From consulting ace actors and top politicians to serving the underprivileged for free, meet the man who is on a mission.
By Namita Gupta.
Padma Shri Dr. Ramana Rao grew up in Gangavati, Vadrahatti – one of the backward areas in Karnataka, surrounded by poverty, sickness and lack of basic amenities. Instead of being disheartened by his circumstances, it motivated him to strive harder, to not only change his own life but in turn, dedicate it to the service of the rural poor. After completing his MBBS degree from Kasturba Medical College, Manipal, he went on to complete his M.D in Internal Medicine and Cardiology from Bangalore Medical College. He is also a Fellow of the Indian Institute of Diabetology, a Fellow of the International College of Angiology, a Fellow of the Academy of General Education, Manipal, and a Fellow of the Society of Electro-Cardiology, while being Life Member of the Association of Physicians of India, the Association of Medical Specialities and the Cardiological Society of India.
Medical consultant to Karnataka’s Chief Ministers, bureaucrats and prominent celebrities, including the late Maharaja Jayachamaraja Wadiyar, actors Rajinikanth and Amitabh Bachchan and the late Dr Rajkumar, Dr. Rao however, never forgot his roots. He started a free village clinic in T Begur in Nelamangala on 15 August 1974, and has been treating patients for over four decades. His village clinic is today the world’s oldest and longest serving free clinic, run every Sunday without a break. He has the unique distinction of having treated over 2 million people absolutely free of cost. Dr. Rao is assisted in his village clinic by his two sons – Dr. Charit and Dr. Abhijit, his wife Hema, his daughters-in-law – Dr. Shanthini Vijaysuriyar and Mrs. Jahnavi Bhograj, along with his dedicated team.
Prestige Group with Rotary Bangalore Midtown recently honoured him with the Prestige Citizen Extraordinaire Award 2019. Revealing when he nurtured his first thought of becoming a doctor, he shares, “Since I was a child of six years, they wanted me to become a doctor and serve the poor. We treat all the patients who come to the village clinic at Begur and provide medicines, injections and quality healthcare.” Talking about the challenges he faces, he states, “Basic things like shelter, medicines, water, funds and man-power continue to remain serious challenges over the years that I’ve been running the free clinic. With the help of all the family members and friends, we are able to overcome all the hurdles. Now we are treating over 1000 patients with proper medicines, nebulisation, dental checkups, eye checkups and even cataract surgeries. What keeps me inspired is the urge to address all the poverty and pain I see around.”
Dr. Rao’s belief in holistic healthcare has brought about a huge transformation with 350 surrounding villages receiving drinking watervia a water system initiated and funded by him. Recalling some of his milestones, the State and National award-winning exemplary and virtuous doctor says, “Crossing over 1000 patients per day was a very important milestone and free cataract surgery to over 100 poor patients every month, restoring eyesight to the blind. Also crossing over 1 million patients was a dream come true. All the awards, the Padmashri Award, the Karnataka Rajyotsava Award and honours are dedicated to my patients in the village clinic .”
Revealing some of his list of celebrities who consult him for any medical advice, he says, “Dr Rajkumar, actors Rajinikanth, Amitabh Bachchan, all the chief ministers of Karnataka and the Royal Family of Mysore to name a few.” His future plans, he concludes are, “To replicate the ideas of a Village Clinic all over the country with the help of like-minded people and to propagate the idea of rural service to all the young doctors through their medical colleges.”