Lives of the fellows

Vasant Narayanrao Udhoji

b.4 April 1928 d.26 December 2011
MB BS Nagpur(1955) MRCP(1968) FACC(1969) FACP(1971) FCCP91974) FRCP(1986)

Vasant Udhoji was a cardiologist in California. He was born in Nagpur, India, the son of Narayan Ganesh Udhoji, a lawyer and ‘gentleman farmer’, who encouraged him to pursue medicine as a career. His mother was Maltibai Udhoji. Though fun-loving and good at sports, especially cricket, Vadant also easily excelled at his studies. He attended medical school in his native city and qualified in 1955. After one year at Mayo Hospital in Nagpur, and anxious to learn more, he decided to leave his state to pursue his medical career.

He travelled to the United States, where he was a resident at Lincoln City Hospital, New York, and then the Women’s Medical College in Philadelphia. Between 1958 and 1959, he held a fellowship in cardiology at the Women’s Medical College. He was then a resident in the cardiopulmonary laboratory at the Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital in Philadelphia. His inquisitive mind then led him to do research in cardiology: he held fellowships in the department of investigative medicine at McGill University, Montreal, Canada, and at the department of medicine, University of Southern California, where his investigations were focused on haemodynamics and the vasomotor effects of neurohormones in various conditions, including shock. These investigations resulted in publications in highly-respected journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation and Annals of Internal Medicine.

In 1964 he went to England, seeking to work with master clinicians to augment his clinical skills. He spent time at Hammersmith Hospital, and was then a registrar at Harefield Hospital in Middlesex. In 1966 he was a locum consultant physician in Watford. Between 1966 and 1968, he was a registrar in medicine and diseases of the chest in Watford.

He then returned to the USA to begin his academic career in cardiology. In 1969, he was appointed as an assistant professor at Temple University School of Medicine in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the division of cardiology. In 1972, he moved to Los Angeles, to weather more like his native India. He directed the coronary care unit at Sepulveda Medical Center at the Veterans Administration (VA) Hospital and became well-recognised as an outstanding clinician and a gentle, soft-spoken teacher who was a favourite of the many students he taught. If there were differences in opinion on the auscultation findings of a patient, Vasant had the last word and was the final referee. He was chief of cardiology at Sepulveda VA Hospital from 1979 to 1991, and led the division with aplomb. Many outstanding trainees, now full-fledged cardiologists in the area, owe him gratitude and continue to extol his virtues.

After the earthquake in 1994 in Los Angeles, Udhoji transferred to the West Los Angeles VA Hospital. While he continued to do some investigation in the latter part of his career, his main focus was his true love of pursing excellence in clinical skills and teaching young doctors to become good diagnosticians. His ‘suitcase’ of teaching tools, from his multipronged teaching stethoscope, to his clinical quizzes on ECG puzzles, was legendary. He was a favourite of the housestaff and won ‘teacher of the year’ awards for his excellence in teaching in a congenial and nurturing style with a ready smile and hearty laugh.

So keen was he to teach that, even after retirement, he continued to volunteer on a part-time basis as a teacher in the cardiology outpatient clinic at Olive View Medical Center in Sylmar County, California, which was close to his home. This allowed him to spend more time with the other love of his life besides cardiology – his family. He married Suman in 1950. They had a daughter, Ranjeeta, and two beloved grandchildren.

Vasant is well remembered at both VA hospitals, where he taught more than a generation of medical students and medical residents, and took excellent care of a legion of American veterans with compassion and diligence.

Freny Vaghaiwalla Mody

(Volume XII, page web)

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