Dr Bhargava A real teacher, mentor and role model

Having chosen pathology to specialise in, we were a bunch of new recruits settling down to the laid back ways of the department of pathology at the Victoria Hospital, circa 1969-70. We never saw patients and rarely studied the slides that came in fits and starts.

The moment we heard that Dr Bhargava had been transferred to Bangalore, everyone assured us, ominously at that, the party was over. With a lot of trepidation we awaited the impending doom. But it turned out the experience of our life time.
The first thing Dr Bhargava taught us was that pathology was important in patient care, and that we should be proud to be pathologists. He established a system where histopathology reports would be generated within 48 hours. When he came, our department was receiving about 3,500 specimens per year. But in no time, the number went up to around 8,000 and the efficiency of our department became the talk of the town.
Dr Bhargava’s commitment to work ethics is so well-known, that to repeat it would be like attempting to paint a lily. First to arrive and invariably the last to leave, he introduced the system of morning rounds, which automatically made the rest of us to reach on time.
Despite the tough exterior he had a heart of gold, which responded when faced with real suffering of others. The notorious ward boys and ‘ayahs’, whom no medical superintendent before him had been able to tame, met their match in him.

Among the many reasons quoted by them for being late for work or not found at the work spot was they had to wait in the queue at the nearby drug store, the Janata Bazar. Dr Bhargava quickly organised badges for all the hospital staff so that they did not have to stand in the queue. He was also responsible for the Janata Bazar opening the first 24 hours drug store in the Victoria Hospital complex.

Good use of grants
He was adept at getting government grants for the hospital and our department. The allocation to Victoria Hospital went up five or six fold during his time. One day, he came back from the Directorate of Medical Education and told me to prepare a list of books worth Rs 10 lakh in the next three days. What had happened was that he had found out from the directorate that the other colleges had not utilised the funds allocated for their libraries and he had got the government permission to spend it.

Dr Bhargava was the only man I knew who used his political connections for the good of the institutions he was working for. At the height of his power and prowess, he would neglect even his personal and family commitments in the line of duty. He went on to build Kidwai Memorial Institute of Oncology into one of the biggest cancer institutions in the country. He was awarded a medal by the WHO for making KMIO the fastest growing cancer institute at that time.

The death of his wife, Saraswathi, in the year 2000 shattered him. He went off trekking in the Himalayas and ever since, he was egging me on to do the same. “When you are in the Himalayas, you know what an insignificant figure you are.” He was writing a book on his experiences which never got completed.

Recently, about a month ago, he called me home and gave me his entire collection of books, magazines and priceless collection of slides. “Give it to some institution that is going to put it to good use”, he said.

(The writer served as registrar of Rajiv Gandhi University of Health Sciences)

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