B. Ramamurthi: The Global Face of Indian Neurosurgery
Correspondence Address: Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None DOI: 10.4103/0028-3886.344640
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
This is “a tribute” on the occasion of the birth centenary of Professor Balasubramaniam Ramamurthi, who is not only one of the architects of Indian Neurosurgery but also one of the architects in the broad field of Neurosciences. I am aware that at least two “Monographs” are under preparation by his associates and students in Chennai. I have personally written about him in Neurology India earlier, paying my tributes and briefly summarizing his contributions to Indian Neurosurgery soon after his demise and later expressing my personal reminiscences. These reflected glimpses of our warm friendship extending over 50 years, beginning as an interaction between an admiring initiate to an established doyen and finally becoming members of an extended family, who worked together for a common cause – development of Neurosurgery and the whole field of Neurosciences in India. The Text Book of Neurosurgery, The Text Book of Operative Neurosurgery, and his little-known contributions to the establishment of the Neuroscience Center at AIIMS, New Delhi, and the National Brain Research Center at Manesar, Gurugram, are some examples of our joint efforts among many others.,, Much more about our friendship is recorded by him in his autobiography.
However, on the occasion of his birth centenary, I will restrict myself to only two facets of his contributions, one being his services to Neurology India (NI) and the other being him as the Global Face of Indian Neurosurgery.
“Looking back, one wonders at not only the foresight but also the audacity of the founder fathers of the Neurological Society of India. To start a Society with four members, reminds me of the proverb “all chiefs and no Indians”, showed their perception of future development”; of course, B Ramamurthi was one of these four members. Even before there were a dozen full members of the Society, its founding fathers launched the journal “The Neurology (India)” in 1953 with B Ramamurthi (BRM) as its first Editor (who was also its founding Secretary). Today, when the Journal is approaching its 70th birthday, we can applaud the visions of the founders of Indian Neurosciences headed by Professor Jacob Chandy and consisting of Baldev Singh, S.T. Narasimhan, and B Ramamurthi. The details about the evolution of the Society and the Journal are available in a monumental Monograph painstakingly brought out by Professor Sunil K Pandya. This informs us that the first issue of the Journal contained the inaugural presidential address by Jacob Chandy, “Neurology Comes to Life: The precepts and concepts in Neurology”. Besides the editorials contributed by BRM, I found that his first paper in NI was on pituitary apoplexy, and in the same volume, he wrote about the social problems in epilepsy, incidence of disseminated sclerosis, and cerebral angiography in intra-cranial lesions. He remained an untiring contributor to the journal, which reflects the progress of Indian Neurosurgery.
A complete list of his publications including those in NI up to 1970 would be provided by the other publications by his former students. I may just add one of his later publications, “The Future of Neurosciences in India”, in S.K. Pandya's Monograph (a publication of Neurological Society of India 1989).
NI would do a service to the neurosciences community if it brings out a list of all BRM's papers published in the journal or if possible his “collected works”.
Let me come to the next subject of BRM as a global face of Indian neurosurgery. Most Indian neuroscientists, especially neurosurgeons, would know his national contributions, but a few would be aware of his acting as an “Ambassador of Indian Neurosciences”. No other person contributed as persistently and as much as him in this respect. The dual purpose of his 'innumerable visits abroad was not only to advance personal knowledge but to project the advances taking place in this field in India. He was a globe trotter; he visited most of the well-known neurosurgical centers in the five continents, some of them even multiple times. His autobiography provides interesting episodes of these escapades! In search of inspiration, I have gone through his autobiography several times. I have gathered valuable information in this regard, and the account that follows is all gained from this book. In this quest, he left no country where worthwhile neurosurgery was known to be pursued. This included not only the UK, the USA, Canada, and Europe but also China, Taiwan, Japan, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines, Iran, Egypt, Lebanon, and South Africa. Our neighbors, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, were not missed, and he interacted with the leaders of neurosurgery in these countries too. Thus, he made friends with virtually every one known in contemporary neurosurgery. The list is too big for me to enumerate, but if we wish to know