Remembering Dr Sharma
- Dr Sharma was a role model to many young doctors, including myself
Oct 18, 2014-A lot of space in our media has always been given to our ruling class, whether it was the royal family of the past or the feuding politicians of the present. The result of the ‘effort’ of this class of people, who have taken over the task of governing us and taking us towards peace and prosperity, is evident for all to see. Yet, the media relentlessly present these ‘failures’ to us all the time. We have nothing to learn from them, except perhaps how and what not to do when one governs a country.
On the other hand, there are many Nepalis who have excelled at their work and served the people here in this country and have made a great, positive impacts on the lives of their fellow citizens. They come from all professions: doctors, engineers, educators, teachers, government officials, police, judges, business entrepreneurs, and many others. They have served our society in a true sense and have helped make the lives of our people better. In the process, some of them have gained name, fame, and some money, while others have quietly done their job to the best of their abilities without much recognition. Dr Anjani Kumar Sharma, also known as Prof AK Sharma, a famous and popular surgeon, was one of the latter.
Leader and pioneer
Dr Sharma passed away on October 7, at the age of 86, leaving behind a rich history of medical development in our country. Surgical services were virtually non-existent when he joined government service more than 50 years ago. He was the first qualified surgeon in the country and along with his contemporaries—Dr DN Gongol and Dr Bhattacharya—he built surgical services in our country from scratch.
When Dr Sharma came back from the UK after qualifying as a surgeon, Bir Hospital, the country’s premier hospital, did not have a proper operation theatre. He had to help build one! Proper operation theatre lights came later. Until then, he had to operate using kerosene pump lights: ‘petromax lights’. There were no trained and qualified Nepali nurses, only a few Indian nurses. So an additional job of his became to help train qualified nurses in Nepal, which helped make delivery of medical services to patients more complete. There were no gynaecologists or obstetricians, no orthopaedic surgeons, no thoracic surgeons, no neurosurgeons, no eye or ENT surgeons when Dr Sharma started his surgical career here.
In short, Prof Sharma and later, his other colleagues, were true ‘general surgeons’: providing all kinds of surgical services to the people. Many a times, they would even have to give anaesthesia to the patients they would be operating on, due to a lack of anaesthetists. Many kinds of surgeries were performed, many lives were saved and countless people were relieved of their sufferings.
He left Bir Hospital after the establishment of the Institute of Medicine (IoM) and helped train MBBS students in Nepal, which would again play a pioneering role in helping bridge the tremendous gap between the demand and supply of medical doctors in the country. I had the privilege of working at the IoM Department of Surgery with Prof Sharma as a medical officer in 1990. I knew Prof Sharma as a very jovial, pleasant, and approachable person, who was very kind to his patients. I am certain he inspired, encouraged, and was a role model for many young Nepali doctors and medical students.
Others like him
On the strong foundation of the surgical services laid down by Prof Sharma and the first generation of surgeons in Nepal, further rapid progress was possible for the second, third, and now fourth generation of doctors to reach the current level of surgical services available in our country.
However, the objective of this article is not to list Prof Sharma’s numerous achievements (there are just too many of them), but rather, to highlight his most significant contributions to the development of our country. Prof Sharma lives on through the lives of the patients he helped, the doctors he helped train and inspire, and his two sons: one of whom is serving in Nepal as a surgeon and medical educator, and the other as a practicing eye-surgeon in Australia.
There are lots of other people out there from all walks of life serving the people of our country. It would be comforting, encouraging, and even inspiring to know more about those people out there doing their jobs, albeit quietly, and helping improve lives. The media could help build positive thinking and inspire readers by seeking these people out and presenting them to the public.
Dr Lakhey is Professor of Orthopaedics and an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Kathmandu Medical College
Published: 19-10-2014 09:19