Remembered: Community minded surgeon, Dr Raman Vasan, dies aged 72

Dr Raman Vasan was instrumental in having the Wellington Indian Association temple and hall built on Kemp St, Kilbirnie.

Dr Raman Vasan was instrumental in having the Wellington Indian Association temple and hall built on Kemp St, Kilbirnie.

Dr Raman 'Ray' Lakha Vasan, physician/surgeon: b Wellington, April 2, 1945; m (1) Chandan (diss), (2) Latha , 2d, 1s; d Wellington, July 12, 2017, aged 72.

In a time when New Zealand's population could be characterised as largely monocultural, Dr Raman "Ray" Vasan saw the need to secure a hub for Wellington's burgeoning Indian community. 

A physician and surgeon by profession, Raman was trusted and respected among his many patients as well as the Indian community he helped lead.

He was born in Wellington and worked in his family's fruit and vegetable business with his parents and five siblings. When his father died in a truck accident in 1956, Vasan took on extra responsibilities, rising with his brothers before dawn to attend the produce auctions and helping with preparation and deliveries.

Vasan would go on to study science and medicine at university, gaining a Batchelor of Science from Victoria University, and a Batchelor of Medicine and a Batchelor of Surgery at the University of Otago Medical School. He travelled to England for further surgical qualifications where he was accepted into the Fellowship of the Royal Colleges of Surgeons in 1980.

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He will be remembered in Wellington for the contributions he made to the Indian community as the president of the Wellington Indian Association between 1988 and 1991.

Vasan could always see the big picture and the ambitious vision to build the Indian temple and hall in Kilbirnie during his tenure as president is a fit and lasting legacy.

As president of the Wellington Indian Association he was in a better position than most to notice Wellington's, and New Zealand's, growing Indian community and identified the need for a place where the community could gather.

In the early 1990s, the Indian community in New Zealand numbered only about 30,000. By the 2013 census that number had gown to 143,520, with Wellington having second largest population behind Auckland. 

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He was instrumental in lobbying and later fundraising for the temple and hall facility on Kemp St, Kilbernie.

The facility, then as it is now, was a home away from home for recent arrivals and a place to explore and connect with roots for New Zealand-born Indians.

The foresight shown by Vasan and his colleagues within the association leadership would ensure the Indian and wider community would have a place to congregate, learn and share their cultures.

He was awarded the New Zealand 1990 Commemoration Medal for his services to New Zealand.

Vasan split his time between Wellington and Gisborne where he was a well regarded surgeon and member of the community.

While working for Tairawhiti District Health he became particularly interested in health services for the Maori community and often travelled to Te Puia hospital to carry out clinics or operated from a mobile surgical bus.

In retirement he served a term on the Tairawhiti District Health Board as the chair of the Hospital Advisory committee.

Chair of Tairawhiti District Health David S Scott said Vasan's leadership and experience had been a valuable asset to the district.

"He was noted for his campaign to increase the ACC income by encouraging management to re-visit the administration systems. His leadership in this process resulted in significant increased income the results of which are still beneficial today."

Vasan will be remembered for committing his own time to the service of others and to the communities he cared about.

* By Matthew Tso: Sources: Latha Vasan, Neesha Vasan, Niesh Vasan, Shirena Vasan.

 - Dominion Post

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