By Sharmain Grainger
Seeing failure as a stepping stone rather than a stumbling block has been one of the most important hallmarks of Dr. Kumar Sukhraj’s existence.
Mistakes to him are moments to learn from, and so he certainly pays keen attention to those made. Some people may ask ‘Why should this even matter?’
Well, firstly, Dr. Sukhraj is a medical doctor who sits at the helm of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation [GPHC’]s Diabetic Foot Centre, a position he has skillfully held down for the past seven years. Most importantly, he has the role of helping to save countless lives from a daunting medical condition called the diabetic foot.
According to reports, the diabetic foot can predispose a patient to a higher risk of heart attack, stroke and even death. It develops due to poor circulation and nerve damage in the feet which can cause diabetics to not recognize early enough cuts or other injuries which can become poorly healing ulcers or sores that can lead to amputation.
Dr. Sukhraj has been helping to make a difference, one patient at a time, by delivering an outstanding level of care to his patients.
Born on Thursday, December 26, 1985 at the Skeldon Hospital to parents Nehru Sukhraj called ‘Spanner’ and Padmini Sukhraj called ‘Padma’, he is the elder of two children. Although now a resident of Herstelling on the East Bank of Demerara, Dr. Sukhraj, during a recent interview, recalled growing up at Crabwood Creek, Berbice.
In fact he confessed, “Both my mom and dad are responsible for who I am today. My mom and dad made tremendous sacrifices during hard times to send me to university so that I can have a tertiary education. Both of my parents strongly believe in the importance of education, and my dad will always say to me that ‘education is the key to life’.”
Moreover, it came as natural as breathing for the young Kumar to attend the Crabwood Creek Nursery and Primary Schools before moving on to Skeldon Line Path Secondary.
Reminiscing on his schooling days, he recalled having several friends with whom he enjoyed a good game of cricket, misbehaved with, and even studied together. But it might have been his knack for things science that really inspired him to become a doctor ever since he was a schoolboy. “I always liked science and was always excited to perform experiments in the school laboratory,” he reflected.
By the time he was out of school, the young Kumar was on his way to the University of Guyana to pursue a Bachelor of Science [BSc] programme in Biology after which he completed his Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery [MBBS]. Following his studying stint at the national university, he travelled to Canada where he received specialized training in diabetic foot and wound care at the University of Toronto.
When asked what caused him to want to specialize in this area, Dr. Sukhraj philosophically quipped, “I was encouraged to specialize in diabetic foot and wound care because I recognized the high prevalence of
diabetic foot complications among persons living in Guyana. A person’s feet are essential to help with standing, to run, to walk, and are pivotal with moving from one place to another. These activities that are facilitated by the feet are all critical for the daily functioning of a person. For people to live a comfortable life and stay healthy, they need their feet. As such, caring for people’s feet and preventing an amputation will help them to enjoy their life and perform their functional role in society.”
Driven by his passion to help address a health issue that impacts the lives of many, Dr. Sukhraj had no doubt that taking a place at the GPHC was his destined forte. He recalled having chances to take advantage of many opportunities in ‘greener pastures’ over the years, but has remained resolute and patriotic.
“I believe in working and developing the nation that is ours. I had several opportunities in the past to migrate; however, I never took any, because Guyana is beautiful, and it is my lovely native land, that is dearer to me than all the world. My commitment to my country is to continue to work and contribute positively to the health care system and my fellow Guyanese
so that our population can be healthier and wealthier,” said Dr. Sukhraj.
Moreover, he has committed to continuing to offer his services at the GPHC.
“At this institution [GPHC], I am given an opportunity to provide my expert services to those who cannot afford private health care. I am also happy to be a part of the interdisciplinary team at the hospital and appreciate the referral of patients by colleagues to access my services. This job allows me to make a difference in the life of many individuals,” said the soft-spoken Dr. Sukhraj.
In fact, he was eager to add, “I am delighted with my employer as well as the resources that are made available for me to carry out my duties. I am also encouraged to continue my work by seeing the positive outcome of my intervention in healing the diabetic foot and preventing amputation of the feet due to diabetes-related complications.”
At the Foot Centre, Dr. Sukhraj said that patients can access screening for diabetic foot problems,
management of diabetes and its associated metabolic syndrome, diabetes education, diet counseling, surgical procedures to correct diabetic foot problems, offering footwear and pressure offloading, among other services.
He admits that his wife Savitri and young daughter, Taruni Devi Sukhraj, are the factors in his life that keep him focused and grounded. “My lovely wife and daughter are my lifeline. I work hard to make them happy. They keep me going every day of my life. I love them very much,” he added.
As such he disclosed, “Despite hectic days at work, I make every effort to spend time with my family in the evening as well as on weekends. Weekends are reserved for my family, where we go to the temple; we do gardening as well as visiting our extended family in Berbice and Essequibo. We do not encourage our daughter to use cell phones or other electronic devices to watch videos for more than one hour daily. We try to have her engage in learning activities such as reading, spelling and writing. We also encourage her to play with toys, and we also organize outdoor activities such as camping, make sandcastles, and play outdoor games.”
Asked of his greatest achievement, Dr. Sukhraj said these include: “my Vedic upbringing, education, a successful and satisfying job, and being able to keep, maintain, and extend my family. I have also managed to cope effectively with stress and accept success and failure with the same emotions, thus making myself and my family always happy.”
A typical day for this dedicated family man begins at 6am with the recitation of Vedic [Hindu] prayers. This too helps him to be an especially caring physician to patients who he never turns away or fails to listen to, even if they turn up without a referral. “Sometimes I learn from my patients, so as a doctor it is important to listen to what your patients have to say,” said Dr. Sukhraj, who is kept busy Monday through Friday during the regular hours of work at the public hospital and then at his private practice.
BLUEPRINT FOR LIFE
Eager to share some details about his field of specialty, Dr. Sukhraj disclosed that among the factors that increase a person’s risk of developing diabetes are: genetic factors, such as family history of diabetes; living a sedentary life, obesity, gestational diabetes, increased age, polycystic ovarian syndrome, smoking and high blood pressure. But according to him, the key to preventing foot complications in diabetic patients is to ensure that they: have proper foot care, proper blood glucose control, blood pressure control, blood cholesterol control, exercise, and that those who are smokers refrain from this habit.
In fact, Dr. Sukhraj believes that he has the blueprint for an ideal life that takes
into consideration every aspect of one’s existence. For him, it starts with believing and worshiping the Supreme Being, and it must include respect for fellow human beings including parents, teachers and elders.
Added to this, Dr. Sukhraj’s convictions help him to easily recognize the importance of caring for the environment and its living components – plants and animals. This environmentally-aware human being’s advice is: “Do not waste resources; grow your own food by planting your garden, thus ensuring that you are eating healthy foods.”
Over his 34 years of existence, Dr. Sukhraj has also learnt that respect for his employment and his appreciation of his abilities are factors that help to boost his self-esteem as a person. In fact, he firmly believes that “the word impossible is not for anyone and [persons should] always try to achieve the highest goals in life.”
Among the traits he has honed over the years, thanks to the teaching of his parents and teachers, is to “always be honest, patient, forgiving, truthful, clean, and avoid anger. Always perform your role among your family and the society and respect the laws of the land you are living.”
For being a dedicated physician, patriotic citizen and by extension an outstanding human being, today we at Kaieteur News recognize Dr. Kumar Sukhraj as our ‘Special Person’ of the week.
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