“DOCTOR JI! PLEASE HELP KIJIYE! YEH REPORT DEKHIYE! BIOCHEMISTRY KIDHAR HAI?”
And that, dear Reader, was my first teaser of arguably one of the most universally respected and noble professions- the health sciences.
(And, might I add, despite merely being a “12th pass,” being addressed with the reverence that comes with the white coat, though undeserved then, sure felt great!)
I’m a student of Grant Medical College, Mumbai; having just entered First MBBS here. And this article is going to try and show you the academic world of the health sciences through the (one myopic, one hyperopic, and both astigmatic) eyes of an 18 year old.
Well, the first day was our orientation session. [Yes, surprise surprise! ‘Our generation’ has orientations, counseling, and all sorts of personal help facilities offered to us (including samosas and gulab jamuns!) And yes, we do know all this wasn’t there 40 years ago!]
Our dynamic Dean Sir, Padmashree Dr. T P Lahane, is truly an inspirational visionary, and has an awe-inspiring ability to put a group of 200 fidgety teenagers from varied backgrounds at complete ease within seconds, owing to his jovial nature and deep, profound wisdom.
Anyone wondering why Destiny had thrown them onto a whirlwind career path that famously requires studying practically forever, was immediately satiated by the discussions on the professional satisfaction and humanitarian benefits few other professions can boast of having as a direct result of their day-to-day work.
The guideline I have been given for the article however demands that I basically discuss my college, so all the juicy canteen gossips and the complicated and rather vociferous Boys Common Room arguments about who won the latest Table Tennis match will have to wait for another day, sorry to disappoint you.
Table Tennis reminds me, our college also has its own Gymkhana, bang on the Marine Drive waterfront!
And here’s a bit of information that would make any builder or realtor worth their weight in ‘bina-milavatwalla-cement’ turn brick-red with jealousy (pardon the bad puns, it seems my humour is becoming famously doctor-ish already!).
The campus is spread over 44 acres.
Yes, IN MUMBAI. Believe it.
The campus is so beautifully ensconced in its old-world charm, my friend who visited it rather eloquently stated “I saw it, and something just happened to me.”
To be honest, there is never a dearth of lush greenery, manicured gardens, chirping birds and bright butterflies. When you enter the campus having battled your way through the congested Byculla area, suddenly you feel like you’re in Paradise. I’m pretty sure that besides the Maharashtra Nature Park and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park and maybe a few other such sites, the Sir JJ Group of Hospitals campus has the cleanest air one can find in Mumbai.
More about the college.
(This is now my third attempt at sticking to the brief. Sorry, Editor Sir!)
The motto of the college is “Mens Sana in Corpore Sano” which means in English “Sound Mind in Sound Body”.
Well, my college is now in its 167th year. It is the oldest building in Mumbai built in the Tudor style of architecture. The college started functioning in October 1845.
It was the one of the first medical colleges in India, and is actually older than the CST and BMC buildings. Many campus buildings have been built before 1940, the oldest coming with a date of c.1845!
Robert Grant, then the Governor of Bombay, proposed to set up a medical college and teaching hospital, that would take care of all the medical needs of the poor.
In March 1838, Sir Jamshetjee Jejeebhoy, the First Indian Knight & Baronet (1783-1859), offered a magnanimous donation of one hundred thousand Rupees for this cause.
The annals of Grant Medical College’s illustrious history are not only coloured with nobility and philanthropy, but also unprecedented path-breaking intellectual contributions by many talented individuals.
• In 1957, the illustrator of the Gray’s Anatomy Textbook – a Bible for medical students- was a dean here, and did pioneering work on tropical diseases in India for 30 years!
• In 1886, Sir V.M. Haffkine worked on the preparation of plague vaccine in the F.D. Petit Laboratory of G.M.C. (which is today occupied by the Pharmacology Department).
• Robert Koch’s work on Vibrio cholerae was done in two rooms of the old animal house behind coroner’s court.
• Van Duke Carter, after whom the O.P.D. Laboratory of Sir J.J.H. is named, discovered in the Pathology Department the Spirochaetes of Relapsing Fever in Blood Smears in 1907.
• It was here that Christopher and Caval worked on Malaria and Dr. Raghavendra Rao worked in on Tropical Diseases, Leprosy, Plague & Leishmaniasis.
• Donovan-T who worked here, is the ‘D’ of the LD in Kala Azar.
Probably easier for most to relate to is the fact that the film Munnabhai MBBS had some scenes shot in our Anatomy Lecture Hall!
The campus today has 46 buildings. We also have 7-15 canteens, famous in all the medical circles for their delicious food.
(I would have been more specific on the number, but the figure is perpetually under dispute, and the sprawling campus is so large that no one has managed to conduct an accurate census till date.)
