Contemplating Retirement

          Physicians, more than any other profession, take ‘retirement’ as a sensitive, almost sentimental commitment. Practicing medicine, to most of us, is not just a vocation; it is a spiritual philosophy, a devotional observance, a sacrosanct ritual bestowing enormous gratification. The passion with which we sought admission to medical college, the elation of being accepted, the excitement of the new life, the ragging, the cadavers, the biochemistry, the clinical rounds, the surgery, getting involved with patients and the whole experience remain indelible in our memory. The pride of being earmarked as future physicians far surpassed the hardship facing the rigorous curriculum; the tormenting tests and the anguish of the examinations were just a small price to pay for the rich dividends of a noble profession.
          Most of us have been amply rewarded with the contentment of our profession and the comforts of a convenient lifestyle. We have numerous anecdotes to savor from significant impacts that we made in the lives of many of our patients and their loved ones. We are remembered with gratitude, even reverence in many families that we have made a difference. That reality makes us privileged and blessed to have been chosen to our sacredly unique profession.
          To retire, to call it a day and walk away from that distinction has to be deliberate; it is emotional, poignant, painful. Many of us have been used to shuffling our personal and professional lives, blending the two in a complementary fashion. On one side, I still feel attached and motivated to continue practicing medicine, while there is a twinge of guilt to walk away from all I have learned and earned as a noble art. Equally compelling is my desire to explore a variety of interests I have been craving and saving for my twilight days if I remain physically and emotionally capable and fortunate to pursue them. If we walk away from one, we may jeopardize both, exploring to discover the meaningful application of the vacuum in the time at our possession and the trade we have mastered.
          As I stand at the threshold, contemplating retirement and evaluating my options, I feel bewildered, somewhat even frightened. My inner conscience finds it hard to come to a clear conclusion. It will be desirable if I can come to terms with 113 myself, analyzing my priorities and available options as I accept reality, always being very mindful that Something far beyond my meager abilities has Its plans already charted out for me. In that context, I am totally complacent. (February 7, 2007)

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.

Golden Memoirs

My classmates at Medical College, 1956 batch, Trivandrum

Fifty years is a lengthy stretch by human standards
Six hundred months or eighteen thousand vital days
Need I go for hours, minutes and splitting seconds
Or let our creative imagination choose as it fancies


As we meet, greet, chat and exchange pleasantries
As we go back in time unraveling our knotted notes
The days gone by and the young times once we shared
Getting back to muse and mull on what we endeared


Memories are vivid and green of the luxuriant campus
Majestic buildings perched on an expanse of rolling hills
Life in the hostels as generous models of extended families
The food of the mess we often relished, yet loved to loathe


Years we shared together, same goal and similar ambitions
Some remaining strangers with hard, unbreakable shells
The burden of barricades imposing moral ‘curfew’ of the ‘sexes’
Expecting us to behave, as we never had brothers or sisters


Glancing back, those were truly gleeful, carefree days
No hassles except from the habitual tormenting tests
We had fun even within the tangles of Cerebellar webs
Or as mazes of Microbiology messed with our tiny brains


Struggling to stay awake during Surgery lectures at night
Learning Preventive Medicine slumbering on back benches
Earning ninety-five without knowing a word of Japanese
Gathering wisdom in Biochemistry from the pageantry of ties


Missing the van, rushing over the back roads getting to class
Making it late with sweaty, soaking shirts and dusty shoes
Visiting the canteen to splurge our savings on masala-dosas
Evening walks, open-air movies, and romantic rendezvous


We learned pages and volumes of text on intricate subjects
Of nerves meandering through masses of muscles and organs
Of vessels traversing tissues nurturing their numerous functions
And of cells specialized to carry out a myriad of distinct options


We were lectured on the details of how food gets swallowed
How it powers energy that runs the machine and builds the mass
On how the air cleans the blood, nourishing cells that sustain life
The ways how waste is cleansed and means how we procreate


What a wealth of clinical matter that was all ours to learn
Queues in outpatient and heaped on floors of chronic ward
Babies with scabies, dehydrated and gasping for a breath of air
Cries of pain from blocked arteries or stones slicing the ureters


When we coddled with the cadavers, frigid and dark
Soaked in pungent formalin and dye stuffed arteries
Not often we realized there was a live human in its past
Full of vibrant desires once filling the now still frames


Flocking around patients as our fleeting attention wandered
Grasping only portions of what is taught in clinical rounds
Choosing assignments of tests and picking different diagnoses
Channelling our options leading to their conferred destiny


Agenda was to teach us the physical body and its functions
What makes it fall sick and how to bring it back to tick
Medical education is to learn what to put in or take what out
Healing the sick, having lost track as the prominent sentiment


Curriculum likes to condone teaching what life is all about
As to how and why a man was made different from a mule
Or where we came from with empyrean intent endowed on us
Doctors need not be nosey reaching beyond illness and wellness


We didn’t hear a reason why tears flow down when one is sad
Or how the facial muscles decide to bring out a smile or a scowl
Not much was said of why we get glee or how we feel the gloom
Nor what triggers anger, sense of kindness or falling in love


