Photography

Perunkulam Gopal Parameswaran

January 6, 2022

Tribute

Dr. Perunkulam Gopal (P.G.) Parameswaran passed away peacefully on January 6, 2022 in Houston. He was 83. Affectionately called Kannan (“the apple of one’s eye”) by his family, he was tall and lanky, with deft, elegant hands, and a calm manner combined with a restless but focused energy. He seemed born to be a surgeon. As a young cardiothoracic surgeon in Chennai, he spent evenings by the bedside of his most critically ill patients. His life was a series of meals left uneaten because he had rushed away to care for patients.

A Keralite born in Mandalay, Burma, and raised in India, Dr. Parameswaran was the first generation in his family to pursue higher education. He completed a residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Government Stanley Hospital in Chennai and held a series of professorial and research appointments across India. He immigrated to the United States in 1973 when the country was facing a shortage of doctors. He was offered a research position unsolicited by Dr. Yvan Silva at Detroit’s Wayne State University, where they conducted the first transplant of a baboon liver into a human. After a residency at McLaren General Hospital in Flint, Michigan, he set up practice in the small town of Sandusky, Michigan. As the only surgeon in a hundred-mile radius, he performed a wide range of surgeries including vascular surgery, cancer surgery, and plastic surgery, and became a crucial and beloved local figure.

Dr. Parameswaran spent most of his career, from 1981 to 2005, practicing surgery at Southeast Memorial Hospital (now Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital) in Houston. He was the first to introduce laparoscopic abdominal surgery in the hospital, which meant no large incisions and quicker recovery times. He was in the vanguard of physicians who practiced complementary medical approaches, studying medical acupuncture at UCLA. He used hypnosis to conduct minor surgeries and educated his peers about alternative medical modalities and the benefits of mind-body medicine. He played a key role in redesigning his hospital’s physical environment into one that supported holistic healing. The real healer, he often said, is within each person.

Whether the patient on his operating table was a politician or a taxi driver, he treated them with the same dignity and concern, just as in his personal life he observed no social distinctions and cared for all those around him. He was never loud or gregarious, but he genuinely loved people. He always wanted to be in the company of those he cared about-–his family most of all. He adored and supported his wife Lakshmy and his sons Ashok and Rajesh, helping them selflessly to pursue their lives and careers. He dearly loved his late parents Gopal and Sivakami; his sisters Jaya, Kamala, and the late Annapoorni; and his brother Ramanath. Many of his beloved nieces and nephews referred to him affectionately as “Doctor Mama” and relied on him for advice both medical and personal.

An active member of his community, Dr. Parameswaran worked for 25 years to recruit South Asian registrants for the national bone marrow registry, earning a Lifetime Service Award from the Indian American Cancer Network (IACAN), on whose board he served. Due to the efforts he initiated, over 20,000 South Asians in the Houston area are now registered in the marrow registry, leading to over 30 life-saving donations. He was an active supporter of Daya, an organization co-founded by his wife to serve South Asian survivors of domestic violence. He served as President of the Indian Doctor’s Club (now the Indian Doctors Association - Houston) and Secretary of the Sri Meenakshi Temple Society. He enjoyed traveling the world, oil painting, growing vegetables, and reading nonfiction.

Easygoing on the outside, Dr. Parameswaran displayed a fiery will in his last year, as he faced daunting health challenges. The tenaciousness he demonstrated in fighting his own illnesses–his refusal to surrender–showed his true character, as someone determined to continue loving his family for as long as he could, and as a person who believed in the beauty of life and in the duty and calling of medicine to care for and preserve it.

Contributions in his honor may be made to Daya (PO Box 770773, Houston TX 77215) or IACAN. (PO Box 741886, Houston TX 77274).

Contact: Ashok Parameswaran: emergingmarkets7@gmail.com


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