the who-is-who of the neurosurgery of this era, you may read his autobiography. You will not only learn about them but also see their photographs with BRM. In this venture, his gracious wife was a constant companion adding her charm. The stories of his interaction with the who-is-who of neurosurgeons of the four corners of the world he visited make interesting and informative reading. He visited them, and many of them visited him as well. The gathering of foreign neurosurgeons on the occasion of the Inauguration of the Madras Neurological Institute, the first such center in the country, is a proof of it. When I asked my valuable colleague Dr. Banerji, who also knew him well to describe the unique feature of BRM, he in his usual perceptive way summarized it in a few words, “His ability to bond with others, young or old”. Thus, his list of friends was unparalleled. In his own words, “From Glasgow to Southampton, most British neurosurgeons were friends of mine, or my friends in Germany (consisted of), Karl Brnshe, Kurt Schurmann of Mainz, Hans Pia in Giessen, Ernst Grote of Tubingen, Rodger Laurence in Frankfurt, Mario Brock in Berlin, Rudolf Fahlbusch in Nuremberg, and several others, including Madjid Samii from Hannover”. He mentions, “Close relationship was established between neurosurgery in Madras and neurosurgery in Australia after the visit of Sir Douglas Miller to Madras”. The list of friends in the USA, Canada, Moscow, or Tehran just goes on. These interactions were strengthened during regional and international conferences, most of which BRM attended. Instead of searching “Google”, if you wish to know about any neurosurgeons of that era, you can find it in his autobiography along with their photo and interesting anecdotes.
Jointly with several of them, he played a catalytic role in establishing national and regional neurosurgical societies. “I was invited by Sir Douglas to attend a neurosurgical meet in Canberra in 1961, and at this meeting under the inspired leadership of Sir Douglas, The Asian and Australian Society of Neurosurgery was formed. Sir Douglas, Geoffrey Vanderfield, John Curlis, Keith Bradley, Henderson, and others were at this meeting. Jacob Chandy and myself from India, Omar Jooma from Pakistan, Romeo Gustillo from Phillipines, Odom Poshakrishana from Thailand, and Keiji Sano from Japan were the other founder members of the Society”. He was later made the Honorary President of the Society.
He was the founding member of the Middle East Neurosurgical Society along with Jacob Chandy, Ram Ginde from India, Omon Jooma from Pakistan, Osman Sarour from Egypt, and Ameli from Iran. The third conference and the tenth conference of this society were held in Delhi and Madras, respectively. He was virtually a patron of the South Asian Association of Neurosurgeons established on the initiative taken by Rashid Jooma (son of Omar Jooma) from Pakistan, Ravi Ramamurthi (son of BRM) from India, Rashiduddin from Bangladesh, and Devikota from Nepal. Interestingly, The Asian women's Neurosurgical Association started by Yoko Kato of Japan made him a Patron. He was one of the selected 100 founding members of Academia Neurochirurgica Eurasian established by Keiji Sano and Hans Pia.
He was a corresponding member of the British Society of Neurosurgeons; the honorary member of the Australian Society of Neurosurgeons, the Japanese Neurosurgical Society, the Scandinavian Neurosurgical Society, and the American Association of Neurosurgeons; and an elected member of the Congress of Neurosurgeons, the Academy of Neurosurgeons, and the Society of Neurosurgeons, USA.
He was a recipient of several international awards, John Bruce Gold Medal of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh and Lord Moynihan Lecture of the Royal College of Surgeons London, and was elected as the President of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies. He was a visiting professor in a number of countries such as Lubeck, Germany; Cincinnati, USA; and Edinburgh, Taiwan, to name a few.
His constant wish to project Indian neurosurgery internationally is revealed by his statement, “Along with Chandy and later on with P.N. Tandon, it was possible for me to gradually make India well known in international circles, especially with World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies”. No doubt the organizations of the ninth World Congress of Neurosurgeons at Delhi, which he presided over, were the acknowledgement of the Indian Neurosurgery being recognized internationally.
The above account of some aspects of the multi-faceted personality of Balasubramaniam Ramamurthi will testify that he followed his guiding moto:
From The Man from La Mancha - Don Quixote:
“To reach the unreachable star, it is my quest to follow the star, No matter how hopeless, No matter how far”
He achieved the goal epitomized by Horace's Third Book of Odes (Horace: Roman Poet 23 B.C):
“I have erected a monument
More lasting than bronze,
And taller than the regal peaks of pyramids
I shall never completely die”
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