In memoriam: Professor S Gopalakrishnan, M.Sc., Ph.D., M.B., B.S., 1940-2013KG Krishnan
Department of Neurological Surgery, Justus Liebig University Medical School, Giessen, Germany
Correspondence Address: Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
Srinivasan Gopalakrishnan (Gopal), a retired professor of biochemistry, died in Chennai on 18 November 2013 at the age of 72.
Gopal was born in Madras Presidency in southern India in 1940. He earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry and a master's degree in biochemistry from the Faculty of Medicine, University of Madras. His research work for the Master and Doctor of Philosophy titles focused on wound healing and diabetes. He taught biochemistry at the medical colleges of Madurai, Tanjore, and Madras.
During Gopal's times, non-medical teacher-scientists of pre-clinical sciences did not get promoted within the realms of medical institutions. Essentially, they became rats running on wheels, working hard to move the system, but not getting anywhere themselves. This was quite contrary to the spirit of a free world, less of free India.
Together with his colleagues, Dr. R Bhagawathi Raj (a physiologist) and Dr. S Narayanan (an anatomist), Gopal founded "The Association of Pre-clinical Teaching Staff in Tamil Nadu Medical Services" and served as its first president [Figure 1]. They petitioned the government (in vain) for promotion based on scientific merit. Promotion would be granted if they produced evidence of a basic medical degree. It seemed impossible that persons established in their professions and families would leave their paying jobs, enter medical schools, and apply again. Gopal and friends took that challenge. They applied for allotment of study leave, which was granted, and the government agreed to provide them half their monthly salaries.
Thus, these teachers studied medicine in classrooms along with students of age as their own children. Pragmatism would have its way; paperwork got tangled, resulting in held-up paycheques over a period of 3 years or more. Gopal's reminders to the government on behalf of his peers and himself carried the motto "Justice Delayed is Justice Denied." Hurdles notwithstanding, all of them completed the study of medicine (thus the titles "M.B. and B.S." appear as postgrad degrees following their names), and many went on to join their respective departments and received due promotions.
The notion that teachers of pre-clinical subjects require a basic medical qualification is quite correct, since they need to impart knowledge that is practical rather than theoretical.
Is not any (pre-clinical) teacher at any (medicine, dentistry, or veterinary medicine) institution bound to impart applied aspects of their respective subjects?
Thus, the crux of the issue here is experience in teaching and research, and not the origin of their basic scientific qualification.
After his retirement from governmental duty, Gopal continued teaching in various private institutions of the country. His honorary service included involvement in committees for revision of syllabi in biochemistry and in examination committees for dental, medical, and pharmaceutical studies.
Dr. Gopalakrishnan remained a simple and humble person with a deep sense of dharma and love for dedicated service to humanity. During his active years as a teacher, many would have observed his front yard turned into a classroom in the evening hours. After he acquired his skills as a medical doctor, many would have observed both students seeking to clear aspects of subject matter as well as people seeking his medical advice. As he advanced in age and wisdom, many would have observed children, women, and men of all ages and walks of life waiting to have a word of encouragement, solace, or blessing from him.
Dr. Gopalakrishnan is survived by his wife Lalitha, to whom he was married for 44 years; a daughter, Kavitha and her husband, Shankar (both manage a pharmaceutical business in Chennai); two sons (Kartik, a neurosurgeon based in Germany and Kumar, who heads the European medical affairs team for diabetes research); two daughters-in-law; and five grandchildren.
He was succeeded in death 4 weeks later by his close friend Professor Bhagawathi Raj, the physiologist with whom he founded "The Association of Pre-clinical Teaching Staff in Tamil Nadu Medical Services."