A childhood role model and corporate medicine paved his journey

Dr. Ramesh Gopalakrishnan grew up in a small tea garden community in India, a town whose whole existence centered around tea production. His father was a successful tea factory administrator who loved tea and was passionate about his work.  He encouraged his son to likewise be passionate about the career he would one day choose, advice he has continued to carry with him.

Dr. Ramesh (center) with son, Adarsh, and wife, Radhika 

“In a town full of tea makers, he saw a spark beginning for me about sixth or seventh grade – an interest in medicine. As a result, he would remind me ‘You should follow your heart, not the masses.’” says Dr. Ramesh.

The town’s community doctor always fascinated him, how he conducted himself, seeing him help people, and how he garnered respect from everyone.

“I can remember thinking, ‘Gee, I would like to be like him.’ By the time I was in twelfth grade, I was really interested in the medical world,” he says.

Five fingers

His father also taught him to make life decisions and find his passions using a “five-finger” philosophy. A hand has five fingers. When they work together and are at their best, good things result, says Dr. Ramesh. His father encouraged him to consider five rewards that bring clarity when making important decisions.

“One, what are the emotional rewards, will you feel good about this? Two, what are the financial rewards? Three, what are the spiritual rewards, will it fulfill meaning? Four, does it provide creative rewards by challenging you to ‘think out of the box?’ And five, will it be fun? He thought your life was more complete when you had fun with what you do,” he says. His father went on to say that life’s contributions should be meaningful to both self and society, which further drew Dr. Ramesh into medicine.

In addition to earning his MBBS from Government Medical College/Calicut University in Kozhikode, Kerala, India, Dr. Ramesh earned his Master of Surgery (Branch: Anatomy) from Pondicherry University in Kalapet, Puducherry, India. It was during his anatomy residency that he began teaching.

Passionate about teaching

“The teacher in me came out during my residency. I really enjoyed working with medical students and developed a true passion for teaching,” says Dr. Ramesh, adding how rewarding it was to eventually be involved in curriculum development. “Curriculum is all about driving tomorrow’s physicians,” he says.

During residency, Dr. Ramesh also did training in radiology, developing a keen interest and specialty in ultrasound. (He would later present a paper on the use of ultrasound in medical education at the specialty’s World Congress.) As he grew as a subject matter expert, while presenting at a conference, he saw that Hewlett Packard (HP) was advertising for young doctors with a radiology background to join a corporate training program.

Dr. Ramesh decided to join HP, finding himself traveling the world teaching other physicians how to use the company’s ultrasound equipment. As a young doctor, the opportunity provided not only a great salary and chance to travel the world, but a new teaching perspective.

“This gave me a great opportunity not only to know all new developments in ultrasound technology, but this time I was training practicing doctors, not medical students,” says Dr. Ramesh.

After three-and-a-half years at HP, he was approached by General Electric (GE) about joining the R&D division of its new ultrasound development center in Bangalore, India, known as the “Silicon Valley of the East.” Dr. Ramesh spent another three-and-a-half years in corporate work at GE, eventually asking himself “Do I want to continue in this environment or return to academics and patient care?”

“While the opportunities had been incredible, after seven years in the corporate world, I found myself on planes twenty days of the month, living out of a suitcase. This was simply not good for my wife and young son,” says Dr. Ramesh, adding that his son is now grown and a recent dental school graduate.

After considerable soul-searching, he returned to both medical education and clinical care services. Dr. Ramesh spent the next several years teaching medical students at universities in the UAE, India, China, and Malaysia. Concurrently, he worked on curriculum development for medical schools in India, the UAE, and Malaysia. At the same time, in the clinical care domain, he was engaged in providing locum primary care services.

After so many years spent in the corporate setting, he thought it important that he train and re-acquaint himself with community care. Over the next few years, Dr. Ramesh earned additional diplomas in Family Medicine and Musculoskeletal Ultrasound, as well as advanced training in Sonography and Healthcare Management. He also obtained Palliative Care Physician certification through scholarship.

Dedication to changing patient care and educational climates

“I was seeing the need to bring back a grassroots level of care which focused on the three P’s – primary, preventive, and palliative care, not only in clinical practice, but making sure enough attention was being paid to teaching these concepts in medical school,” he says.

From the late 1990s to around 2008, Dr. Ramesh says he watched a demographic shift which required that additional attention be paid to elderly care, such as home care services, preventive medicine, and palliative care. With this changing patient population came a shift in medical education.

As someone who had always been surrounded by IT services and product innovations, it was a chance online search for “technology driven medical education” that introduced him to Oceania University of Medicine.

“This is the way forward. Today’s digital space provides medical students and practicing physicians with a lot of opportunity to educate themselves beyond brick and mortar settings,” says Dr. Ramesh, adding that he is very proud of how OUM embraced educational technologies.

Recently named the University’s Associate Director for Clinical Skills Education, he clarifies that technology will obviously never be a substitute for strong clinical skills and compassionate, empathetic patient care. The earlier those clinical skills begin their evolution, the better, Dr. Ramesh remarks.

“OUM’s way of thinking aligns very well with mine. A strong foundation is essential to gain clinical acumen and expertise. I’ve always thought teaching clinical skills early was very important,” says Dr. Ramesh.

As the co-coordinator of the Day-One Clinical Skills Course with Paula Diamante, MD, Director of Faculty Affairs, that’s an appropriate philosophy. Congratulations on your new appointment, Dr. Ramesh.