Dr Sam – A man of vision

Samuel Ranjan Nitchingham was born in Klang, Malaysia on March 14, 1954, the second child and oldest son of Victor and Pakiam.

His early life was a happy one with extended family members living in-house to help support and nurture the young family as Victor headed overseas to London for an extended period to gain a university degree in engineering.

Ranjan (as he was known to family), together with siblings Shanta and Nimal, enjoyed a simple early upbringing, where the church, a tight network of friends mainly from the Ceylon community, sports and music were the backbone of their lives.

Upon Victor’s return from London, the family was completed with the arrival of Anura.

From an early age, Ranjan was observed to have an inquisitive mind, loved reading, had a wiry physique, excelled in sports and took music lessons which would lead to a lifelong love of music.

In high school, Ranjan attended Victoria Institute in KL and forged friendships that have lasted a lifetime.

On completion of high school, Ranjan did exceptionally well but did not pass the necessary Malay exam to gain entry to pre-university in Malaysia.

He moved to Singapore and entered the National Junior College in 1971.

Here he forged some lasting friendships, saying often that he was surrounded by some brilliant minds.

When asked what he would have chosen if he had the chance in university to do anything he wanted, he would often say- “I loved history, music and the sciences and I certainly could have done any of these and been very happy”.

But his was a typical Jaffna Tamil home where medicine and law were the only two careers deemed suitable for a son, and so in 1973, he began a five-year medical degree at the University of Singapore on an ASEAN scholarship.

While at university, Ranjan did just enough to get by, relying on friends for lecture notes, enjoying boozy nights with friends and a favourite uncle who lived in Singapore and playing in the medical school band.

He would often say they were tough years because the volume of knowledge needed was great and he knew he had to just keep on keeping abreast- there was no other option but to move forwards to a graduation in medicine.

Upon graduation in 1978 at the age of 24, his father gave him a trip to Australia where he travelled from Melbourne to Adelaide and then on to Perth.

He liked what he saw and managed to register with the Medical Board in South Australia thinking it might be an option at some point in his later life to work here.

Late in 1978, he met a nurse named Marina, who was on holiday to Singapore and Malaysia after her first year of nursing at Fremantle Hospital.

After a year-long courtship, and just one visit to Perth for a three-week holiday by Ranjan, they became engaged in December 1979, and the next time they saw each other, in August 1980, was when they were married.

Those were the days before computers and mobile phones so letter writing and the odd phone call were relied on.

In 1980, Ranjan moved to Adelaide, a fresh faced 26-year-old, raring to take on the world!

He got an offer of an anaesthetic rotation at the Flinders Hospital but after a week gave it up despite being warned he’d never get another job in the public system.

He put his name down to do GP locums and for the next two years, worked seven days a week; doing relief work in GP practices by day, and home visits by night, often covering a massive area from north of Grand Junction Road to the Hutchison Road Hospital in Gawler.

On his first day as a GP locum, he was asked over the CB radio what they could call him, and as Ranjan was considered too difficult to pronounce, he said Samuel, which in true Aussie style, soon became Sam, and affectionately Dr Sam.

In 1981, Ranjan was asked to help out as a locum for a group who had started a small practice in Virginia.

After a period of six months there, Ranjan was asked to buy them out and so started a long and wonderful relationship with the people of Virginia.

In 1982, Ranjan and Marina welcomed their first child, Usha, quickly followed by Anil and Anita.

Life with three children under four was hectic, and with no family support locally, the couple worked hard together to raise their young family.

Seeing his children do well at school and university, graduate, move into careers, settle down and ultimately grow freely into the vibrant, compassionate, capable individuals gave him enormous pride.

He was thrilled to become a grandfather to Xavier, who brought him endless joy.

In later years, Ranjan became involved in medical politics- sitting on the board of the AMA, Salisbury and Elizabeth Medical Association, being the inaugural president of the Asia Pacific Doctors Association, and more recently the South Australian Indian Medical Association.

He enjoyed these organisations and saw them as a place for mentorship, fellowship and stewardship, and was one of the first of subcontinental heritage to sit on AMA council and encouraged and paved the way for others to follow suit.

Ranjan gave generously of his time, listened and gently guided the various groups in their decision making.

He also came to know Dr Bruno Rositano and together with other doctors, quickly set up large practices – the Allcare Clinics in Prospect, Parkside, Munno Para and Elizabeth.

At times he worked seven days – his Virginia and Salisbury clinics by day and filling in on weekday nights and weekends at all these other practices.

Ranjan felt strongly about philanthropy and had several charities he regularly supported.

Over the past 15 years, he also loved to travel and spent many hours planning, organising, and booking these annual escapes.

In 2013, soon after the couple opened their branch practice, the Heritage Medical Centre in Two Wells, Ranjan was diagnosed with a Thymoma.

All seemed well after the complete removal of a 10cm tumour from his chest, but he was soon diagnosed with interstitial lung disease.

For the next five years, he managed well with monthly IVIG infusions and never slowed down.

His happiest times were with his family.

Late in 2017, Ranjan’s health began to take a slight turn for the worse.

He researched nightly on what could be wrong and poured over medical journals and websites to see if he could find a diagnosis for his symptoms.

In the end, he diagnosed himself with one of the rarest diseases known to medicine – TAMA or Thymoma Associated Multi-organ Autoimmunity.

This did not stop him from working hard and doing the things he loved, but the decline was unrelenting and rapid, and he passed away on January 28, 2019.

A great mentor, teacher and devoted family man, with wisdom beyond his years, Ranjan will be missed greatly by his family, friends, medical fraternity and the communities of Two Wells and Virginia.

Leave a Reply