‘An amazingly dedicated Professor that woke up at the crack of dawn to assist in the training of surgical specialists pass their examinations. He was an excellent “old school” teacher. He helped me so much, held me by the “hand and ear” sometimes to get my exam technique correct. I was one of the last Orthopaedic Registrars that had to the write the full general surgery intermediates. I will never forget the sacrifices he made for us.’

That’s how UKZN trained surgeon Dr Rinesh Chetty, described Professor Bhugwan Singh when the UKZN Department of Surgery honoured Singh for his tremendous contribution in mentoring General Surgery scholars and for his humble uninterrupted service to surgical patients for more than four decades. Singh was honoured at the last seminar meeting for this year which was held at the Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine.

Detailing the long history of the weekly Seminars in Surgery that his Department holds every Saturday morning. ‘These began circa 1975. They are a platform largely for the postgraduates to present and debate current surgical challenges and controversies. At present, the electronic version of the Seminars in Surgery is distributed to at least 300 affiliates of the Department. Undergraduates also can assess the upcoming seminars via Moodle,’ said Singh.

Singh is a graduate of the University of Natal, one of the two institutions which merged to form UKZN. He completed his entire training at UKZN and King Edward VIII Hospital. He has served the Public sector throughout his career and had been involved in postgraduate teaching since the late 1980’s. He has overseen the training of several generations of surgeons, to date.

‘A wise, hardworking and humble soul. I am privileged to call Prof Singh a mentor,’ said surgeon, Vikesh Ramkelawon.

Dr Babongile Zulu, also a surgeon in the Eastern Cape wrote: ‘We are what we are today because of this great man. Will never forget his teachings and impeccable work ethic.’ This was echoed by Dr Raza Aboobakar, from Mauritius, who said: ‘This is so deserving for Prof. He has tutored and helped so many of us over the years. We are forever indebted to him. We are what we are because of him.’

Amongst guests who graced this ceremony and spoke highly of Professor Bugsy was Dr P Rajaruthnam and Dr Vasant Govind who are senior surgeons and doyen graduates of UKZN. They have remained very supportive and loyal to the UKZN Department of Surgery.

‘I am really humbled by this honor. The surgical skills I have refined over the years, the knowledge gained and produced is courtesy of a largely impoverished and long suffering community, to whom I have unpayable debt. All I have done is to serve my community,’ said Singh who is known to many as Prof “Bugsy”.

As a longstanding football fanatic – player, manager and administrator – Professor Bugsy drew reference to Albert Camus, saying: “everything I learnt about humanity, I learnt on the football field.’

Words: Lihle Sosibo