A few days ago, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan inaugurated the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Thiruvananthapuram Medical College (TMC), the oldest such institution in the southern state, which was formally opened in 1951.
Besides being the first such facility, the TMC and the Government Medical College Hospital (MCH), which had been set up in the same campus three years later, have a great historical relevance because of the first patient who sought treatment there seven decades ago.
It might be a historical irony that the person who inaugurated the Medical College hospital had become its first patient, which was none other than Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, the first Prime Minister of India. According to records, Nehru had inaugurated both the TMC and the MCH, the oldest and the first such institutions in the state, in the years 1951 and 1954 respectively.
According to an old book, the Prime Minister, who had opened the Medical College Hospital in February 1954, suffered a minor injury in one of his fingers after it accidently got caught within the metal grill of the building. He was given an immediate treatment under the guidance of eminent surgeon late Dr R Kesavan Nair, who was also the founding superintendent of the Medical College.
"Jawaharlal Nehru, who came to inaugurate the Medical College Hospital, suffered a wound as his finger was caught in the metal grill. Thus, Nehru became the first patient of the hospital and Dr Kesavan Nair became the first doctor who provided treatment there," the Malayalam book said.
Titled "Dr Kesavan Nair: Vaidyasastrathile Ithihasam" (The legend of Medical Sciences), the book, compiled as a memoir of the late medical exponent years ago, also has the picture of Nehru inaugurating the MCH. Erstwhile Travancore king Sree Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma, who had donated four lakh rupees for setting up the medical college, also could be seen standing along with the Prime Minister in the photograph during the function.
Veteran neurologist and medical historian Dr K Rajasekharan Nair said a large number of people had gathered at Ulloor, the place where the hospital is located, to get a glimpse of Nehru on the inaugural day. One among the several renowned disciples of Kesavan Nair, Rajasekharan still has vivid memories of his teacher's detailed account about the historic day. "Nair was one of the few persons who had toiled hard to make the first Medical College a reality here. As per his words, a large number of people thronged the hospital premises to see Nehru who was very popular among common people," he told PTI.
Several locals, who gathered there, tried to greet him and give him a hand shake and the Prime Minister also didn't show any reluctance to accept their love and warmth. Though he was the PM, the security presence was not much then, as seen now-a-days and might be in the rush of people, his fingers somehow suffered a minor wound, Rajasekharan said. Dr Kesavan Nair attended the "patient" immediately and dressed his wound, the octogenarian added. "I was just 10 or 11 years old when the incident occurred. Though I really wanted to take part in the function, I could not go as Ulloor was considered a far away place at that time.
But, I got the chance to study under Dr Kesavan Nair and learn about these incidents from him in the later years," he said. After all these years, the Government Medical College Hospital here is now considered as one of the largest multi-specialty treatment centres in the region which provides affordable and comprehensive healthcare under the state sector.
Besides the TMC and the MCH, the sprawling campus also houses a number of significant institutions including the colleges of nursing and pharmaceutical sciences, the Sree Chithira Thirunal Institute of Medical Sciences and Technology, the Regional Cancer Centre( RCC) and so on. The 70th anniversary celebrations of the TMC was inaugurated on August 26.