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National Doctors’ Day: My Homage to Dr. Sukumar Das by Barendra Kumar

“Medicines cure diseases, but only doctors can cure patients”. This was said by the renowned Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Dr.Carl Jung, whose father Paul Jung, was a Pastor in the Swiss Reformed Church. A doctor is bestowed with the eye to see and treat weakness in mankind. He is the one who can give us hope when we are in doom. In India, the National Doctors’ Day is celebrated on the first day of July.

The doctors & healthcare workers putting in hours of toil during this pandemic might have got exhausted and lost patience, but still they continue performing their duties and even beyond the call of duty. We are indebted to their relentless work and utmost dedication. On National Doctors’ Day, I pay my tributes to all Doctors across the country especially to an eminent Surgeon, whom I personally knew & who features in one of my upcoming books

Even as a Nonagenarian the great Prof. Dr. Sukumar Das had a sharp memory.
In one of my visits to his residence few years back, he could recollect & tell me quite a few interesting anecdotes about his illustrious father the legendary ‘Rai Bahadur’ Samuel Das. An eminent surgeon, administrator and teacher, known as one of the finest surgeons the state has seen, Prof. Dr. Sukumar Das served the Odisha government as Director of Medical Education and Training besides heading the S.C.B. Medical College at Cuttack and M.K.C.G. Medical College at Berhampur as Principal. Though he was the Principal, he is considered as the chief architect of Maharaja Krishna Chandra Gajapati Medical College & Hospital, Brahmapur, popularly known as M.K.C.G. Medical College & Hospital.

He was born on November 16, 1924 to illustrious parents Rai Bahadur Samuel Das, an Indian Civil Service Officer, and Chandramukhi Das. His Father, ‘Rai Bahadur’ Samuel Das who was bestowed with the “Rai Bahadur” title of honour during British rule in India, was an Indian Civil Service (ICS) officer who served as the Secretary, Head of Education & Health in Odisha. He served as the District Magistrate of Cuttack during the crucial “Quit India” days. During the time of World War II, he was the Collector of Cuttack, under the British Government. He had a vital role in the unification process for the statehood of Odisha. He was the 1st ever Chairman of the Odisha Public Service Commission (OPSC). He contributed immensely in forming the Land Reform Act of Odisha, the first of its kind in India. He was also a close associate of ‘Utkal Gaurav’ Madhusudan Das, the Founder of Modern Odisha.

Prof. (Dr.) Sukumar Das completed his MBBS education at the Patna Medical College under Patna University. He sailed to London in 1950 to study higher surgery and subsequently worked in various hospitals there as Resident Surgeon including the prestigious Post Graduate Medical School of London and Hammer-Smith Hospital. He was the first ever Odia to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons, England. Though he was offered jobs in the United Kingdom, he chose to return to Odisha in 1954 and joined the S.C.B. Medical College as an Assistant Professor in Surgery. He was then deputed to Hindustan Steel Limited at Rourkela as Surgeon-in-Chief to organise the newly established Ispat General Hospital.

He returned to Cuttack to work at the S.C.B.Medical College and Hospital as Professor of Surgery and at the age of 39, he was posted as Professor and Head of Surgery and Principal of the newly established M.K.C.G. Medical College and Hospital at Berhampur. Under his care, the medical college at Berhampur turned into a post-graduate institution from scratch within 10 years. He is remembered as the architect of the medical college and hospital in the south Odisha city.

Prof (Dr.) Das rejoined the S.C.B.Medical College and Hospital in 1973 as Professor and Head of the Department of Surgery and served as its Superintendent. Subsequently, he headed the institution as its Principal and became the Director of Health Services later. He practised as a surgeon after retirement as well.

He was widely acclaimed as a teacher of Clinical Surgery and as an astute administrator. He was a daring and innovative surgeon who had many firsts to his credit in surgeries and treatment during his time.

He played a leading role in the formation and expansion of JPM Rotary Eye Hospital and got it recognized as a training Institute for DNB post graduate degree in Ophthalmology. He was the President of Indian Medical Association, Odisha Chapter, and also of Associations of Surgeons of India, Odisha. He is a Foundation Memorial Contributor and a Paul Harris Fellow. He was awarded the highest award for individual Rotarian- ‘Service above Self Award’. He has been awarded Honorary Doctorate of Science by the Utkal University. I had a whale of a time interacting with this legendary personality in his residence at Cuttack.

(The writer of this article, Barendra Kumar is a motivational speaker, columnist, panellist, career consultant, who served as Editor-in-Chief of Trailblazer,a monthly motivational magazine and a member of Indian Speakers Bureau. He had previously authored the bestseller “CAN is the Word of Power”, & his upcoming book is “Odia Christian Luminaries”. He was awarded the ‘Odisha Youth Icon Award’ in 2015 by Odisha Diary Foundation)

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