Honoring a Visionary: Dr. Palanivel's Journey from Humble Beginnings to Legendary Medical Pioneer

On 18th May, 2024 the Kerala government announced the Living Legend Award to our chairman, Dr. Palanivel. And what a moment it has been since then! Here’s an article to take us all back in time and see the bricks laid by Dr. Palanivel to build his life as a doctor, surgeon, director of GEM Hospital and Research Centre, professor, and managing trustee – GEM Digestive Diseases Foundation.

Our dreams define who we are. Dr. Palanivel’s dreams define him and remain a guiding star in his legacy. Dr. Palanivel’s achievements seem never-ending, but it all started with a struggling early life in Namakal and Malaysia. His determination and hard work secured him a seat at Stanley Medical College, Chennai, India. Upon receiving his medical degree at Stanley and his MS in Surgery and MCH Gastroenterology, he steadily launched his medical career at 40. And it was the start of an advancement in the healthcare system in South India. Our chief’s medical career became prolific with innovations and achievements. His lifelong learning and passion have led him to introduce a new technique for cancer esophagus in esophagectomy. This procedure is named after him and called “Palanivelu’s esophagectomy technique.” While his innovative technique brought advancement, it also made him a recipient of accolades and recognition. Dr. Palanivel’s medical journey then saw success in several advanced surgeries: Laparoscopic Whipple operation for cancer pancreas, which was the first to be performed and completed the first time in the world – Choledochal cyst laparoscopic excision & Hepatojejunostomy, Hydatid cyst excision (Palanivel’s hydatid trocar system), Single incision colorectal cancer resection (SAGES award-winning operation), and Gastrectomy for cancer stomach (Keynote address Japanese society 2006).

His achievements brought him many recognitions and awards in India and abroad. Here’s a list of awards from all around the globe: Dr. BC Roy National Award in the category of development of specialty medicine, namely laparoscopic surgery, in 2006 & Eminent Medical Person category in 2016, the first Indian to win the International Olympic Silver Medal for surgery, which was held in Phoenix, US, in 2009. Best paper award for the paper “Laparoscopic subtotal cholecystectomy, Rome, Italy, 1998, First Indian to win Best Video Award in EAES, Best Technique Award International Society for Diseases of Esophagus, Japan, 2010. Recipient of the Honorary Fellowship of Medicine “Honorary Causa” 2014 by the San American University, Peru. He was awarded the “Gold Medal” by the Kazakhstan National Association of Medicine for his significant contributions to surgical development in 2013. He became the first Indian surgeon honored by the European Association of Endoscopic Surgeons for his significant contributions to advancing laparoscopic surgery in Paris in 2014.

Dr. Palanivel didn’t stop with receiving awards; he wanted to make the world a better place for the underprivileged. What better way to start than in your hometown? Recognizing the needs of the village communities, he focuses on his charity work, providing free medical camps in his village. Through GEM, Dr. Palanivel has conducted free medical camps and covered surgery costs for over 3,485 patients. His commitment to affordability extends beyond free camps, with GEM offering high-tech medical facilities at subsidized rates. Dr. Palanivel’s GEM Mobile Clinic brings these services directly to rural areas, promoting early disease detection and public health awareness.

Further emphasizing prevention, Dr. Palanivel established the first Preventive Gastroenterology Clinic, offering cancer screenings, obesity management, and health education programs. These acts of success and service have made him a legend in medical history. And the whole GEM family is beyond proud of this recognition.

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