“I enjoy what I do very much,” said Dr. Suru Chande. “I will admit that I am not a morning person, but once I am on the road, on the way to work, I am always looking forward to the day ahead.”
Father of three, grandfather of three, for over 40 years, Dr. Chande has served the South Dundas regions both at the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic. Morrisburg, and at Winchester District Memorial Hospital.
In late December of 2011, his dedication to medicine was recognized at WDMH with a Long-Term Service Award.
“We are incredibly fortunate that a surgeon of Dr. Chande’s calibre has devoted his career to caring for the patients in this area. It represents a more than 40 year commitment to serving our community,” said Cholly Boland, CEO of Winchester Hospital.
On Wednesday, February 8, after a typically very busy day, Dr. Chande sat down to reflect on a long career devoted to caring for others.
He was born in a small community in Tanzania, receiving most of his high school education in that country. He took his medical training at Birmingham University, one of the largest universities in England.
“Back in the 60’s and 70’s, there were limited spots in specialty training in England, and the process often took a number of years,” Dr. Chande recalled. “It seemed a good idea to come to Canada to do my residency.”
Dr. Chande received his FRCSE (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh) in 1968 and his FRCSC (Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada) in 1971.
“I am called a general surgeon,” he explained. “The term general surgery has no definite meaning, unlike terms such as cardiac surgeon or neuro-surgeon. Doctors of my vintage, trained as general surgeons, definitely gained a fairly extensive repertoire because we have always been called on to do many different types of surgery.”
Dr. Chande was completing his residency at Ottawa Civic Hospital when he decided to reply to an ad in a medical journal from the St. Lawrence Medical Clinic.
The clinic was started in 1960 by doctors Gerry Rosenquist and Don Robertson. In 1971, Dr. Chande recalls, they were looking to replace a doctor who was leaving. Chande and his wife, Dr. Ann Chande, came to Morrisburg, looked at the area, and decided to sign with the St. Lawrence group.
Dr. Chande laughed when I asked him what made his family choose to put down roots in very rural Ontario.
“Well, my home town may have been small, but Dar es Salaam in Tanzania is a huge city, and so is Birmingham. Frankly, to me, Ottawa seemed little. But we found we loved the small town life in South Dundas. It was easy to make friends within the medical community. We could send our kids to school here, since we were big believers in the public school system.
And I love to play golf and tennis, and it’s much easier to do those things in South Dundas than in the big city.
The doctors at the Clinic are amazing people. If they have left here before retirement, it has never been due to medical issues, but for personal reasons. They love being here in this area.”
In forty years serving this region, Chande has seen a number of changes in the medical profession, and in the actual Winchester Memorial Hospital.
The building additions to WDMH and the professional growth of its staff, as well as its transition to a teaching hospital with university affiliations have been exciting changes. Laparascopic surgery, for example, is very different from when Dr. Chande began his career. And regular in-hospital programs for training young doctors have taken Dr. Chande, in the last few years, into another aspect of medicine: teaching. It is an area he has found he truly loves.
“Most of us want to pass on our medical knowledge to students. Teaching is very important; I believe it is vital to introduce young doctors to rural medicine. And I think that you have to have lived life to be a good physician.
Life’s experiences shape your views and approaches to medicine,” he added. “We teach young doctors every time we bring them (with the patient’s permission) into the room with us, even when we must give a patient bad news. How else can future doctors learn?”
Dr. Chande has worked with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario, the regulatory body of the medical profession. Licensed medical practitioners take courses and seminars throughout their careers to keep abreast of changes and innovations in medicine.
“I am not an inspector,” Dr. Chande explained. “Rather I go out on arranged visits to look at the practices of other doctors. When I visit, I try to create a dialogue to make it a learning experience for both of us.”
This year will mark Dr. Suru Chande’s final year as practicing physician. “I continue to absolutely love what I do,” he said, “but it is time to contemplate retirement.”
And although he may be retiring in the near future, Dr. Chande remains thoughtful about the direction of medical care in Canada.
“I think the medical profession and the government will have to work very closely together to develop solid, workable medical care for our population. And I think there will never be one ‘magic bullet’ cure for cancer. We will need to find different approaches to different concerns. We must be realistic about the quality of life as our population ages.”
At the end of the interview, I commented that he has been a vital, much respected member of this community for many years, and his retirement will be keenly felt.
“It’s nice to find that people are going to miss me,” Dr. Suru Chande smiled.
Indeed they will.