Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy Kallya joined the department of Surgery, Kasturba Medical College, Manipal as a junior lecturer in 1986 and is working as professor since 2001. He has been adjudged as the best teacher at KMC for 5 years. He is the author of many text books related to surgery and medicine. He is also the president of Udupi District Chess Association, and was selected unanimously as Vice President of United Karnataka Chess Association in september 2011. This soft spoken and extremely courteous ocean of surgical knowledge kindly consented to spare some time for this interview for ManipalBlog.com.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Thank you so much for sparing your valuable time for this interview. We’ll start first with a little about your background. What makes you who you are?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: I was born In Karkala, a town 30 kilometres from Manipal wherein I did my primary education. My Father, Late Devaraya Shenoy was a Canara Bank Manager and a good chess player, from whom I learnt my chess. My mother Smt Jaya D Shenoy could not study due to sudden death of her father. Her father – My grandfather Late Damodar Shenoy popularly known as Janna Mastru was the first head master of the government primary school at Karkala . I did my primary schooling in SVS college, Katapadi and PUC in MGM College. My interest in singing and music was kindled at SVS College, Katapadi.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Could you please narrate how a day in the life of a Surgeon attached to a Medical College goes about for our readers.
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: A surgeon’s life, at a medical college, starts with postgraduate teaching at 8 AM. This is followed by ward rounds (to treat patients who are admitted in the hospital) at 9 am and teaching undergraduates from 11 am till 12-30 pm. Operation hours twice weekly are a bit stressful because we operate on different types of cases – Major cases, complicated and high risk cases. Music in the Operation Theater, a cup of coffee in the canteen and a bit of entertainment from the TV help in reviving the spirits of the surgeon.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What did you like most about teaching, which made you join this profession? Why do you continue?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: I was mainly inspired by my teachers from Government Medical College, Bellary and KMC, Mangalore especially teachers of surgery and in particular Prof C R Ballal. Because of them I joined a teaching institution. I am thankful to all the teachers who laid a good foundation in my primary education. What I like about teaching is that I am also contributing something to society – to mould good doctors who are needed at this hour. It is the passion for teaching that has earned me recognition and the Good Teacher award 5 times at KMC, four of them consecutively! I continue in KMC Manipal because the institution has given me all opportunities to grow along with institution.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What is the hardest part of what you do?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: To console the relatives of a dying patient who is the sole bread earning member of the family.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What do you believe you do the best at and why?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: Teaching undergraduate students. You can know that from the feedback of students, their expression, gestures and responses. If a batch of students of 8 attend all my clinical classes without missing a single class and proudly acknowledge that we like your teaching, I feel happy.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Do you have mentors or collaborate with peers?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: My mentors at KMC include Prof MG Shenoy who taught me how simple one can be with a sea of knowledge, Prof Anand Rao who taught me how much kind hearted a surgeon should be and Prof Santhosh Pai who taught me clinical wisdom. Because of whom I decided to continue in the institution because they trained me, educated me and looked after me well too. Prof Santhosh Pai with whom I worked as an assistant for the longest period (7 years) told me that it was his duty to train me because I could be operating on his son or relative in the future.
Two of his quotes were:
