Doc keeps dementia at bay with multiple degrees

DATUK Dr N.K.S. Tharmaseelan is turning 70 in September but the good doctor, and soon-to-be lawyer, is not resting on his laurels. Successful by any measure, he is in continuous pursuit of knowledge because it energises him and keeps him going, as well as helps him stave off dementia.

A medical specialist, he went on to obtain a law degree, the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) and a master’s degree in law while practising medicine.

“New challenges rev me up, give me an adrenaline rush and rejuvenate me. It is important to be active and vibrant.

“After becoming a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, I commuted from my home in Melaka to Kuala Lumpur for weekend classes when I was studying for my law and homeopathy degrees, and my master of business administration (MBA),” he said.

Dr Tharmaseelan served in government hospitals for 25 years, training dozens of specialists, before venturing into private practice.

The former Medico-Legal Society of Malaysia president and former Malaysian Medical Association (MMA) president was responsible for introducing the association’s Volunteer Corps and had been recognised with the MMA Meritorious Award for services to the health profession. When he joined academia, Dr Tharmaseelan was appointed to various managerial positions at private universities in KL and Melaka, as a professor, acting dean, vice-chancellor and chief executive officer.

While many struggled to cope with the Covid-19 pandemic and the enforcement of the movement control order, he took the opportunity to enrich his mind.

“The last two-and-a-half years changed my life.

“I don’t watch TV so I had so much time on my hands during the MCO period that I decided to sign up for more than a dozen of short online courses ranging from religion to psychology and dementia.

“I have seen my friends and relatives struck by dementia, which virtually ‘eats up’ the patient’s brain, before his or her ability to function is lost forever.

“There is presently no cure for this debilitating disease which mostly affects those in the 60s. Post-retirement, many go into isolation due to lack of interaction and communication with others,” he said.

Many retirees are glued to the TV because their overprotective children are afraid of letting the elderly out, or they end up bedridden, he noted.

Others, he sighed, die in old folks’ homes and shelters with no recollection of who they are.

“I dread this happening to me. That’s what prompted me to embark on this lifelong journey of learning. The only way to keep dementia at bay is to always keep the brain and body active.

“In addition to this, one must devote time to spiritual pursuits from a young age. We must never forget to pay homage and gratitude to God for having granted us this life and taking care of us,” he said.

Early this year, Dr Tharmaseelan was presented with the MMA Gold Medal for services to the nation by Health Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.

He has five medical fellowships, three bachelor’s degrees in law, medicine and homeopathy, two master’s degrees in law and business, and a professional CLP.

He recently completed 11 courses in dementia, religion, psychology and bioethics to “make full use of the MCO”.

Born in KL, Dr Tharmaseelan is the second of seven siblings – four of whom are doctors.

“We grew up on Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, a street wedged between Chow Kit and Kampung Baru. My mother was a housewife and my father was a clerk with the British Volunteer Forces. When the force was disbanded during the Japanese occupation, he opened a mini-market,” he shared, recalling his childhood years.

Married to Dr V. Sivasakthi, a former Health Ministry head of services of anaesthesia, and former head at KL General Hospital anaesthesia department, the father of four spoke proudly of his children.

“My three sons are doctors specialising in psychiatry, orthopaedics and internal medicine. My daughter is a dentist.”

Currently chambering at a law firm in KL, Dr Tharmaseelan, who will be called to the Bar this year, already has his heart set on pursuing a doctorate. — By CHRISTINA CHINAcademic qualifications and fellowships

1974 MBBS (University of Mysore, India)

1981 MRCOG (Royal College of OBG, UK)

1995 FRCOG (Royal College of OBG, UK)

1998 l FACS (Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, US)

l LLB (University of London)

1999 l CLP (Bar Council Malaysia)

l BHMS Bachelor in Homeopathic Medical Sciences (University of Pondicherry, India)

l FICS (Fellow of the International College of Surgeons, US)

2005 LLM (University of Northumbria, UK)

2006 FAMM Fellow of the Academy of Medicine of Malaysia

2009 FFFLM Foundation Fellow of Forensic and Legal Medicine (Royal College of Physicians, UK)

2018 MBA (University of Cardiff, UK)

Online courses completed from 2019 to date: Understanding Dementia and Management of Dementia (University of Tasmania); Comparative Religion, Hinduism through scriptures, Buddhism through scriptures, Judaism through scriptures, Christianity through scriptures, and Islam through scriptures (Harvard University); Hinduism (Oxford University); Introduction to Psychology (Yale University); Introduction to Philosophy (University of Edinburgh); and Ethics at End of Life (University of Mysore)

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