July 19, 2011
He may be the ‘odd doctor out’ and therefore is referred to as the ‘mad man’ by other doctors. However, such an acronym does not offend him as he prefers to go by his conviction rather than by any other extraneous considerations. He is Dr Gopalkrishna Hebbar, popularly known as Dr G K Hebbar both to his patients and to the agriculturists from all over Karnataka, who know him as the editor of the farm magazine “Sujatha Sanchike”, being published from Mangalore.
An ENT specialist and an editor of an agricultural magazine may be a rare combo and that is what separates Dr G K Hebbar from the rest of the ilk, apart from many other qualities unique about him. He is one of the very few doctors in Mangalore who issues a receipt for the money paid for consultation and hence has incurred the displeasure of other doctors ‘for setting a bad precedent’. It is gratifying to know that Dr Hebbar has been able to do the balancing act of both these varied fields with flamboyance and easiness for the last 17 years and enjoys it thoroughly. While talking to him one can gauge that he is passionate about his baby “Sujatha Sanchike” which has now blossomed as a young woman of 17 and is inviting askance glances from those who matter.
“I have grown with it and it is my baby and I am passionate about it. I have been involved in every stage of its development in the last 17 years”, says Dr Hebbar. “I am a Saturday editor”, he further explains when asked how he has been able to juggle with these twin responsibilities of managing his profession and his passion for bringing out the monthly agricultural magazine. Though Dr Hebbar is not into active agricultural writings he sits with his editorial team every Saturday and overseas all aspects related to the publication of the magazine.
The idea of starting the magazine had come from his father and brother who are agriculturists. His father was the first BSc Agriculture graduate from South Kanara when he graduated from Banaras Hindu University. He was also the pioneer as far as rubber plantation in Karnataka is concerned. But the idea became a reality only when he was sold the title of a monthly magazine called “Sanchike” for Rs. 2500/- from one of the persons who came to his clinic seeking advertisements. Only later did he come to know that he was deceived because it was not a registered title and that is why it was named “Sujatha Sanchike” when he got it registered. “I learnt a lot in the process of taking a few beatings here and there”, he says benignly with satisfaction write large on his countenance. It was a black and white one sheet (4 page) fortnightly to begin with in 1994 and was distributed free of cost to the rural addresses found in the telephone directory. Subsequently it became a monthly and over the years it has kept pace with the developments in the media by becoming a full-fledged colour magazine.
Young and Blooming
The magazine functions from its office at “Suprabhatha” in Bejai Kapikad and as Dr Hebbar puts it “believes in giving useful information and not just giving volumes of information. When it comes to agriculture if there are some good ideas which are proved successful we publish”. It is not that the magazine blindly subscribes to anything coming to it. Their reporters visit different places and if they are convinced that the particular idea works and can be emulated only then the magazine publishes the articles. From a loss making publication Sujatha Sanchike is now expecting to make profits and these profits will be ploughed back to improve the infrastructure and through that the quality of the publication. Sujatha Sanchike, over the years has been able to garner the attention of farmers from different parts of South Karnataka and even from many parts of Kerala. Apart from topics of agricultural practice, newer methods of cultivation the magazine also covers simple health related topics such as preparing ORS, giving first aid in case of accidents, burns and also cooking tips are provided for the readers.
Dr Hebbar says marketing an agricultural magazine was not easy initially because its readership is confined only to rural areas and the magazine can be sold only those who can read. So it was decided to promote the magazine during Krishimelas and other agricultural related events and the idea really yielded good results. However, he laments that these days obtaining a stall in krishimelas is beyond their reach. He suggests that government should make provisions for farm publications to set up a small stall wherever farmers congregate so that awareness can be created among farmers through such publications.
Dr Hebbar says the farm magazine of which he is the editor, has given him the fulfillment of ‘giving something back to the society’ from which he has benefited immensely. He adds: “Every day we eat our food without bothering to know where it comes from. We have to realize that if we are able to have food, someone else has taken pains to produce it. People will realize this sooner or later”.