Perhaps it was left for our obvious assumption to figure it out
But we hardly heard much of discussion of the agonizing impact
Or the ravaging damage an illness can impose on the inflicted
Of the ominous burden it may pose endangering his dependents


Just a random thought, but if medical students were to be introduced
Into the profession of dealing with illness with a dose of instructions
To see the ailing with a theme of kindness, candor, and compassion
Holding their hands, stroking their hair and conveying that you care


If the cold stethoscope, hammer, and sharp needles were to wait
Until after we allay their fear and ease their air of apprehension
Before all the tapping and probing, it will be nice and pertinent
To empathize with a show of concern and an eagerness to help


As we have settled deep into our individual style of applying skill
We may have realized the role of science and subtlety of art involved
Fascinating reality of limitations, beyond our means to comprehend
Boundaries that challenge our ego and hopefully instill some humility


When we tally the balance sheet of life, worn out from having lived
After we pursued varied paths and compiled sacks full of encounters
What stands out are not the posts we held or the fortune we amassed
But what earnest impact we made in those who looked up to us for aid


Five decades ago we were gathered together like pearls on a string
From mélange of backgrounds, shapes, means, attitudes and abilities
But all with the same purpose of making Medicine our means of life
Class of fifty-six has come a long ways, longing to laud our destiny


Of over a hundred in the class, we have lost almost a tenth of them
Many still young, a few of causes which may have been preventable
As we try to recall their faces and natures as we remembered them
There is sadness tugging our hearts, or a trace of guilt gnawing at us


As we are ripe with age and many of us with maladies beyond repair
Gathering to toast our friendship and mourning our departed friends
Let us join hands applauding life, perhaps one lovely last time
Let’s save memories of this meet, savoring and enriching our sunset days.

Dr. Venugopal K. Menon (C.V.)

Dr. Venugopal K. Menon, B. Sc,
MBBS, FAAP,
FAAAA&I, FACAA&I, FRS
(Fellow of the Royal Society of
Medicine, London)

Birth
Cochin, India, August 20, 1937, Parents: Kavungal Narayana Menon
(Father), Kadaikkal Thankamma Menon (Mother)
Marriage
December 5, 1964
Wife: Devi Menon
Children: Sreelatha, Sreekala, Arun

Education and Postgraduate Training
* S.R.V. High School, Cochin, India, Graduated with Honors, 1952
* Maharajas College, Cochin, India, Intermediate, with Honors, 1954,
* B. Sc with Honors, 1956
* Medical College, Trivandrum, Kerala, India, M.B.B.S., 1962
* Internship: Medical College Hospital, Trivandrum, India,1961-62
* Senior residency, 1962-63
* Residency in Pediatrics D.C. General Hospital, Washington, D.C., 1970-1971 University of Connecticut, Hartford, CT, 1971-1972 7
* Research Fellow Allergy/Immunology,Texas Allergy Research Foundation, Houston, TX, 1973–1976) Certification and Licensure
* American Board of Pediatrics, Board Certification, April, l976
* American Board of Allergy and Immunology, Board Certification, October, 1977
* Maryland (Flex), December, 1971, by examination
* Washington, D.C., December, 1971, by examination • Michigan, 1971, Basic Sciences by examination, Texas, 1973 ( By reciprocity)

Faculty Appointments
* Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Texas Clinical Assistant Professor, 1977- Voluntary Faculty, 2006-
* Apollo Hospital, Madras, India Consultant, Allergy and Immunology, Chief, Department of Allergy and Immunology, 1983-1986

Scientific and Hospital affiliations
* American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 1973- Fellow, 1978-
* American Academy of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology, 1973- Fellow, 1979
* American Medical Association, 1973-1990
* Texas Medical Association, 1973-
* Harris County Medical Society, 1973-
* Western Branch, 1979-1992
* Greater Houston Allergy Society, 1973-
* American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow, 1976-
* American Association for Clinical Immunology and Allergy (Merged with American College of Allergy and Immunology) 1975-1987
* Southern Medical Association, 1975-1989
* Houston Pediatric Society, 1975-
* American Association of Certified Allergists, Fellow, 1978-
* Texas Allergy and Immunology Society, Founding Fellow, 1986-
* Royal Society of Medicine, London – Fellow (Retired, overseas), Nov 1, 2013

Professional Associations
* McGovern Allergy Clinic, Houston, Texas Associate Physician, l973-l986 Partner, 1986- Treasurer, 1994-1998 President, 1999- 2006
* Texas Allergy Research Foundation, Houston, Texas Scientific Advisory Council, 1976-1986

