Dr K Govindaswamy Bakthavathsalam: Living his father’s dream
Dr Govindaswamy Bakthavathsalam, Chairman, K G Hospital, Coimbatore
Jasleen Kaur Batra
Dr Bakthavathsalam is one of the top surgeons in the country today. Highly motivated by his father, who wanted him to become a doctor, he is a renowned surgeon, philanthropist, orator, a teacher and an entrepreneur.
Born on April 5, 1942 in a small village in Coimbatore called Annur, it was his father who infused the blood of medicine in him as he always dreamt of seeing him become a doctor. “Becoming a doctor was infused into my blood by my father when I was in the10th grade. He gave me the passion to become a doctor. My father hailing from a small village from Annur said my son must become a big doctor. We are 7 brothers and sisters and I am the second eldest child in the family. He repeatedly kept telling me that I should become a doctor. He kept motivating me from the time I was a child, his motivation has always been precious in my life. It is only with the motivation and passion that he infused in me that I am where I stand today,” expresses Dr Govindaswamy Bakthavathsalam, Chairman, K G Hospital. He pursued his basic education in Tamil Nadu. He then went to St Josephs College and then to Madras Medical College, to pursue MBBS. But for him having an MBBS degree was not enough, he wanted to go further and become a surgeon. “Surgeons were always more respected. So I got motivated towards learning surgeries. Having motivated myself I got the opportunity to work under the best doctor in town named Dr Sharadchandra. He was one of the greatest surgeons, and believed that a great surgeon is not one who conducts the maximum number of surgeries; a great surgeon is one who creates as many surgeons as he can. I absorbed this from him and made it my mantra as a surgeon,” says Dr Bakthavathsalam. He cannot still forget the ‘divine’ call he received from his college friends based in the US. He informed him about an opening in Mount Chine Hospital in Chicago. This was the turning point in his life. He took the permission and blessing of his father and left for US with his wife and children. The amount of experience and exposure this job brought to him was tremendous and he felt at ease not just with himself but even with the way a hospital functions as he had gained a lot of experience. “I worked in the US for 3 yeas and learnt all that I wanted to, as I was exposed to the entire medical system. For me US is the makka for medicine, if you are a doctor and you have not been to US your education is incomplete,” avers Dr Bakthavathsalam. His stay in the US was rather small and he returned back to India within three years as his father wanted him to return back to
India and serve the people here. He left the opportunities that were constantly coming his way in the US and came to India with $ 1000 in his hand, an ECG machine and a ventilator machine. He came to India with a dream, a dream to build a hospital and serve as many people as he could. He set up K G Hospital in 1974, and over the past 37 years he with his passion has turned a 10-bed hospital into a 550-bed multi and super specialty hospital, which has treated more than 4 million patients today. “What I learnt in the US was that a hospital can survive only with competition. It is not competition, its competitiveness; if you do not compete with yourself and the other hospitals around you, achieving the stature of being the best are almost impossible,” believes Dr Bakthavathsalam.
Every child says he would like to be like their parent, and Dr Bakthavathsalam too was an admirer of his father and idolised him in ever possible way. His father, Dharmaveera K Govindaswamy Naidu was into the cotton industry and did his job with a lot of passion. As a child Dr Bakthavathsalam received a lot of motivation from his father; the motivation was so strong that he started living his father dreams and made them his own.
He was always inclined towards education and wanted to teach as many children as possible, his passion towards creating awareness made him set up number of medical institutes like K G School of Nursing, College of Nursing, College of Arts & Science, KGISL Institute of Technology, K G College of Physiotherapy, K G Information Systems Pvt Ltd (software company), Coimbatore Hi-tech Infrastructure Pvt Ltd (Special Economic Zone), K G Healthcare Ltd and more. “I strongly believe that education and innovation is what will take our country forward. I have always felt the urge to set up institutes to educate children, hence so many colleges. My dream today is to start a medical college, the journey is going to be tough I am sure, but this is something I have been planning to do for a long time now and I am sure I will do it in the years to come,” says Dr Bakthavathsalam. A doctor generally does not get too much leisure time for themselves, but when Dr Bakthavathsalam does, he enjoys listening to spiritual tunes by Vittaldas Maharaj. He feels music has become a part of his life, and helps to soothe himself and gain perspective at things. He also enjoys a good read before he goes to bed. He enjoys reading self-help and mythological books. Over the years he has also developed the joy for travelling and loves to go around different places and look at what each place has to offer. But even today his passion lies in medicine and healthcare.
He wants his hospital to create a great name and credibility for itself. “We have started to imply the American model, but we need to be American in the brain and Indian at heart, that is my mantra. We should try to have the best technology and skills like the Americans do but be empathic to our patients, be it in a big city or in a rural area,” avers Dr Bakthavathsalam.
His mantra in life
A very unique and interesting practice that Dr Bakthavathsalam does follow is that of maintaining a balance sheet. From the day he has began his journey as a doctor he has made making a balance sheet a part of his life. This is not a financial balance sheet, it is a unique one that keeps a record of how many people he has provided relief from pain, the number of patients he has treated, operated upon, the number of patients who are living a healthy life today and also the ones who are no more. This helps him maintain his focus and also motivates him to do better.
Dr Bakthavathsalam has a very interesting As’ formula that is his mantra, A-Ability, Availability, Affability, Accessibility, Affordability, Accountability and Academics. “These are the seven parameters by which a doctor can make or break his name in the medical industry, if a doctor practices these his journey would definitely be a successful and fruitful one,” he believes.
Most memorable moment
When Dr Abdul Kalam Azad came to our eye hospital in 2005, he appreciated and congratulated all the doctors as he felt a great job was being done. I had never in my dreams imagined that the President of India would visit my hospital, but he did and that was definitely the most memorable moment for me.