Dr KC Mammen: A leader who personified simplicity

Dr KC Mammen. Photo: Rinkuraj Mattancheriyil/Manorama

It is considered a great virtue when one’s vocation involves healing the sick. There are a few who dedicate their entire lives to such healing and Dr KC Mammen is one among them.
[Founder Medical Director of Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church Medical Mission (MOSC), Kolenchery, and eminent paediatrician Kanjikuzhy Mount Wardha Thayyil Kandathil Dr KC Mammen (Bapukutty) passed away on Sunday. He was 93].

There is a notion that someone who leads a life of simplicity cannot be a great leader. Dr Mammen's life provided a compelling response to this notion. In both his personal and professional lives, Dr Mammen firmly embraced simplicity. He never indulged in luxury cars or expensive footwear, and he didn't rely on any aides. During his service at the Malankara Medical Mission, he did not accept any remuneration, and his dedication to service was wholehearted in every aspect.

Today, most hospitals are led by individuals with business administration degrees from international universities. Dr Mammen, however, lacked such formal training. It's possible that leadership and administrative capabilities were inherent in his character. His primary focus was on fostering teamwork. I vividly recall his days at the Kolenchery hospital, etched in golden letters in my memory. During that time, everyone, from the hospital attendant to the medical superintendent, worked in perfect harmony. We triumphed over challenging situations as a cohesive team, celebrating our accomplishments, big and small, with joy. It never felt like we were working in a hospital; those days resembled our time on a college campus, abuzz with energy and enthusiasm. Dr Mammen engaged with everyone, maintaining remarkable efficiency in his domain throughout.

The board of the Kolenchery hospital comprised several prominent figures with diverse political affiliations. During discussions, disagreements arose not only concerning factional politics but also regarding social constructs. Dr Mammen's exceptional decision-making abilities shone brightly amidst this array of differing opinions. He never hesitated to challenge ideas held by certain individuals, even when he had a fondness for some of them. During certain meetings, tensions ran high, and some individuals even stormed out. However, Dr Mammen consistently handled these situations with compassion and grace.

As a leader, Dr Mammen had a fondness for young professionals. He disregarded preconceived remarks made by seniors about new professionals entering the service. His belief was that today's youngsters would become the leaders of tomorrow.

Grand round
During that era, Dr Mammen introduced a groundbreaking initiative by organising a Wednesday case study and discussion involving specialists from all departments. This was a pioneering step in the private healthcare sector in Kerala and we called it the ‘grand round.' The advantages of such discussions, with the presence of all specialists, undoubtedly translated into better patient care.

Adoption of villages
Dr Mammen, a paediatrician by profession, initiated a remarkable project in the 1970s while leading the Kolenchery hospital. The hospital adopted five villages in the eastern parts of Ernakulam district with the goal of enhancing children's immunity. A dedicated medical team ventured into the remotest corners of these villages every Sunday, guided by the motto 'to the people, to the children.' Dr Mammen firmly believed that children with strong immunity would fortify the overall immunity of the entire community. On some Sundays, the medical outreach would extend well into the evening hours. It was during one of these extended drives that Dr Mammen shared his vision of establishing a medical college in Kolenchery.
This was not merely a passing dream but a concrete goal that he had set, supported by well-thought-out plans to make it a reality. The idea of establishing a medical college in Kolenchery faced scepticism from many quarters. People questioned its viability, particularly because the concept of a private medical college was unfamiliar in Kerala at the time.

Kerala’s first CT Scan became a reality, thanks to Dr Mammen’s relentless efforts. He entrusted me with the responsibility of executing this plan, which I regarded not just as a task but as a tremendous honour. Upon the successful implementation, Dr Mammen made sure to acknowledge and commend my efforts. Dr Mammen exemplified leadership devoid of ego, guided by a profound sense of compassion. He treated everyone, whether they were prominent individuals, professionals, employees, or those less fortunate, with equal respect and kindness.

Dr Mammen embodied the spirit of selfless service and found fulfilment in dedicating his life to it. While he devoted himself to others, he also enjoyed life’s simple pleasures, such as indulging his sweet tooth with his favourite treats.

Dr Mammen cherished his family dearly, holding them close to his heart. He believed that contentment would drive the best interactions with others. 

In my early days at Kolenchery, I addressed him as Dr. Mammen. Eventually, I began calling him 'Bappukutychayan.' On his 90th birthday, I kissed his forehead. I'll never forget our recent meeting when he was resting, and I asked if he recognized me. His reply, "Isn't it Paul?" was a beautiful testament to his love for me, and I will cherish that memory in my heart forever.(The author is the medical director of Lourdes Hospital, Kochi)

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