Publications
Mirza, M. and Venugopalan, K.: Vitamin B-6 convulsions manifest in a case of Down’s Syndrome. Med Ann of DC, 41 (6), June, 1972.
McGovern, J. P., Haywood, T. J., and Venugopalan, K.
: Constitutional and nonspecific factors in the etiology of atopic disease. In V. C. Kelley (ed.), Brennemann-Kelley Practice of Pediatrics. Hagerstown, Maryland: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1976. Vol. II, Chapter 61, pp 1-7.
Venugopalan, K.* and Thomas, O. C.: Book Review: Aspects of Allergy and Applied Immunology, Vol. III. Annals of Allergy, Vol. 36, May, 1976, pp 364-365.
Venugopalan, K.: Book Review: Aspects of Allergy and Immunology, Vol. VIII. Annals of Allergy, Vol. 38, No. 4, April, 1977, page 278.
McGovern, J. P., Haywood, T. J., and Venugopalan, K.
: Determinant Constitutional and Other Variables in the Etiology of Atopic Disease, in Kelley V. C. (ed.). Practice of Pediatrics. Hagerstown, Maryland: Harper & Row Publishers, Inc., 1980. Vol. II, Chapter 61, pp 1-9.
Menon, V.K.: “Asthma”. Akashavani Publications, Madras, India, January, 1986
Thorne, L. G., Machinski, G. T., and Menon, V. K.: Allergy Treatment Present Throughout Recorded History, Texas Health Letter, Spring, 1987.
Thorne, L. G., Machinski, G. T., and Menon, V. K.: Bronchodilators and other Treatments for Asthma, Texas Health Letter, Summer, 1987.
Menon, V.K.: Nosy About Nasal Sprays? McGovern Allergy Clinic Newsletter, Spring, 1988.
Menon, V. K.: The Mighty Mites. McGovern Allergy Clinic Newsletter, Spring, 1988.
Menon, V. K.: Sinus Headache. McGovern Allergy Clinic Newsletter, Spring, 1989.
Menon, V.K.: Adverse Reactions to Foods. Journal of Gastroenterology, December, 1994.
Menon, V.K.: “Asthma”, Indian Medical Association, Kerala State, India. XL Annual Conference Souvenir, November 9-10, 1996, Kodungallur, PP. 37-45.

Scientific Lectures
* Menon, V.K.: Special lecture on Bronchial Asthma – New Perspectives – 9 l985, K. G. Hospital, Coimbatore, India.
* Menon, V.K.: “Update in Allergy”, Indian College of Allergy and Immunology, 1985.
* Menon, V.K.: Chaired Panel Symposium – “Asthma & Allergy”, Annual meeting of Indian College of Allergy and Immunology, 1985.
* Menon, V.K.: “Allergic Diseases”, Rotary Club of Madras, India, July 26, 1985.
* Menon, V.K.: Radio Talk – “Asthma”, on All India Radio, January, 1986.
* Menon, V.K.: “Allergies”, Galleria Area Rotary Club, May 2, 1994.
* Menon, V.K.: “Allergies & Asthma”, Parkinson Foundation of Harris County, July 15, 1994.
* Menon, V.K.: Radio Talks – Periodic guest of “Ask the Doctor” on KTEK, Houston.
* Menon, V.K.: “What’s an Allergy?”, Bellaire Hospital’s March Seminar on “Asthma, Allergies and Houston Air”, Bellaire Hospital, Houston, Texas, March 30, 1995.
* Menon, V.K.: “Latex Allergy”, Association of Kerala Medical Graduates (AKMG) CME program, The George Washington University Medical Center, Washington, DC, July 2, l995.
* Name prior to United States citizenship in 1981.

Miscellaneous
* Association of Kerala Medical Graduates (AKMG) National Chairman, Annual Convention, July l993 National Hon. Chairman, Annual Convention, Aug 2013 Board of Governors, 1987-l990 Trustee, 1997-2000
* Sri Meenakshi Temple Society, Houston, Texas Founding Member, 1977- Vice Chairman, l989-l990 Chairman, l990-l991 Hon. Vice President, Chairman, Advisory Council, l996-l997 Co-Chairman, Task Force, Youth Center, 2002- Adjunct Director, 2006- 2013 Chairman Emeritus – 2019
* Indian Doctors’ Club Served, Board of Directors
* India Culture Center Served, Board of Directors Trustee, 1996-1998 (3 years)
* Indo-American Charity Foundation Board of Directors, 1996-l998 (3 years)
* Millennium Republic Day of India, Organizing Committee, January, 2000
* American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin (AAPI) Editor, Convention Souvenir, 2005 Member, Editorial Committee, 2005 Member, Web Publication Committee, 2005 . Pearland City Council – Healthcare facilities, 2011 . Hindus of Greater Houston – Advisory Board, 2014- . Institute of Spirituality and Health – Director 2014-2017 Hospital Affiliations
* Texas Children’s Hospital, Houston, Texas Courtesy Staff, 1975-1986 Active Staff, 1986- 2006 Emeritus Retired, 2006 –
* Memorial Hermann Hospital, Houston, Texas Courtesy Staff, 1978-1997 Affiliate Staff, l997- 2004
* Bellaire Medical Center, Houston, Texas Courtesy Staff, 1975-2004 – Hospital Closed
* Apollo Hospital, Madras, India Chief, Allergy and Immunology, l983-l986
* Memorial Hermann Hospital Southwest, Houston, Texas Provisional Staff, 1994-2001 Courtesy Staff, 2001- 2004
* Christus St. Joseph Hospital, Houston, Texas Provisional Staff, 1994-1995 Courtesy Staff, 1995-2000 Consulting Staff, 2000- 2004