family with the strength to carry on.
Rest in peace Dr Chandrasekhar
(MBBS Batch of 1974; DCH batch (first) of 1983)
Professor of Pediatrics
Department of Pediatrics
University of California, San Francisco
PS: I found these this pictures digging into my old photo albums. First one was taken during a departmental Xmas party (1983) with the then faculty, PGs and nursing staff.