With more than 34 years of experience in the field of cardiology in only one medical college – Dayanand Medical College and Hospital (DMCH) – it seems to be an uphill task for Dr Gurpreet Singh Wander to begin his stint as Vice-Chancellor (V-C) of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS), the only medical university in Punjab which has its headquarters in Faridkot. Looking at the controversies at the university in the past, it appears the new V-C has his work cut out for him.
Dr Wander who had joined DMCH on September 1, 1988, as lecturer in cardiology has been working in the same institution till date.
DMCH is a private institute. In 2001, it started its sister concern Hero DMCH Heart Centre, which was the brainchild of Dr Wander where he joined as its coordinator.
Dr Wander’s appointment is unique as most of his predecessors had come from the government sector.
The university was formed in July 1998. Dr Livtar Singh Chawla, a passout of Government Medical College, Amritsar, was its founder V-C.
Dr Chawla, a noted physician of Punjab, had retired as principal of DMCH before joining as V-C. However his term was short as he resigned in December 1999. During the initial years, he ran the show from a one-room accommodation, thanks to acute shortage of funds. Under such straitened circumstances, Dr Chawla called it quits, paving the way for Dr Jagtaran Singh Gujral to step into his shoes in January 2000.
A cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr Gujral was former Dean of PGIMER before assuming charge as V-C. He passed away on August 20, 2016, at the age of 84. But his stint as V-C wasn’t an uneventful one. Several controversies came to the fore when he held sway at the university. His OSD was found involved in recruitment of clerks in education department for which a vigilance inquiry had also been initiated in November 2002. Pre-medical entrance test (PMET) paper leak happened in June 2005 which was also during Dr Gujral’s tenure and that paper had to be rescheduled due to paper leak. During the inquiry, Dr Gujral was given a clean chit, but it was revealed that his staff were complicit in leaking the paper, and hence it was an administrative failure on his part.
Many senior functionaries like registrar, assistant registrar, controller of examinations, etc. had resigned during his tenure for some reason or other. Though Dr Gujral was given a three-year tenure by the then Akali government which was to end in January 2003, he was given extension by the next Congress government despite all the controversies.
At the end of 2005, Dr Ravinder Singh, an eminent surgeon and former principal of Government Medical College, Patiala, took over as V-C of BFUHS. Even during his tenure as well, PMET paper leak happened in July 2006. However that year Punjab University (PU) was given the responsibility to conduct the exam, hence BFUHS was not directly blamed for the paper leak. But Dr Ravinder Singh had conducted PMET exam as per schedule despite the paper leak as BFUHS had got alternative sets of question papers ready well in advance.
Dr Ravinder Singh was again from the government sector. During his tenure, he had also locked horns with the director research and medical education as he had refused to conduct reevaluation of 32 students of MBBS who had failed in anatomy paper in the first year. His tenure ended in November 2008.
In December 2008, Dr Shivinder Singh Gill, a former HoD of orthopaedic department of PGIMER, joined as V-C of BFUHS. His tenure too was not without controversy. In 2012, PMT paper leak raised its ugly head again, but during the inquiry it was revealed that a few scamsters had sold a 2009 paper of Delhi University to students calling it PMT paper. However, none of the questions matched with the orginal question paper. Dr Gill retired in November 2014 after serving for six years.
Then Dr Raj Bahadur took over as new V-C of the university. Dr Bahadur had worked as principal of Government Medical College, Chandigarh, and HoD orthopaedic department, PGIMER, among other government hospitals across the country. His tenure was the longest so far. He resigned on July 29 this year after serving for seven-and-a-half years, though his term was till December 2023.
He had got one extension in December 2017 for three years during the SAD-BJP regime and another in December 2020 during the Congress government for three more years.
However, he was forced to resign following the dirty mattress incident which took place on July 29 when Punjab Health Minister Chetan Singh Jouramajra made him lie on a dirty mattress lying in the dermatology department of Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital. The incident was recorded on camera and the video had gone viral in no time.
Dr Bahadur felt humiliated after this incident and did not join back even though the CM had requested him to do so. His resignation was finally accepted on August 12, and on August 14, Dr Avnish Kumar, director research and medical education, was given this additional charge.
On September 30, the Punjab CM announced that cardiologist Dr Gurpreet Singh Wander will be the new V-C of BFUHS. He is expected to join in the coming week.
On deputation as V-C: DMCH secy
Prem Gupta, secretary DMCH managing society, said, “Dr Wander has been appointed as V-C for a three-year term and we will be sending him on deputation to take over the new responsibility. We will do whatever he asks for. We expect him to do charity work for a couple of days in a week at the heart centre, apart from working as V-C. It is a great honour for us that our glittering star has been handpicked for this coveted post. We expect great changes in the coming months.”
Dr Raj Bahadur also used to do free OPD service at the Spinal institute in Mohali once a week when he was the V-C.
After his name was announced for the V-C post, Dr Wander had said that he aims to bring many changes in government medical colleges so that patients need not go anywhere else. He plans to do knowledge sharing of one unit with the other, as at present, different medical colleges were working as independent units. Apart from better training of paramedics, Dr Wander also plans to bridge the gap between doctors and paramedics.