Saturday, September 15, 2001
S T A M P E D  I M P R E S S I O N S

A role model for the young
Reeta Sharma

THE life story of Dr Ramgopal, as narrated to me by Dr Anupam Gupta, Chief Police Surgeon in Woolverhampton, England, was not one of rags to riches but that of rags to treasure trove of enviable academic success in a foreign land. Years of struggle, perseverance and cool grit made him sail through all kinds of hardships. I felt that such a man could be a role model for our young.

Dr Ramgopal
Dr Ramgopal

Contrary to my imagination, Dr Ramgopal turned out to be the man-next-door. Short-statured and unassuming, he was in the beginning extremely hesitant to talk about himself. It was only after a couple of meetings that one could reach out to this soft-spoken and humble person, who has never allowed himself to rest on his achievements.

A humble background and unemployment drove Ramgopal to England. He arrived in Stafford in August 1971 to do a three-year course in general nursing at Staffordshire General Infirmary. His brilliant record entitled him to be one of the five students to be selected for the course. Again it was his focused attention and untiring efforts that enabled him to be one of the two students who eventually passed the course.


 After the completion of his course, the hospital authorities readily supported his application for attending the Mental Psychiatric Nurse course of 18 months. It again goes to his credit that he succeeded in completing this course in 15 months. He was honoured with the best student award in the second year. Ramgopal took up work as a staff nurse and after gaining sufficient experience, decided to train himself as a teacher of nursing. Soon he returned to Mid Staffordshire School of Nursing with an enviable tag of a teacher. And for the next 10 years, he devotedly pursued teaching and carried out research.

In 1990, Ram was appointed Vice-Principal of the College of Nursing. Did he face racial discrimination at any stage? "Frankly, I was plain lucky from day one. But, realistically speaking, racism continues to haunt the entire West. It exists in every walk of life. Human beings tend to behave like animals. They too like to mark their territory and generate insecurity. To me, racism is an expression of fear. But, how strange, the West which doesn’t suffer from any scarcity, suffers from this fear, while, the East, ridden with poverty, continues to practise the ideal of peaceful co-existence".

Struck by the rich heritage and historical background of Staffordshire General Infirmary, Ramgopal decided to chronicle the history of the institution. Established in 1765, Staffordshire General Infirmary is the oldest voluntary hospital. In 1948, it was incorporated into the National Health Service of the country. Many famous and great men of the late eighteenth century have been associated with this hospital. Dr Erasmus Darwin visited the institution from 1783 to 1801 as a surgeon. In his book Zoonomia, Dr Darwin, a naturalist and a philosopher, had posed the question:did all warm-blooded animals arise from one living filament? And sixtyfive years later, his famous grandson explored the same theory in his book, The Origin of Species. Similarly, Dr William Withering, the famous medical historian who discovered the drug digitals, a foxglove derivative that doctors throughout the world continue to use in the treatment of heart failure, was also associated with this institution. Upon his death, in 1799, Withering left a will donating a large part of his savings to this institution.

Dr Ramgopal, who had begun to work on Chronology of Staffordshire General Infirmary in 1994, took two and a half years to complete and publish the book, which is the first of its kind. This academician also became the first non-White Dean of the university. Commenting on his research, he said, "Eighteenth century charity had a strongly personal element in England. Many people enjoyed their powers of patronage and the power to grant or deny entry to the sick poor. It was a formidable privilege enjoyed by every subscriber. Similarly, some of the ailments that plagued the infirmary included drunkenness, particularly among the employees, including nurses, or the staff failing to comply with infirmary rules, or the doctors failing to attend to patients either in the wards or in the casualty departments, or the staff disagreeing with each other, or the patients being dissatisfied with their treatment or with the amount and quality of food that they received".

If you thought that a man like Dr Ramgopal after having reached an enviable position in a university would be concentrating on more research work, you’d be mistaken. This researcher is all set to give a surprise soon. Currently, he is writing fiction and compiling poems composed by him. And who do you think is his inspiration? It is his equally unassuming wife, Jennie.