Government Medical College Chandigarh Old Students Association
NOSTALGIA...WITH DR KANCHAN KAPOOR
We will be inviting our faculty, past and present, to share their stories and perspectives on the ‘growing-up’ of GMCH. Without doubt, the best person to inaugurate this series is Dr Kanchan Kapoor, currently Reader in Anatomy, who holds the distinction of being the faculty with longest tenure at GMCH. I remember her as a pleasant reprieve in the disciplinarian world of anatomy – always available, always calm and always ready to field the most naïve questions. We asked her to share some memories of GMCH with us.
♣ Editors (Eds.): How long have you been teaching at GMCH?
Dr Kanchan Kapoor (KK): More than 14 years; I joined GMCH in March 1992.
♣ Eds.: Please tell us a little about yourself?
KK: I grew up in Moga, a small town in Punjab. After 10+2, I joined Govt. Medical College, Amritsar for graduation and then post graduation. In 1984, I joined PGIMER, Chandigarh as a research scholar. I completed my doctorate (PhD) in Anatomy in 1991 from there and then continued there for a short period as a senior research fellow.
My husband, Dr Pramod Kumar, is a social scientist and is Director of Institute for Development and Communication, Chandigarh. My daughter, Savika is in her last year of engineering. My son, Akshat is in 9th class. I am a voracious reader. I read fiction and philosophical books. I like to visit places of historical interest.
♣ Eds.: What made you come to GMCH?
KK: The lure of getting a regular job and the attraction of interacting with young alert minds were my main reasons to join GMCH.
♣ Eds.: You were among the pioneer faculty in GMCH. Can you describe some of the challenges faced in establishing our anatomy department?
KK: The first session of GMCH started in September 1991. Professor J.S. Chopra, was our first Director Principal. We were 8 faculty members – 3 each in Anatomy and Physiology and 2 in Biochemistry. For the first few months, all the teachers were busy collecting quotations from shop to shop and then procuring things for their departments. To start with, we had limited furniture for different labs. I remember – we had only 50 stools in the beginning. Students used to carry their own stools from dissection hall to histology lab.
The biggest challenge was getting cadavers for dissection. The first batch did not have cadavers for the first six months. We managed to get a few brains from PGI. So the students were taught osteology and brain during this time. I remember this being reflected by students in a skit at a college function – one student acted as a cadaver and when it arrived, they all celebrated and worshipped it with dhoop, agarbati etc.
Then it was the setting up of anatomy museum for various Panjab University and MCI inspections. The first few batches might recall the charts and sketches they were asked to prepare before these inspections. All the staff including teachers, artist, modeler and attendants worked together till late in the evenings to dissect, paint and label the museum specimens. We also borrowed a few things from PGI. The atmosphere would be charged up with excitement just before these inspections. It was an excellent example of team work.
♣ Eds.: Can you recall any memorable incident with the first few batches?
KK: There are so many memories of those days – one such incident was the occasion of our first annual day. Dr Kiran Chadha, then Additional Director for Administration, was also the convener of college cultural committee. It was decided by her that every participating team will be given a gift basket full of sweets and chocolates. We bought baskets and decorated them with buntings and flowers and filled them with sweets and chocolates. These were kept in the dressing room of Bhargava auditorium in PGI (where the function was held). When time came to hand out these baskets, we found much to our dismay, that all the sweets and chocolates had been eaten by students of the Bhangra team while they were getting ready for their performance. We were left with no option but to stuff the empty baskets with more flowers and presented them as such. Later on all the students grumbled about just receiving flowers, but everyone was very happy with the successful completion of annual day function and the incident was soon forgotten.
♣ Eds.: I recall the effort that was put into coordinating the First Professional exams for the first batch. Can you tell us how the anatomy exam was organized?
KK: For some time, there was no surety that exams would be conducted by the university. The late start of the session and some problems regarding affiliation were cited as reasons. The students would come up to us everyday with many queries about the exams. Finally our director principal’s efforts bore fruit and Panjab University decided to hold the examination.
The first batch appeared for their final exam in December 1993. At that time none of us were qualified to be an examiner. So the university appointed four external examiners; two external and two who acted as internals from DMC and CMC Ludhiana (both colleges were affiliated with Panjab University then). Subjecting our students to four new faces was a challenge. We were also apprehensive that these senior teachers might comment on our teaching. But much to our relief, the first batch students were highly appreciated by the four senior examiners. Their praise was very gratifying and made us more confident for the future.
♣ Eds.: How has the faculty-student relationship evolved since the inception of GMCH?
KK: The relationship between students and faculty has seen a sea change during the last decade. Since ages, Anatomy department is known for its discipline. Earlier students had that warning from their seniors and they were very obedient, and initially, even afraid to approach their teachers. After a few months, they would become more assured and would even idolize their favorite teachers. Now trends have changed – students have more exposure and are quite confident right from the get go. Somehow, they consider class room teaching to be not very important and absenteeism is more prevalent now than before. On the other hand, children are more technology savvy nowadays. They are more aware, have a global perspective and are definite about their future plans from the start.
♣ Eds.: One and a half decades of the existence of GMCH have gone by. How would you describe the journey from Prayaas to the full fledged GMCH?
KK: Fifteen years back, the college started from a rented building in Prayaas, Sector 38-B. It has taken us this long to finally shift the whole college to Sector 32. The journey was full of various challenges – University and MCI inspections, delay in achieving recognition, starting of post-graduate courses, our own entrance examination for the same and then again inspections. In between, we have had inaugurations, construction and occupation of various blocks in Sector 32. It is amazing to observe the growing infrastructure starting from scratch, and now each department is fully equipped. Our operation theatres are comparable to any other developed country of the world. However, we still have a long way to go. The construction of E-Block for the basic and para-clinical departments is yet to start. The recruitment of renowned clinicians is also the topmost priority. Since its inception, our seniors have led us to believe that our institute is one of the best in the country and I very firmly believe in that.
♣ Eds.: Do the students still dread Anatomy as much as the initial batches did?
KK: Yes, students still dread Anatomy. With reduction of 1st Professional time from 18 months to 12 months, the basic subjects have become more dreadful. Fresh students do not get enough time to get acclimatized in the department. The problem gets aggravated for the late admits. NRI students are also at a loss to comprehend so much information bombarded at them in a single day. We understand their problems but we have our own limitations. The basic department teachers by and large are not happy with the change in 1st Prof schedule.
♣ Eds.: How do you react when you see your ex-students as full fledged doctors?
KK: It is a matter of utmost pride to meet one’s ex-students as full fledged doctors. I am still able to recognize almost all of them even though the names and batches are forgotten. I immediately recall and visualize the successful confident doctor as a shy first year student who was afraid to even approach me. Those are the moments when one actually feels rewarded as a teacher.
♣ Eds.: A final message for the alumni?
KK: I wish all the success to the alumni of this college for their future endeavors. It is my desire that your web-page and the magazine become more popular and interactive. Because these efforts bind the current batches with the older ones and let them feel a part of great history in the making. I also appeal to the alumni settled anywhere in the world to be more sensitive towards the needs of their alma mater and help it in every possible way.
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