Professor Syama Prasad Pigilam, Vice Chancellor of Dr YSR University of Health Sciences, earlier NTR Health University, Vijayawada, is a rare personality among medical fraternity. He leads a family of medical doctors, around 30 in his relatives, including 10 from his own family. Not just that. Dr Syama Prasad has inherited certain values from his father Dr Sundariah Yadav and he passes on the same principles to his children and kin, all doctors.
“These values are simple, be honest, don’t work for money for but for professional excellence and satisfaction and serve the needy and treat medical profession as a service,” says Dr Syama Prasad, while talking to Excel India, for this exclusive interview.
He himself is a medicine and a man who practice accountability. His wife Dr Lakshmi Rajyam is the one who supported him in all the ways with eternity in life and with royal heart. He shared how his family became doctors and how handled Covid-19 crisis in early 2020 in this chat.
Excerpts from the interview:
Q: Tell us how you and your family came into this medical profession?
A: First one to come is my father Dr Sundariah Yadav, an MS orthopedics super specialist and later became Director of Medial Education of combined Andhra Pradesh before retiring in 1987. He fought odds and came from a very lower income family – my grandfather was an agriculturist from Kovur in Nellore district, AP. My father studied hard – walking up to 20 km per day – and joined prestigious Madras Medical College in 1949.
My father got MBBS seat in his second attempt, based on marks in plus two level. He passed out in 1954. He worked as resident medical officer in Nellore government hospital for sometime. Later, he went to Vizag to pursue MS in orthopedics. My mother is the only one from not from this doctors profession. We all – 2 brothers and 2 sisters are medical doctors. My wife, son, daughter, their spouses too are medical doctors.
I studied MBBS from Sri Venkateswara Medical College, SV University, from 1972- 77. Later did my MS general surgery from the same college from 1978 1982. One year super specialty training Christian Medical College, Vellore, Tamil Nadu. I later did my M. Ch, Pediatric surgery from Andhra Medical College and also MBA Hospital Administration, besides several other allied courses.
Now I’am the VC of YSR University of Helath Sciences since January 21, 2020. Though I come from an OBC community with reservation, I mostly topped the merit list in those days. I always valued this profession of medicine as am opportunity to learn to serve the poor. The same is the reason for other family members too joined this profession.
Tell us about them
My brother Dr Gopi Krishna is an ophthalmologist MS and worked in APVP, Hyderabad till retirement. Now he is in Tirupati working for private hospital – Agrawal’s Eye Hospital. My elder sister – Dr Mythili, an MS in general surgery, worked as superintendent at KG Hospital. Interestingly, I too worked there in the same post, before becoming the VC.
Another sister, Dr Sobha Rani, too is a general general surgeon, with MS. My wife, Dr Lakshmi Rajyam, is a gynecologist worked in KG Hospital, Vizag. My son – Siddharth Pigilam, is an MS orthopedic surgeon worked earlier in Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu and now is in Vizag. My daughter in law – Dr Harita, an assistant professor, anesthesiology with VIMS, Vizag.
My daughter – Dr Suma Sandhyala – is a plastic surgeon, now working with Apollo Hospitals in Hyderabad. She, a gold medalist, is into rate latest methods of plastic surgery. Son in law, Dr Abhilash Sandhyala, super specialist in interventionist radiology. This is a latest emerging branch of medical science. He worked with KEM Hospitals, Mumbai. Around 30 of my kith and kin too are doctors.
What motivated you to come to this profession?
Definitely, not money. My father, still living with my sister in Vizag now, used to tell us in those days to follow some values – being honest, truthful and service oriented in this profession of medicine. I too told the same to my children and others in the family. See, this profession is not an easy one- study for years together and serve people for several more years 24/7 is sort of service needs dedication.
As far as I am concerned, I have performed close to 2 lakh surgical operations. But, never craved for money in my service. Once I did a kidney operation in Anakapalle and accepted a fee of just Rs 250 from the patient’s family, very poor one. I firmly believe this noble profession of medicine is an opportunity to serve fellow humans. I believe in Satya Saibaba’s philosophy of simplicity and service.
What were your Covid experiences?
Oh, that was a great learning curve. Covid pandemic hit us as soon as I became the VC of Health University in 2020. Then, senior IAS officer Jawahar Reddy called and asked me to swing into action. Those were the initial days when we had no idea of what this Covid was about and how to deal with it. The role played by Jawahar Reddy and other officials including Dr PV Ramesh was commendable.
I must say that our Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy has provided us with enormous functional space and resources to fight Covid pandemic. Then, there were no masks, no PPE kits or sanitizers. We set up four Covid hospitals – Vizag, Vijayawada, Tirupati and Kurnool – and waged a battle against the pandemic, by working round the clock.
Thanks to CM Jagan’s proactive approach, we could save many lives. We got the recognition that Andhra Pradesh is one of the few states in the country to handle the Covid crisis efficiently and effectively. We very soon geared up to the pandemic and learnt a lot in dealing various issues related to the Covid. That is, in fact, a lifetime education.
How was the response of CM Jagan to the crisis?
He provided us great leadership in that crisis. We in AP have presently around 5,000 MBBS seats, and thanks to CM’s initiative and guidance, we will be adding another 750- to 1,000 medical seats in next 2 years. Now we have 28 medical colleges and this will go up by 16 new colleges soon. 5 of them will come by next year. Strength of our other colleges too will go up.
We must thank CM Jagan for sorting out a long pending issue of allowing meritorious BC candidates to considered for medical PG seats in Open category. Due to this decision, around 100 students will be benefited in medical PG seats. As of now, we have 2,000 PG medical seats and this too will go up in the coming years.