Government Medical College Chandigarh Old Students Association
NOSTALGIA...WITH PROF VK KAK
One of our editors, Hemender Singh (’91), recently caught up with our second Director Principal, Prof VK Kak…
I met Prof Kak on my recent visit to India. The rendezvous, which was planned for half hour, extended into two hours as we refreshed our memories of the GMC years. Prof Kak was just the way he always has been - sharp, witty and precisely focused on the issues we discussed. It was enlightening to hear his views about GMC’s yesteryears, experience as a teacher, surgeon, leader and principal, his obstacles and the way he dealt with them. Prof Kak is now enjoying his time off from administrative responsibilities and is spending time doing what he enjoys most - being a grandfather. Following are excerpts from my discussion with him.
Đ Hemender Singh (HS): What made you decide to come to GMC after being in PGI and teaching for so many years?
Prof VK Kak (VKK): I had spent 26 years in PGI before opting for GMC. During that time we worked very hard not only to make PGI Neurosurgery a center of national repute, but gain international acclaim as well. If you feel that you have done enough for a cause, it is often better to take on another, and different, challenge. Since Chandigarh did not have an undergraduate medical college, I took the challenge.
Đ HS: How was your GMC experience different from the PGI experience?
VKK: PGI is solely a postgraduate institution for specialties and super-specialties. In addition to providing professional care, you also have to be a good teacher and trainer as well as excel in research activities. GMC was in its formative stage where the emphasis was not only to oversee the construction and equipping of the new institution, but also to ensure human resource development and state of the art training of the initial batches of young students. The final aim was to get recognition for the college on schedule so that not a single day of the students was wasted.
Đ HS: You were head of GMC during its roughest years. How was your experience? What help did you have and what deterred you the most?
VKK: I happened to be in position to see GMC successfully through its most demanding period. When I took over the task in August 1995, there were three primary objectives – to recruit suitably qualified faculty (as per MCI norms) in time, to get the final examinations on schedule, and to get the MCI to inspect the college and the examinations towards granting recognition by January 1996. Faculty was recruited on deputation or contract and most of the senior teachers were from PGI whom I could persuade utilizing my long contacts. The Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University did not bat an eyelid while allowing our request to delink our final exams from those of CMC and DMC Ludhiana. Getting all the students to take the final exams was proving tough, but I could finally prevail over four ‘dissenting’ parents to let their children appear. The MCI inspection reports of the college and the exams were very favorable but for reasons best known to them, the MCI was dithering in granting recognition. It goes to the credit of our judiciary which rose to the occasion. I had a unique experience of participating in the ‘birth’ of a medical college.
It will be difficult to try to enumerate all the persons who helped me in this task. First and foremost the administration was very favorably inclined towards development of this college and extended all possible help in granting various sanctions – including the Governors, the Advisors and the administrative secretaries of Chandigarh Administration. The best combination undoubtedly was Gen Chhibber, Jagdish Sagar, Anuradha Gupta and Navreet Kang. Directors of PGI and Vice-Chancellors of PU rendered all possible help, as also my faculty colleagues at PGI.
Persons who put their own interests before those of the institution earned my dislike. They either mended their ways or else were shunted out. A number of times the ‘FD’ (finance department) tried to put a spanner in the wheels, but the administration helped us out in this regard. None of these, however, deterred me.
Đ HS: You were known to us as a very ‘approachable principal’ and someone who cooled many tempers and egos in the administration to get things running for GMC. What do you think about this? What kept you going?
VKK: An individual occupying the top position in any institution must start with a clean slate, forgetting all personal and previous likes and dislikes. I was offered ‘security’ on taking over as Secretary and D-P, but I politely refused citing that the day I needed security from my students I would rather leave the institution. The rest is history. Administration is the summation of collective wisdom and hence anyone could meet me anytime at any place, including my residence for the student community. No decisions were ever taken in the heat of the moment, but only after giving a considered thought. My commitment to my students, and the city of Chandigarh, kept me going.
Đ HS: How has your rapport been with the faculty of GMC and students of GMC and how has it changed since you left GMC?
VKK: I had a very good rapport with the faculty and students of GMC during what could easily be described as the best period of my life. I had to take certain tough and unpleasant decisions in some matters affecting the faculty and the students, but they were reaches after careful consideration of facts and in the overall interest of the college. My relations with the faculty, the students, other staff and our graduates have not changed. Anyone can, and still does, approach me without an appointment.
Đ HS: In what direction do you see GMC moving in the next decade, and later?
VKK: Although post-graduation has been started in several departments, certain key departments are missing from this list. I hope GMC rectifies this anomaly as soon as possible. The faculty is not uniform in their commitment to research activities – this needs a strong push in the right direction. I hope to see GMC rise to take its place amongst the top medical colleges of the country.
Đ HS: Is there one thing you would have done differently for GMC while you were principal?
VKK: GMC could have been developed as a ‘deemed university’, but it is very difficult to have this status at the onset. This status gives autonomy for the institution, resulting in avoidance of very long delays in construction, purchases, framing of rules, recruitment and several other matters – on which the ‘babudom’ thrives.
Đ HS: How do you find our GMCCOSA site and the CONNECTIONS newsletter?
VKK: The website is good, but slightly slow for navigation. This can be easily improved. CONNECTIONS is a very good way to connect not only old colleagues but the old and the new as well. It might be a great advantage to have this web address available on the GMC website. GMCCOSA should not only aim to meet overseas, but have regular meetings in Chandigarh also. I wish the endeavor all success.
Đ HS: Are you enjoying your time off now?
VKK: A professional never retires, but yes, I am enjoying my time after shrugging off the shackles of government jobs. I spend my time doing some professional work – OPD and surgeries for three days each, no emergencies and no night calls. Afternoons are spent in my long standing passion of playing bridge. I read, write, learn from the net and last but not the least, enjoy the company of my grandchildren.
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