Posted By


Indian doctors steal Samoan hearts

The Indian community of doctors received accolades and gratifying comments from the leaders and people of Samoa last fortnight.

They were among a group of 45 doctors, complemented by their spouses on a mission to the South Pacific nation.

About 40 doctors and nurses in Samoa joined the 80-strong group to provide medical services and participate in a conference held at the Aggie Greys Resort in Apia.

The conference was the first of its type organised by the Auckland Indian Medical Society (AIMS), although its President Professor Dr Chellaraj Benjamin is a regular visitor to the Samoan Capital and is well known for his efforts to lift public health in that country.

Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Lupesoli’ai Sa’ilele Malielegaoi delivered the keynote address and Health Minister Gatoloaifaana Amataga Alesana Gidlow welcomed the delegates to the Conference.

Head of State Tui Atua Tupua Tamasese Efi was the Special Guest of Honour along with Mr Malielegaoi and Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefoni Retzlaff at a dinner hosted to the delegates and other invited guests in Apia.

As well as leading teams of doctors and nurses regularly to Samoa, Dr Benjamin has helped to establish Open Heart Surgery and Kidney Dialysis Centre for the benefit of the poor and needy in Samoa.

In an earlier interview with Indian Newslink, Dr Benjamin had said that AIMS was committed to providing health care to Samoans, many of who could not afford advanced treatment and surgery.

Among them was Open-Heart surgery, conducted free of charge, which would cost up to $40,000 in New Zealand.

“Most patients do not have that kind of money. Many including 20-year-olds who need open-heart surgery would die if not attended to promptly,” he had said.

Dr Benjamin was awarded the title of ‘Papali’ (‘Prince)’ in 2005 by then King Malietoa Tanumafili and was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZM) in her New Year Honours List in 2009.

He said the visit resulted in a number of forward moves that would benefit the people of the South Pacific nation.

“Member-Doctors of AIMS have agreed to train students of the Oceania University of Medicine (OUM),” he said.

Established in 2002, the University offers a five-year Undergraduate MBBS programme targeting school-leavers from Samoa, Asia- Pacific, Australia, India and Malaysia and other neighbouring countries.

The University utilises the facilities offered by the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital, (TTM) located in Apia.

India-born Vice- Chancellor Dr Surindar Cheema said the University offered a combination of distance learning and other innovative methods of teaching.

“Our academic goal is to train graduates with the foundation knowledge, attitudes, behaviour and skills to be successful in postgraduate medical training, as well as throughout their careers.

“We are meeting that goal with our non-traditional adult students (average age 41) now practising in Australia, Samoa and the US,” he said.

According to Dr Cheema, the residential Undergraduate MBBS programme launched last year followed a traditional face-to-face format, supplemented by self-directed research, virtual guest lectures and podcasts.

“The University also utilises online delivery methods for its course content such as Problem-Based Learning cases.

Medical students from Australia, Britain and New Zealand pursue their Medical Elective Rotation Programme at the TTM,” he said.

Dr Benjamin said the visit was an eye-opener for the visiting medical practitioners and that they were determined to do their best to improve the public health system in Samoa and educate its people to undergo regular medical examination.

Auckland based Urologist Dr Madhu Koya donated a Cystoscopy Tower to TTM Hospital and would present another machine next month, he said.

“Dr Koya has also agreed to bring specialist equipment (at an estimated cost of $50,000) and perform kidney stone surgery on several patients when he returns to Apia in October. Members of our Society will help to develop Diploma courses at the OUM,” Dr Benjamin said.

Among the highlights of the visit was the commemoration of India’s Independence Day in Apia at which Mr Retzlaff, Chief Justice Patu Falefatu Sapolu and a number of other dignitaries were present.

“It was a unique function, first of its type in Samoa. We were delighted to fly the Indian National Flag and sing the Indian National Anthem,” Dr Benjamin said.

Delegates to the Medical Conference in Samoa

1. Dr Anil Sharma, Gynaecologist

2. Dr Ashwin Patel, General Practitioner

3. Dr C Jose Radiation Oncologist

4. Dr C.S Benjamin

5. Dr David Benson Cooper, Radiologist

6. Dr Dev Tandon, ENT Specialist

7. Dr Kevin Lee, Neuro Radiologist

8. Dr Madhu Koya, Consultant Urologist and Urologic Oncologist

9. Dr Mark Osborne, Director Mercy Radiology

10. Dr Meshach G Kirubakaran, Prof. of Nephrology, Australia

11. Dr Munir Kadri, Urologist

12. Dr Niva Thakurdas, Gynaecologist

13. Dr P Nagi, General Practitioner

14. Dr Padmaja Koya, Gynecological Surgeon

15. Dr Ranjit Rasalam, Melbourne, Australia

16. Dr Reena Ramsaroop, Pathologist

17. Dr Rita Sasidharan, Medical Oncologist

18. Dr Sharad Paul, Senior Lecturer

19. Dr Stanley Dean, General Manager, TTM Hospital, Samoa

20. Dr Surindar Cheema, Vice Chancellor, Oceania University of Medicine

21. Dr Vinod Singh, Consultant Physician

22. Dr Warwick Jaffe, Director Ascot Cardiology

23. Gerard Dunne, Managing Director, BELTAS Ltd

24. Prof James Shaw, Professor of Surgery

25. Stan Govender, Breast Surgeon

Note: The above list does not contain all delegates

Photo Caption: Samoan Deputy Prime Minister Misa Telefone Retzlaff speaking at the Medical Conference in Apia on August 13.

Share this story

Related Stories

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Indian Newslink

Previous slide
Next slide


Previous slide
Next slide


Previous slide
Next slide


Previous slide
Next slide


Previous slide
Next slide



Previous slide
Next slide


Previous slide
Next slide


Previous slide
Next slide