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Biographical entry Phansalkar, Vithal Gangadhar (1927 - 2006)

MB BS Bombay 1954; MS 1958; FRCS Edin 1960; FRCS 1961.

2 February 1927
Phaltan, Maharashtra, India
21 May 2006
Pune, India
General surgeon


Vithal Gangadhar Phansalkar was a general surgeon in Bijapur district in Karnataka state, India. His father, Gangadhar Sakharam Phansalkar, was a general practitioner in Phaltan, Maharashtra. His mother Girija died when he was three years old and his father passed away when he was 17 and just about to enter medical college. He had to scramble to change his college from BJ Medical College, Pune, to Grant Medical College, Bombay, as the Pune tuition fees were no longer affordable.

He studied at Mudhoji High School, Phaltan, and did his pre-medical course at Fergusson College, Pune. He completed his MB BS from Grant Medical College, Bombay and then his MS from JJ Hospital.

After his MS, he gained his FRCS from the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh in 1960 and of the Royal College of Surgeons of England in 1961. He then joined the Royal Victoria Hospital in Dover. He also had to visit the nearby hospitals in Folkestone and Deal. He decided to return to India in late 1961. He joined Wadia Hospital in Solapur, Maharashtra. This was when a close friend from his MB BS days suggested that he start a private practice 60 miles south in Bijapur, Karnataka.

He had a private hospital of about ten beds and also used to work as the allopathic surgeon at the ayurvedic hospital. He also used to teach allopathy at the ayurvedic college, where he was known as a stern taskmaster.

He used to design some of his surgical instruments. A manufacturer from Ludhiana, Punjab (around 1,200 miles away) used to visit and take requirements for surgical instruments. When the manufacturer was asked how he could afford these visits, he said that he sold the equipment to other surgeons to more than cover the cost of the visits.

He said that he practised 'social medicine', which led his family to say that those who could not afford regular fees were charged less and those who could afford his fees were his friends, again with the same result.

He married Vasanti in 1958 and they had two children, a son, Vijay, and a daughter, Vidya.

He liked to draw and, after retiring, had time to indulge in it. He had a great love of drama and music in all forms, mainly Indian and Western Classical music, especially Tchaikovsky and in particular, Swan Lake. In later days he enjoyed the music of the Malian musician Ali Farka Touré and his contemporaries. He was also an accomplished harmonica player. When a medical student in Bombay, he was invited to join a local jazz band, which he declined due to his studies.

He retired in 1991 and moved to Pune due to his failing health. He had a long overdue mitral valve replacement in 1998. He had a series of heart problems starting March 2006 and passed away on 21 May 2006. He was 79.

Vasanti Phansalkar
Vijay Phansalkar

The Royal College of Surgeons of England