Daniel Devadhar

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Daniel Sundersingh Charles Devadhar MS, FRCS, FRACS, FRSM, FICS, MNZM
8 September 1928 - 7 December 2011
General Surgeon

Daniel Devadhar, an outspoken and skilled former South Taranaki doctor with a combination of a warm heart and a brilliant mind, embodied the spirit of compassion.

Born in Gadag, India, and raised in a well-meaning family in Karnataka's Dharwar, Daniel Devadhar was a distinguished medical student. He graduated MBBS from the University of Mumbai at the age of 22 years in 1950 winning three gold medals in medicine and surgery, and he subsequently completed a MS in 1951. Embarking on a career in surgery he was awarded the fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) in 1952. He subsequently became a fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (FRACS) in 1968. He went on to become FICS and a fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine (FRSM).

Whilst working at Nagpur Medical College in India in 1964 Devadhar developed a surgical operation providing a permanent solution for rectal prolapse. Known as 'Devadhar's Operation,' it has been cited as a successful procedure with a low risk of complications in that this technique did not involve dissection in the retro-rectal space with the associated risk to the pelvic nerves. Devadhar, a meticulous surgeon, also developed an original and reversible procedure for tubal ligation.

Devadhar's arrival in New Zealand more than 40 years ago was colourful and eventful. He reportedly received an 'urgent phone call' from a Surgeon Superintendent in New Zealand asking whether he would be interested in serving in this country. With his family (wife, Rose, and three daughters, Jennifer, Shalini and Cheryl), he arrived in Westport in 1968 to take up the post of Superintendent of the Buller Hospital. Devadhar said "I had come to a land of "ghee and honey," where medical care was patient-centric. There was never a dull moment, and nothing was denied to ensure proper patient care. A phone call to Wellington would be enough." In 1971, with a spirit of community service and his wife's encouragement, he moved to Hawera to practice general surgery in three hospitals - Hawera Hospital, Patea Hospital and Calvary Private Hospital - and established a general practice.

Devadhar and his family were warmly welcomed to Taranaki and received considerable support from the community and hospital staff. The community revered 'the humane doctor' who was a source of endearment and solace in their midst for more than 25 years. Devadhar became the consulting doctor for the Māori community at the Ruanui Health Centre in Hawera. The radical changes to the health system that occurred in 1994 caused Devadhar considerable concern. He felt that, with the introduction of Crown Health Enterprises, and the employment of business managers to run hospitals, at the expense of those with a medical background, the system had been radically commercialised. Medical care was no longer considered a priority and the personal attention given to patients became a thing of the past.

These changes perhaps encouraged him to retire from medicinea year later (1995), but Devadhar was in no mood to slow down. He completed a law degree through Massey University (at 66, he was one of the oldest to do so) and began to render free and voluntary service to the community. In association with Rose, he provided private counselling and offered ACC advocacy. He served three terms on the Taranaki Health Board and worked with Grey Power in South Taranaki for more than 10 years serving a term as president. He was a community representative on the Work and Income New Zealand Review Tribunal. With Rose, he was instrumental in pushing South Taranaki's medical needs to the fore for 30 years. Devadhar also became a lay preacher in the New Zealand Methodist Church. In 2010 he became a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in recognition of his services to medicine and the community. With his wife Rose having been awarded the QSM for services in community in 2005, they became one of very few couples in NZ with a double award.

Devadhar was a "Mr Bombay" in 1936 for wrestling and also won several swimming medals for his University. In later life he was "talent spotted" for a TVNZ Chelsea Sugar Ad - as a discerning and disgruntled prospective father in law… chosen for his "natural gravitas". Devadhar spent 20 years writing a book on the "Nature of Man" …making his final entry 3 days before his peaceful and unexpected death in Wellington Hospital aged 83 years. With a deeply philosophical mind and spiritual basis, mirroring a diverse and well balanced life, he touched the lives of many people with his wisdom and insights into the nature of man and God, expressing profound philosophical truths in a way that that helped heal people.

Daniel Devadhar, who exuded warmth, compassion, love and care, instantly striking a conversation, was a devoted husband, father and grandfather. He is survived by his wife, Rose, children Jenny, Jessie (Shalini) and Cheryl, and grandchildren Natasha and Ben.

Allan Panting FRACS

(This obituary is based upon those published in the Indian Newslink and the Taranaki Daily News (10/12/2011) and with considerable input from the family.)