Dr Lawrence Lobo — medical outreach pioneer

Dr Lawrence Lobo — medical outreach pioneer

By John Monteiro

Mangalore, Aug 24: Dr Lawrence Lobo who passed away on August 22, and whose funeral Mass is scheduled at 3.30 pm on saturday, August 24 at Bendure Church, was a pioneer of medical outreach programme in the then South Kanara, with station at Puttur. A genial person, he used to attend public meetings with his wife and constant companion, Dr Celine.
These days compulsory rural service for fresh doctors is a big issue, with young medicos opting for practising in the lucrative urban centres. Apart from the income flow, such doctors, coming from rich, capitation-fee-paying families, do not want to experience the hardships of non-urban postings. They are keen to recover the heavy investment made in securing their medical degree within the shortest time. The non-urban areas are shunned despite the fact that now there is basic infrastructure at rural health centres. This was not so fifty-five years ago when far-flung rural areas were covered through a outreach programme from taluk towns in rickety vans and backed by half-baked para- medical personnel. If you are in government medical service, you are transferred frequently and suffer the privations of the station as best as you can. This is reflected in the medical career of Dr Lawrence Lobo who was one of the pioneers of medical outreach programme and ended up as District Medical Officer and Superintendent of Wenlock Hospital, Mangalore. But, we must start at the beginning.
Dr Lawrence was born on July 1, 1929 in Mangalore. Fifth of the six children of Rao Saheb Francis Lobo and Lilly, he had his first year of education at Ooty, where his father was deputy collector. The next one year was at St. Agnes, Bendore, and from then on up to B.Sc., which he completed in 1949, at St Aloysius College. He got his MBBS from Madras Medical College in 1954 and worked as a house surgeon in General Hospital, Madras, for one year before joining the State Medical Service.
The first posting of Dr Lawrence was at Puttur where he had to manage the first mobile unit in the district which was introduced in December 1956. It had to penetrate a vast area of villages six days a week, covering one route each day. There were no roads as we know them now. The van had to negotiate mud tracks and cross unbridged streams, often at the risk of getting stuck in the mud in the midst of nowhere. Some of the villages covered were Shiradi, Nelyadi, Koila, Mani, Kabaka, Balpa, Aranthod, Chokadikatte, Kanakamajalu, Nidpally and Panaje. Starting time, at 7AM, was the only certainty in their day’s programme. Each station was allotted two hours or until all the patients were attended to. Return to base was anytime from 7 pm to 11 pm. The mud tracks were so primitive that it took one hour to cover 10 KM.
Apart from Dr Lawrence, the complement of the medical van included  driver, cleaner, compounder, health inspector, midwife and  peon. He used to stay in a lodge in Puttur where he used to have breakfast before starting and dinner on return. Lunch was packed sandwiches, washed down with spring water boiled in the van. On Sundays he would team up with the surgeon in the Puttur Government Hospital and help out with surgical operations. Though there were no proper facilities for operations in Puttur, the medical duo had to improvise things to help people who did not have money for bus (then Rs.1.50) to go to Mangalore. Dr. Lawrence recalled that even simple things like snare, which is required to probe foreign bodies in the nose, for instance, were not available and he made his own snare by using zinc iron wire. From Puttur Dr. Lawrence went on a short stint to Coimbatore.
In 1958 Dr. Lawrence was transferred to Mangalore Wenlock Hospital as assistant surgeon. By this time the newly started KMC Medical College had Wenlock as part of its clinical setting. Dr. Lawrence held the concurrent post of Associate Professor of Medicine. Then there was a transfer to K R Hospital in Mysore and he was finally transferred back to Mangalore as District Medical Officer which post he held from 1980 to 1984 when he retired on attaining the then super-annuation age of 55 years. Two months later the retirement age was raised to 58 years. Meanwhile, Dr. Lawrence had earned his MD in General Medicine in 1972.In 1991 he received the Rajyotsava Award for his contribution to medical education.
Dr Lawrence has no regrets about his early retirement. He joined St John’s Medical College in Bangalore as Medical Superintendent which post he held for 13 years and called it a day in 1977. Recalling the conditions in medical practice in those days, Dr Lawrence said that now the field has gone high-tech with less of clinical medicine and more of sophisticated instruments. Even without such equipment, clinically diagnostics in those days was quite good. Incidentally, Dr. Lawrence’s starting salary was Rs.293 per month. Salary apart, he said that of all his postings, the most satisfying was his stint of 18 months as Medical Officer of the mobile unit serving those who had no other medical care in those days
Retired to his heritage bungalow, Church Hill, near Mangalore Nursing Home, Dr Lawrence spent his time reading, watching TV and socialising. Dr Celine whom he married in 1962 gave him company.


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Comment on this article

  • naveen, bangalore

    Sat, Sep 28 2013

    i had worked under him at st johns bangalore. he was such a kind hearted and helpful and a good orator which i curiously listen to his words... missig him....may his soul rest in peace

    DisAgree Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Dr. lawrence Lobo, Mangalore

    Mon, Aug 26 2013

    In 1930 there were hardly any transports, roads, opportunities to study, Educational institutes etc, in spite of these all Problems Dr. Lawrence with his hard work and efforts he became a Doctor. If others were there in his place they would have gone abroad to earn fat salary to serve other countries. But Dr. Lawrence sacrificed everything and served our society really a great man. Hats off to him, and pray for his soul to rest in peace. We miss you Doctor.

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  • Capt Hugh Vas, Mangalore

    Sun, Aug 25 2013

    Appeared strict, but soft at heart, he was a noble person and had high civic sense and took an active interest in public causes. Otherwise, could have been an engineer as he was very good in get broken down mechanical gadgets working with his own hands. Our heart felt condolences to Celine his beloved wife who also was a doctor with the railways.

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  • Dr.Fulton, St.Johns ,Bangalore

    Sat, Aug 24 2013

    I remeber Dr.Lawrence as Medical Superintendent at St.Johns from my early days.He was very kind,humble and well respected gentleman.In spite of a meger salary ,he worked very hard and no doubt he is one of the strongest pillars of St.Johns. I had very personal and coordial ralation with him. On a personal note I miss him a lot. MAY HIS SOUL REST IN PEACE.

    DisAgree [1] Agree [9] Reply Report Abuse

  • Ruchir agarwal, mangalore

    Sat, Aug 24 2013

    Our heartfelt condolences.
    DR.k.l.Agarwal and fly

    DisAgree Agree [7] Reply Report Abuse

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