The hospital had played a crucial role during the 2009 Swine flu outbreak and even now, before PMC could upgrade its hospitals with ventilators and tertiary care, Sassoon was the only government hospital providing tertiary care to Covid-19 patients
A panoramic view of Sassoon hospital on the 75th anniversary of BJ Medical College, which is attached to the hospital. (Shankar Narayan/HT PHOTO)
The Byramjee Jeejeebhoy Medical College (BJMC), which is attached to Sassoon General Hospital, is celebrating its 75th foundation day on Wednesday, June 23. The hospital has played a pivotal role in providing tertiary care to not just residents of Pune, but also to districts in the state. Students from BJMC are recognised internationally for their published work in international journals and medical services provided by them at the hospital.
The hospital had played a crucial role during the 2009 Swine flu outbreak and even now, before PMC could upgrade its hospitals with ventilators and tertiary care, Sassoon was the only government hospital providing tertiary care to Covid-19 patients.
Dr Shashikala Sangle, aged 64, retired on May 31. She has been associated with the hospital for the past 45 years since she was a student and headed the department of Medicine.
Dr Sangle said, “BJMC has definitely carved its niche as being reputed for generating the most honest and hardworking alumni and staff. I had a student who wanted to study further in the US and her examiners who saw her report and saw the BJMC name, without any further questions admitted her. The decades of hard work has earned this name. BJ has produced many important medical research works.”
Dr Sangle also describes the Swine flu outbreak period. She said, “When we look at it in retrospect, Swine flu was not as big as Covid-19. We were able to manage it in just one building. However, with Covid-19, the sheer numbers and the complications and also the post Covid-19 complications are a bigger challenge. However, even during the pandemic our cardiac catheterisation lab was functioning smoothly and also chemotherapy of cancer patients continued. We took all due precautions and tests and ensured that other vital routine treatments are not hampered.”
While the hospital was founded in 1867, the BJ Medical school was founded in 1871, after completing 75 years, the school was expanded to BJ Medical College in 1946.
BJ Medical school and the Sassoon hospital campus first opened in the year 1871. (Courtesy: BJ medical college)
Right from its foundation till now the hospital has been supported through charities and CSR funds form the community and philanthropists.
On June 23, 1946, BJ Medical College was founded and Dr B. G Kher, head of the Bombay government, laid the foundation stone. The college has been named after Parsi philanthropist Byramjee Jeejeebhoy who donated the land in 1871. The medical course of MBBS was affiliated to the University of Poona (Pune) in 1949.
Some of the historic moments in the hospital include the birth of Avtar Meher Baba who was born in the old maternity ward in the hospital, and the father of the nation, Mahatma, Gandhi who was operated upon for emergency appendectomy in 1924 by a British surgeon Col Murdoch with an Indian anaesthetist Dr Datey in attendance. The main building of BJMC was inaugurated by Dr Radha Krishnan in 1952. The first Principal of the BJ Medical College, which started with 50 students, was Dr BB Dikshit, a renowned academician
Annually 200 students are admitted for MBBS and 143 for post-graduation. At any given time, now, 1,700 students are on the campus with more than 2,000 staff including 268 faculty members. Presently, courses of MBBS, MD, MS, PhD, Diplomas, MCh (CVTS), MSc, GNM, BSc Nursing, DMLT, PGDMCH, and PGDGM are offered here.
Some of the path-breaking research works by the college are Dr Dikshit’s work on the role of acetylcholine in sleep and Dr Bhende’s discovery of the Bombay blood group. The hospital also has its name in the Jablonski’s Dictionary of syndromes, for the syndrome discovered, by Dr Ganla and Dr MJ Narsimhan.
In the last two decades, the colleges has been sought out by many research institutes including Department of Science & technology (DST), Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). Outreach services in mental health, preventive medicine, human reproduction research, tribal research, through national agencies like ICMR, and international agencies like WHO and UNICEF got underway. With the initiation of large-scale research projects the Institutional Ethics Committee was born. The Infosys super speciality building on the campus is catering to super speciality services for patients.
A six-week extended nevirapine (SWEN) study was conducted with this grant over the period of 2002-2007 for prevention of mother to infant transmission of HIV. This landmark study was published in Lancet (2008), which led to modification of guidelines by WHO for prevention of mother to infant transmission of HIV in breastfeeding population in resource poor areas. This gave BJMC the capability of international grade research.
After this successful demonstration of research capability, NIH USA granted Clinical Trial Unit to BJMC in collaboration with JHU for 2008-2014. BJMC-JHU application in response to RFA of NIH was among the first five amongst applications from all over the world.
In 2005, through the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) the HIV treatment center (ART) was started giving treatment free of charge. Presently more than 24,000 HIV infected patients are registered in the ART centre and 12,000 are on free ART. BJMC is recognised Government TB treatment centre with 4,000 tuberculosis patients/suspects per year.
BJMC and Sassoon helped fight the 2009 H1N1 (Swine Flu) outbreak in Pune and Maharashtra. In February 2010, BJ also promptly handled the casualties of German Bakery bomb blast.
Prominent community donations include food for all patients prepared by donation from the Shrimant Dagadusheth Halwai Ganapati Trust and the hospital has also contributed when it provided complete medical coverage to the athletes who participated in 30th Asian Athletics Games at Balewadi, Pune.
Dr Murlidhar Tambe, dean BJMC said, “Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, we cannot celebrate it as a grand event. However, the hospital has proven its worth in time. For our 2025 vision board we had proposed a Cancer hospital, a dental college, physiotherapy college and multiple super-specialities, for which we have submitted our proposal to the government. Hopefully, we get approval for some. The research work of students from BJMC has been recognised globally and also the care provided by our staff and students is noteworthy. Now is the time to expand and introduce new courses of UG and PG in various faculties.”