Through the noisy thoracic surgery ward at St. John’s the sentinel patient ran around announcing ‘Appa is on his way’ and instantly the whole ward was silent with each patient sitting cross legged, head bowed in reverence. Dr.Gerard Mascarenhas Gerry to his friends and Appa to his patients had just finished his operating schedule and had started his ward rounds with his team of surgeons. He strode in with energy despite a hectic operating schedule and started his rounds. People who worked closely with him are aware of his spontaneous generosity for indigent patients. He believed that charity had to be silent and he continued his charitable work and donations without much publicity. After a hectic morning of surgery and patient management he went to his ‘other job’ in the Dean’s office.
As Dean, Gerry was instrumental in reaching out to the state government and making ‘peace’ with the bureaucrats and politicians without yielding on the independent status St. John’s enjoyed in its admission policy. He often used a combination of his charm and his mercurial temper to persuade ‘renegade’faculty to adhere to the institution’s policy. He worked closely with the Alumni association and used several of his personal contacts to raise funds. His tremendous energy was legendary and a bunch of medical students decided that they would work and party for a week like Gerry a week in the life of Gerry Macarenhas. By the end of the second day all of them had given up having lost steam.
At home Gerry continued to enjoy his day and often cooked the delicious appetizers and main courses himself. When he invited us home he treated even an intern like a colleague and friend he had a touch of class in whatever he did. He was proud of his children and he doted on grandchildren and he was Papa to them. Despite being very accomplished he readily acknowledged on several occasions that he would not have not been able to achieve these without his wife Marie’s support.
Gerry trained in Edinburgh and his performance in the FRCS was outstanding prompting the senior examiner to congratulate him in person. He subsequently trained with the legendary Dr. Frank Spencer in the US and was made a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons. He forsook the lucre of private practice to work in jobs which, he believed, would be of service to the people. He was a pioneer in cardiac surgery in India having many firsts to various cardiac surgical procedures in India. He was the Superintendent of SDS sanatorium, Professor and Head of the Department of Thoracic Surgery, Bangalore Medical College before he joined St. John’s.
When he was diagnosed to have lung cancer he met it head on and continued to live a full life for several years until the neurological complications limited these activities. Dean, Professor, cardiac surgeon, pioneer, philanthropist, Gerry, Appa, Papa and chef - these words only partially capture the spirit of Dr. Gerry Mascarenhas