Leading with a passion to save lives
It was 16 July 1990 when Venkataraman Anantharaman embarked on his first rescue mission abroad: a magnitude 7.8 earthquake had struck Baguio town on Luzon Island in the Philippines. As the doctor leading the medical team for Operation Lionheart – the overseas rescue contingent of the Singapore Civil Defence Force – Professor V. Anantharaman flew to the disaster site immediately. There, he witnessed bodies wedged underneath buildings and the injured wailing uncontrollably for help.
Amid the chaos, a rescuer carried the lifeless body of a three-year-old girl to him. Without wasting a second, Professor V. Anantharaman cleared her airway of debris and water and attempted to revive her. She came back to life. “Instances like this underscore the importance of being prepared,” the 57-year-old says. “Had we not responded right away, the child might not have lived.”
Since then, Professor V. Anantharaman has shared his experiences in emergency and post-disaster management with various countries. Last year, he was part of a three-year programme to set up a disaster medicine training system with the University of Hasanuddin, Makassar, Indonesia, and Temasek Foundation International. The collaboration developed a framework for improved post-disaster management – one that gathers the efforts of hospitals, primary care clinics, the police, disaster rescue teams and the armed forces.
Professor V. Anantharaman will carry out a similar programme in Nepal. It will encourage an integrated health care system, which connects the government, hospitals, health care facilities and search and rescue teams together as one, so they can work side by side effectively.
After directing numerous initiatives, how would the senior consultant at the Singapore General Hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine describe his leadership style? “You must show passion in your work. You must show that you believe in yourself,” he says. “And if you can show passion, then others will follow by example. In the end, everyone benefits.”
Trainer from the Singapore General Hospital in: Programme in Rebuilding Communities through Health Care by SingHealth and Temasek Foundation International
Text by Prabhu Silvam.
*More of such stories can be found in Temasek Foundation International's 10th anniversary commemorative book 'Leading Journeys: Inspirations for Asia and Beyond".