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Tandon, PN (2004) Prof. B. Ramamurthi: Contributions to Indian neurosurgery (A personal tribute). Neurology India, 52 (1). pp. 18-20.

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Abstract

It is a privilege to have been asked to contribute to the commemorative volume of Neurology India being published to honor the memory of Prof. B. Ramamurthi who was its Founder Editor. So soon after his passing away, it won't be easy for me to not be emotional since I have been so close to him for nearly four decades. Before I write about his contributions to neurosurgery I take the liberty to record a few personal anecdotes which reflect his outstanding qualities. Soon after I returned to India in 1961 after completing my neurosurgical training at Oslo and Montreal and joined my Alma Mater - the King George's Medical College, Lucknow as a CSIR Pool Officer, I was very pleasantly surprised to receive a letter - the first ever - from Dr. B. Ramamurthy (BRM), welcoming me to the neurosurgical fraternity of India, referring to the difficulties a new comer was likely to face and offering to provide all help whenever needed. I was really touched by this gracious act, coming from someone I had never met, who was already an acknowledged leader in the field. I had of course heard about him from my mentor Prof. Kristiansen who had known him personally and was greatly impressed by his intellectual and professional attainments. This letter was the beginning of a lifelong personal bond which soon extended to our families. I first met him personally during the meeting of the Neurological Society at Calcutta (Kolkata) in January 1962. I was overwhelmed by the genuine warmth of his friendship, and his graciousness in making a beginner like me feel accepted as a fellow traveler in the march to promote neurosurgery in India. Looking back at these events I have often wondered how many of us have extended such a warm welcome to our younger colleagues. A couple of years later, after I had moved to AIIMS, New Delhi, we decided to organize a seminar on neuroradiology, primarily for postgraduates and young faculty members. BRM happened to be in Delhi for some other meeting. He spent most of his time attending the seminar just like any other student. At the end he paid to get a set of the teaching slides prepared for the occasion of the seminar. Imagine what a boost it was for our ego when he later told us that he used these slides for teaching. It also reflected his thirst to learn from whatever source and this remained his trait till the very end. In 1965 I first experienced the warm hospitality of Mrs. Ramamurthy at their home. On my way to the Neurology Society Annual Conference at Vellore, on his invitation, I had decided to stay at Madras, to visit his already well-known department at a time when we were still struggling to establish one at AIIMS. The personal attention I received from both of them - at home and in the hospital is still fresh in my memory. Over and above I felt even more proud to be driven with him in his car to Vellore. The bond of our friendship progressively increased. For several years, when he visited Delhi he stayed with us at home and at Madras an affectionate welcome always awaited me at his home. While working together on the Textbook of Neurosurgery our interaction became more and more frequent. During the final stages of its preparation I spent a week at their home, when we worked from early morning to late at night with only brief interludes necessitated by only the most unavoidable demands of his official responsibilities. Notwithstanding a retinue of house help, both of them would personally look after every aspect of my comfort. My wife and I had a memorable holiday with them at their Kodaikanal residence. Let me narrate a couple of instances providing a window to his professional and scientific working. In a report published by the Institute of Neurology, Madras, I discovered some discrepancies in the data. I mentioned these to him while we were flying together to Madras. Unlike many others who would have liked to dismiss these as of little consequence, he took me straight to the Institute when we arrived at Madras. To my surprise the first thing he did was to call for all the admission discharge registers meticulously maintained in his office and I was requested to review these to discover the source of the anomalies pointed out by me. I could find the underlying flaw in the recording system responsible for the conflicting data. Steps were immediately instituted to remedy the same. During one of my visits to Madras, I found him somewhat anxious. I discovered that he was worried about an adolescent son of a doctor colleague who was admitted with progressive paraparesis. His neurology colleagues had suspected an intramedullary tumor. He asked me to examine the patient and discuss with his colleagues. According to my assessment it was unlikely to be an intramedullary tumor. Even after a myelogram (this was before the CT/MRI era) the neurologist in charge insisted on his diagnosis. The next day, following laminectomy when no tumor was seen and the spinal cord appeared somewhat broadened, I suggested looking anterior to the cord. BRM then requested me to join him at surgery. A developmental cyst anterior to the cord was easily excised. He did not hesitate to inform the mother of the patient about the help he received from me. Of course the neurologist concerned had to treat the whole team to ice cream that night. We were very keen to host the Ninth World Congress of Neurosurgery in India. This was virtually agreed to by the World Federation. At the last moment an unexpected hitch was created. In the past, on several occasions, the President of the Federation and of the Congress had been the same person from the host country. Therefore, the Neurology Society had proposed Dr. Ramamurthy to be the President of both. However, the then office bearers of the Federation insisted that if he wished to be the President of the Federation, the Congress President (and hence the Congress) could not be from India. He came to Delhi, discussed his dilemma with me, but without any hesitation he offered to withdraw from the Presidentship of the Federation so that the World Congress could be held in India. And what glory it brought to the country. This single event, more than anything brought Indian Neurosurgery to the global attention even though it meant him being deprived of a well-deserved honor of becoming the President of the World Federation.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Neurodegenerative Disorders
Neuro-Oncological Disorders
Neurocognitive Processes
Neuronal Development and Regeneration
Informatics and Imaging
Genetics and Molecular Biology
Depositing User: Dr. D.D. Lal
Date Deposited: 05 Feb 2020 11:35
Last Modified: 05 Feb 2020 11:35
URI: http://nbrc.sciencecentral.in/id/eprint/550

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