Believe me, here everything is mind-blowingly scrumptious, from Chinese to South Indian to even kela wafers.
Grant Medical College has consistently been ranked in the Top 10 Medical colleges in India, and with good reason.
The Sir JJ Group of Hospitals is not just the JJ Hospital on this campus, but also GT Hospital, St. George’s Hospital and Cama and Albless Hospital. The clinical exposure available to medical students here is absolutely phenomenal and possibly amongst the richest in the world.
As one of our respected professors most aptly put it, “Grant Medical College has a glorious past, pleasant present and bright future.”
And the future indeed is as bright as the Diwali pyrotechnics all around, the hospital has received a sanction of a few hundred crores by the Government for a new state-of-the-art super-speciality building, and a spanking new hostel as well.
Some of the illustrious alumni include Dr Jivraj Mehta (Founder-Dean of KEM Hospital and Seth GS College), Dr NH Wadia, Dr Joshipura, Dr Bhau Daji Lad Parsekar, Dr V N Shirodkar (after whom 6 operations are named), Padmabhushan Dr VR Khanolkar and Shantilal J Mehta (founder of Jaslok Hospital), amongst many others.
The alumni have come together and formed the Friends of Grant Medical Colege and Sir JJ Group of Hospitals Trust, and are collecting funds to restore the heritage architecture, heritage medical journals dating back to the 18th century, Rolls of Honour, Dean Rolls etc; and plan to build an auditorium, history and heritage museum, research society, and electronic library; and also bring video-conferencing facilities so students can remain updated on foreign techniques and researches as well.
Enough of the historic past and exciting future, for these are topics which yield to endless musings; let’s cut to the present.
On my first day, my parents anxiously whispered to me in the morning “listen Biyu, if there is fun ragging and they ask you your name, you can comply in the spirit of fun. If you feel it’s making you uncomfortable and is not a healthy interaction, just stop it right there.” This helpful cautioning coming just a few days after I’d read some of the most gory incidents of ragging in a book.
Well, it turned out to be much ado about nothing, after all. PHEW!
Not only were my seniors most helpful and kind, and ever-generous in their guidance, but also they introduced themselves to us before asking us our names! Many of them are ever willing to help out, in academics as well as on other fronts, and the rapport established seems to be in true accordance with the legendary ‘GMC Spirit.’
Our teachers too are delightfully approachable. They took a very strong stand against ragging; and immediately made us all feel welcome and comfortable, and I must add, the visual aids they meticulously prepare for us make our lectures even more enjoyable.
Our batch is a melee of different people from the most diverse of backgrounds, coming together rather cohesively in a melting pot of myriad personalities with common goals.
So yes, on the ‘crowd’ front, often not in accordance with popular belief, let me clarify, GMC is great. Actually.
And here is some news that’ll knock the socks off the feet of any non-health sciences student. Brace yourselves.
We. Have. Extra-curricular. Activities. Too!
Ha! Bet you never saw that one coming!
We have table tennis, chess, badminton, swimming, cricket etc; a rotaract club for medical students, college sports and cultural festivals and even our own student band and magazine.
But, I digress.
Now on to the favourite topic of all non-medicos. The (“OMG! SO Scary!”) Books.
Yes, our books are HUGE. All of them are.
(Do I hear someone snigger “nerd”?)
But guess what?
They equip us to save lives some day.
And they’re actually pretty colourful too.
I’ve probably painted a very rosy picture here, and you’re now wondering when the Ifs, Buts and allied fine print is going to trickle in. Like everything else in life, there are definitely downsides here too.
Here’s news that would make any self-respecting non-CA commerce student gasp in horror. On an average, Medical Colleges are from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm, 6 days a week.
And, our subjects are vast, ever-evolving, and nearly impossible to master 100%. And it’s not like the pass mark is collapsing as fast as the European economy was either.
What keeps us ticking however, is the fact that the subjects are all factual, and therefore interesting and relate-able, and most importantly, the inspiring hope that at the end of all this, we may be able to make your life better in some small way.
Well, it’s time for me to sign off.
No, not to study.
That’s really not the only thing medical students do!
Some of us watch online medical lectures also, you know….
If I don’t end this article soon, the uninitiated are going to suspect this is a medical textbook in the making as well.
And my dear Editor will have my head for exceeding all permissible word counts.
I hope this article added a new dimension to your perception of medical college, which was the only aim I had in mind. Your blessings and brickbats would both be received with gratitude, so please do not hesitate to voice your opinions on this article.
Grant Medical College is no doubt a great college on all fronts, and true testimony to this fact is that you will never find any alumnus of this college ever speak even the slightest negative word against it, something that some of the best universities in the world can’t boast of.
All ‘GMCites’ love GMC.
And hopefully, now you know why.
(Photo courtesy Mr Kanhaiya Kumar)