“If you do not read and keep up with what is latest in the profession, your knowledge reduces every year by 20%. So by the end of say five years, just like the value of a vehicle depreciates, your education depreciates. A doctor must always upgrade his or her knowledge.” Valuable words voiced by the genial and very popular doctor, Dr. Chitti Pantulu.
He studied in a small school, locally called the ‘Bullaya Master’ school in Kakinada paying only six annas a month. The urge to become a doctor manifested itself at a young age, inspired by the local doctor or rather medical man, Kader Khan. “He was a simple man who came on a bicycle and gave injections and remedies curing the sick and ailing. He used to treat everyone, and he inspired me become a doctor.” In 1953, Dr.Pantulu passed his intermediate (BiPC) from the PR College in Kakinada and then applied to the Andhra Medical College in Vizag. “Back then, studies then were much tougher, out of 125 students, only 25 completed their intermediate, and only six of us could get admission.” And amongst those six was the affable doc and his future wife. After completing his internship, he joined government services as a Civil Asst Surgeon for a paltry pay of only Rs 250 per month.
His first posting was at Dumriguda (a hamlet with about only 25 families) near Araku. Just about 23 years old, he used to walk nine miles from Araku to Dumriguda. As with the rest of the village structures, even the ‘hospital’ was in a hut. With the assistance of his 3-4 staff members, the group toured the nearby villages and hamlets. “That was the real experience in life, we realised what was real hardships. The only entertainment and access to news from the civilisation was a battery operated Phillips radio; even the newspapers were delivered two days old. Once while we were travelling in our ambulance, we were stuck in a shallow stretch when suddenly there was a flash flood. Luckily we managed to jump out of the vehicle, which was washed away in the flood. Till date the ambulance has not been recovered!” adds the doc with a twinkle in his eye. “That was the most exhilarating experience in my life.”
“My next posting was in Kotauratla (1960) near Narsipatnam, where my soul-mate (my classmate) was posted as well. We got married there and had a wonderful four years in that village. By then I was receiving a princely salary amount of Rs 325 per month. We returned to Vizag in 1964 for pursuing our post graduation degrees, I took MD in General Medicine.” In 1966, after acquiring his MD, he continued in the Andhra Medical College, as an Asst Professor. “In ’75 we were both deputed by the Government of India to serve in Iran where we spent three years. The Government deputed us to Iran at the behest of the then ruler of Iran, the Shahenshah. We were stationed at Ghazin, about 160 kms from Tehran. There, the Indian team of doctors developed the hospitals and medical care facilities.”
When the couple returned to India in 1978, he was promoted to Professor and continued in the Andhra Medical College. “In 1987 I took voluntary retirement as I did not want a promotion which would mean being stationed out of Vizag neither did I want to be transferred to Administration. I always wanted to be directly involved with the profession itself. I continued as a consultant physician for many organisations like Steel Plant, Railways, Zinc, till about ‘97.” Since then the doctor has been working in his own clinic.
His advice to young doctors is very straightforward; “Nobody should come into this profession for earning money, the main criteria should be motivation and interest. If you want money, purchase instead an acre of land and dabble in real estate, but enter the doctor’s profession only if you want to serve and are interested in medicine; never for the money alone. The money will come in any case, but a voracious appetite for money is not good.”