N. G. Nair Place – In Honor of My Distinguished Friend

          “I heard a man yelling and screaming as he was being escorted to the security room, to be secluded and sedated. Then he saw me and started running towards me. I was scared. Suddenly I realized that he was my patient in Saskatchewan, many years ago. He recognized me; he wanted me to save him. And as I talked to him, he settled down, took his medication, and pleaded that I treat him. Later he changed his residence, moved to Langley, British Columbia and has been in a psychiatric boarding home where I am still following him.” These words of Dr. N. Gangadharan Nair, who treated a patient at the Riverview Mental Hospital in British Columbia, give a glimpse of the person, the Psychiatrist, Dr. Nair.
          ‘The N. G. Nair Place,’ is the newly constructed mental health facility in Langley, British Columbia, Canada, which was named, in honor of Dr. Nair. “Dr. Nair came to Langley in the 1970s and his arrival marked the beginning of an enduring commitment to individuals coping with mental illness. He provided the clinical leadership to develop the fledgling department of Psychiatry at Langley Memorial Hospital”, spoke Mary Polack, MLA at the inauguration: “Dr. Nair has dedicated his life to helping Canadians with mental illness, helping our brothers and sisters, parents, friends, and neighbors”
          Dr. Nair, a graduate from Trivandrum Medical College, India, has been a long-time local psychiatrist and is currently the Clinical Director of Langley Mental Health Services. Under his leadership, mental health services in Langley have developed over the past three decades into comprehensive community service for the residents with mental illness. He helped create the mental health programs at Langley Memorial Hospital, serves on the board of ‘Stepping Stones’ and is active in the Lions Club. “He is a quiet statesman”, said Lois Dixon, of Fraser Health Authority, introducing Dr. Nair.
          The N.G. Nair Place is a 25-bed facility, designed for individuals with complex physical and mental needs. It is built in B. C. through a partnership 103 between the provincial government and Fraser Health. “N. G. Nair Place is a great example of Fraser Health’s goal to build a more responsive, effective continuum of mental health services for our clients in the Fraser Health region, while also addressing the needs of residents as they age”, said Keith Anderson, interim President and Chief Executive Officer for Fraser Health. The capital cost of development is over $4 million, provided through many partners including the Province of B.C, BC Housing and Fraser Health.
              Dr. Nair came to the United States in 1963 and had extensive training in psychiatry in many prestigious institutions in USA and Canada before he settled down in Langley, British Columbia. The acclamations Dr. Nair has received from local leaders are legendary. Andy Libbiter, Director of Mental Health and Addiction, in Langley, had this to say. “He is a kind and unassuming gentleman who has dedicated his professional and personal energies to the Langley community for over three decades.” Lois Dixon, Executive Director of Mental Health and Addictions of Fraser Health Authority, added: “When I first arrived in Langley in 1988, Dr. Nair was the first psychiatrist I met and I could tell right away that he was very caring and tireless and a ‘roll up the sleeves’ kind of a guy.”
                      As I talked to Gangadharan to find more details about the honor, he was his usual humble self, but reluctantly admitted, “When I moved to Langley there was very little mental health service available. I was very much involved in the development of The Mental Health Center and the Psychiatric Unit at Langley Memorial Hospital. Because of my long-standing involvement, mental health services in Langley flourished compared to the neighboring communities. To recognize my contribution, the Fraser Health Authority decided to name the place ‘N G Nair Place’.”
                  I have been fortunate to know Gangadharan Nair since 1956, from the time we were classmates at Trivandrum Medical College and through the years that we have kept up our friendship. Even as a student, Gangan has been a kind and compassionate individual but his never assuming demeanor harbored an exceptionally brilliant and shrewd mind. His personality has been one that is perfectly tailor-made to fit into the mold of a consummate psychiatrist. Those who know him well can attest that destiny has most appropriately guided him to choose the right field of medicine as against the irony that such attainment does not often happen.
               Physicians from India have established their mark of excellence in the American continent in academic and clinical fields and are well represented in social and political arenas. But when an exceptional contribution from one among us makes headlines, it deserves to be applauded and disseminated with all the praise it is worthy of. The recognition of Dr. Nair is a monumental acknowledgment of the remarkable contribution of a single individual, which has made a substantial difference in the lives of many people. As we laud his role in such a landmark event and applaud the appreciation of the local leadership in offering him the credit, we can all be graciously proud of such an accomplishment bestowed on one of our own people.
             The honor should stimulate us, especially our younger physicians, and motivate them in getting involved in similar altruistic endeavors for the benefit of the community we are involved in. As physicians, we are privileged to diverse avenues through which we can assist the community. Leaders like Gangadharan Nair should be our celebrated guides to make our being here, more meaningful.

Author: Dr. Venugopal Menon

Was born and raised in a loving family in pre-independent India, became a doctor, served Indian army, got married, then came over to America with wife and a daughter, established as a successful Allergist, raised a family of three children, was involved in many social establishments, retired, and wrote memoirs, 'My Mother Called Me Unni, A Doctor's Tale of Migration'.

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