It is not that Dr Hebbar has new found love for agriculture or the rural life. He hails from a rural village - Neria, near Belthangady. However, he had his education from St Aloysius College Mangalore. He chose the medical field drawing inspiration from his uncle Dr Harish Hebbar, a Colon and Rectal surgeon, now based in America. He did his MBBS from KMC Mangalore/Manipal and also dabbled in teaching. In between, he had to make a trip to Moscow in 1984 and the experience there brought him face to face with reality. Dr Hebbar had to accompany his sister to Moscow for a limb lengthening procedure as she was the first Indian selected for this treatment. It was a long procedure of selection and Dr Hebbar spent 7 months in Chennai learning Russian before proceeding to Russia. “The Russian experience was an eye opener for me as life was not easy there. Living in minus 40 degree temperature teaches you many things”, he tells me.
Experience – The Best Teacher
If this was his Eastern experience he went to America as a Research Fellow at the world famous House Ear Institute, Los Angeles. During his 1 ½ years stint in America he obtained advanced training in latest techniques of ear surgery. On his return to India he began to work as a private consultant by setting up a modern ENT clinic. Dr Hebbar was the first doctor to introduce computer in his clinic in Mangalore way back in the 1990’s. “The American experience was another eye opener to me and the exposure of the East and the West helped me put a sturdy foundation for my life and career. I took good points from both the worlds”, he asserts. In America he had the privilege of meeting former American President Ronald Regan, who was a client of his boss John House.
Dr Hebbar regrets the trend of specialists donning the role of general practitioners as people approach specialists even for minuscule problems and as such specialists are not able to devote much time to investigate serious problems in detail as it is time consuming. He says “when 50 people are waiting for us outside one cannot concentrate too long on a single patient. As a result quality has taken a severe beating”. His basic mantra of success is based on the belief that a doctor has to give quality treatment. “Without quality treatment patients will not come to us. People are also going to recognize if you are doing honest practice. If we can give quality practice to the people we are bound to succeed”.
His client base includes patients from South Kanara and also from Kanhangad, Kasargod and Kannur. Patients from South Kerala form a major chunk of patients for doctors in Mangalore. He is candidly admits “without patients from Kerala we are nothing” and says that for some reasons patients from these parts of Kerala trust the doctors from Mangalore. He also says these outstation patients need more care and attention as they come from long distance whereas local patients are casual patients.
Dr Hebbar is not associated with any medical colleges or hospitals as he feels “he is free from obligations and is able to work on his own terms”. When asked what is it that prompts him to issue a receipt for the consultation fees he collects, something which no doctor follows in Mangalore, he gives a quick riposte “at the end of the day one has to have a good night’s sleep”. He says he took a leaf out of the book from physician late Dr K P Ganeshan, who always issued a receipt to his patients. “I have invested lot of money in buying good equipments by taking bank loans so that I can provide quality and advanced treatment to my patients. Because of these modern equipments people come to me. It does not make sense if I don’t show any income when I repay the bank loan. We should respect the law of the land and I feel it makes good business sense to be honest by paying say, 30% of the earnings towards income tax and have a peaceful sleep at the end of the day. There was a time initially when I hardly used to earn Rs. 200 or 300 a day, I had to repay my bank loans and over that I was giving a receipt, often wondering whether I was doing the right thing. But I stuck to my scruples and have no regrets”, he says with gratification writ large on his face.
Honesty is the Best Policy
He also feels that good name is the USP for any doctor and says he has been honest in his dealings with the patients. There are instances when he had ruled out surgery recommended by other doctors and patients have recognized this quality of his. Dr Hebbar is greatly troubled by the present trend in the field of education. He says “the education field is cornered by the ‘education mafia’ just like the land mafia. Today a MD seat for radiology is sold at Rs. 1.5 crores under the table, which an average person cannot afford to pay. So people who have money pay and get into the medical field and as a result the quality of people who get into this field is bad. Moreover, universities these days don’t accept bad results and therefore pass their students by adopting different yardsticks”.
When it comes to his own routine, Dr Hebbar is a fitness freak who jogs, runs and cycles to keep him fit. His wife Uma is a home maker. Son Kishan is studying law and daughter Nandini is doing her PG in Cultural Studies. He likes to spend time in his spacious garden located at Hat Hill watching the chirping birds, a rarity these days. Dr Heber has no regrets in life at all and takes life as it comes. People feel despondent only when they compare themselves with others, he argues. He is a happy-go-lucky chap, pursuing varied interests since his student days and says “life has to be lived in its fullest”. Ultimately he says “each day gives you something to look forward to” and I must say I fully agree with him.
Contact Dr Hebbar : 0091 -824-2423077
Email : email@example.com