1. Everyones’ blood is red. Hence treat everyone equal.
2. Blackboards do not bleed. Hence it looks very simple to draw operative surgery diagrams easily on the blackboard.
Today I am continuing with their policy.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What do you wish you would have learned in college/grad school?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: Maturity and a mind to serve people.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Retrospectively speaking, when you completed your MBBS, your undergraduate degree, where did you picture yourself?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: I had decided to do surgery. Unlike the present day medical graduates, I was not sure where I would be . I thought that I may be in some taluk or town, practising surgery.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What do you feel about the medical education system of India? What will be your suggestion to improve the medical education system of India?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy:Medical education system in India has become the sea of knowledge but without wisdom. Swami Vivekanand said it does not matter how much knowledge you acquire or how much you read but it matters how you apply – that is wisdom. Knowledge is expanding. Even Medical Council of India has difficulty in defining how much an MBBS student should know. Whether the present day teaching is really useful to them or not is the question? More practical training during MBBS programme is required, more hospital postings and problem oriented discussions should take place. It is not clear what type of specialists are required for India looking into the vast population.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What kinds of activities (e.g. research, courses, volunteer work) did you engage in as an undergraduate that you feel has helped you in your career?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: When I was an undergraduate hardly any encouragement nor any activity on research took place. I was actively involved in extracurricular activities which include singing, debates, playing chess etc.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What will be your advice to the undergraduates (specifically in India and in general) who want to take up surgery?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: MS general surgery is not an end speciality. It means one has continue further studies. It is a speciality for those of you believe in and are ready to learn the art of surgery. This training process will take many years of training. It needs long hours of standing in operation theatre as if you are handcuffed !! After a long working schedule of 10-12 hours, sudden bleeding or other surgery related complications can develop — you should be ready to operate again on the same day and get ready for handcuffed again for another few hours!! I remember my good friend Dr Pradeep a gastro surgeon who told me – when Operation Blue star took place- he was doing post graduation at PGI Chandigarh – series of bullet injuires were admitted – at one stage surgeons continuously operated for more than 72 hours with a small break in between!! Astonishing but compliments to this dedicated team.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): As you climbed up the ladder in your career you’ve been granted many administrative responsibilities. How was that transition?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: Department of Surgery in Manipal is one of the best not only in the teaching and work but also in the inter personal relationships. It is a family. I was treated like the family member. As I climbed up the ladder, to the present position, I never faced any problem. It is true that except for the head of the department, others do not have much administrative posts other than running the individual unit.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): You’re very much interested in Chess and are quite a good singer. You’ve also written books in Surgery, the Manipal Manual is quite the bible for students across the country! How are you able to balance so many commitments at once?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: Yes, it is the time management and attitude. These 2 qualities will give you all that you want to achieve if you have reasonable knowledge, reasonable ideas and reasonable motive with you. It is a fact that we spend about 8-9 hours per day in the hospital. Man requires about 7-8 hours sound sleep per day. Still few hours are available for proper use!! I am utilising them.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): A little about Chess. How long have you been interested? You organise a chess tournament every year, in memory of your father. Can you tell us something about that?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: When I was 6 years old my father introduced me to the game of chess. Whatever I have learnt from my father gave me the foundation stone. I used to play a good game of chess till I joined Medical College for MBBS.
After I joined Lions Club, Manipal the idea of starting chess tournaments rekindled. My father’s kith and kin donated a lumpsum amount to Lions Club, Manipal to organise such tournaments in my father’s name. Thus Kallya Devaraya Shenoy Memorial chess tournament started. As of now, Lions Club, Manipal has organised 9 chess tournaments since 1995 and we hope to conduct national level events in the coming year. Funds are the main problem for conducting tournaments.
Manipal university has encouraged to conduct chess tournaments since 15 years by giving the beautiful venues at KMC, MIT and University halls with all other facilities completely free. I am also the President of Udupi district Chess Association and Vice president of United Karnataka Chess Association. We have also conducted state level tournaments through this government body also. We hope we will give training programme to children in their schools so as to develop national chess players from our District.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What is something you did this year that went better than you thought it would?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: The important clinical signs are demonstrated by using actual video clips prepared by me.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Knowing what you know now, would you still choose to be a teacher if you could go back in time and make the choice again? If the answer is “no,” is there a way for you to choose a different path now?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: I will definitely choose teaching profession again. I believe it is noble work and I am sincerely teaching the students since 1986. It is not uncommon to hear from a young teacher (surgeon) that students are not interested and hence he stopped the class within 30 minutes. If I get to hear this from my assistants I tell them that since last 25 years, I have not come across a student who is not interested. A good teacher is the one who can make them interested.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Do you feel teachers get the credit they deserve?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: Definitely yes. The word credit should not be compared to financial benefits. I am proud to be a teacher and remain so.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Are there students that you wish you didn’t have?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: I think once a teacher has accepted the responsibility as a teacher, one should not get the feeling why there are such students in the class or in the clinics. I have had all variety of students including regulars, casuals, attendance casuals, repeaters. I have taught them all well. Yes, occasionally I wonder whether I would have taught toppers in the state if I taught at other colleges. But I think it is a minor feeling.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): What activities occupy you during your spare time?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: As I have mentioned earlier, my interests are limited because I have committed to updating 3 books in a row and writing 2 more books. I enjoy, few good TV news channels, a few educational programmes, cricket matches when India is playing , listening to Bhajans and old hindi songs.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Lastly we would like to know, what keeps you motivated?
Dr. Rajgopal Shenoy: In my house : My mother who is 74 with lots of difficulties but still she is the most active and most lively personality. The passion for work and reading of my wife, Dr Anitha is simply unimaginable. In the hospital, my patients give me strength. The most important above all for my motivation is my students.
Dr.Vishaal Bhat (ManipalBlog): Thank you Dr.Rajgopal Shenoy sir, we appreciate your time and it was a pleasure!