A Legend in Houston Community: Dr. P.G. Parameswaran

HOUSTON: With profound sadness, IACAN would like to inform you of the passing away of one of our past board members, Dr. Perunkulam Gopal (P.G.) Parameswaran. He was 83.

Born in Burma and raised in India, Dr. Parameswaran was the first generation in his family to receive higher education. After completing a residency in cardiothoracic surgery at Government Stanley Hospital in Chennai, followed by a series of professorial and research appointments across India, Dr. Parameswaran immigrated to the United States in 1973 to work in Dr. Yyan Silva’s team at Detroit’s Wayne State University, where they conducted the first transplant of a baboon liver into a human. After practicing surgery in a small town in Michigan, he moved to Houston in 1981 to join Southeast Memorial Hospital (now Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital), where he practiced until 2005. He was the first to introduce laparoscopic abdominal surgery in the hospital, which meant no large incisions and quicker recovery times. He was in the vanguard of physicians who practiced complementary medical approaches, studying medical acupuncture at UCLA. He used hypnosis to conduct minor surgeries and educated his peers about alternative medical modalities and the benefits of mind-body medicine. He played a key role in redesigning his hospital’s physical environment into one that supported holistic healing. He often said, “The real healer is within each person.” Dr. Parameswaran served on the board and held leadership positions in several organizations including IACAN, Indian Doctors Association and Sri Meenakshi Temple.

Among his substantial community service endeavors, Dr. Parameswaran contributed significantly to raising awareness on bone marrow donation and increasing donor registrants among South Asians. In 1996 he saw a newspaper appeal for a donor match for a young Indian woman, Vrushali. He learned that out of seven million registrants in the National Bone Marrow Registry, only 0.0025%, were South Asians. Dr. Parameswaran realized that Vrushali’s odds were minuscule, especially in the absence of any organized attempts to recruit South Asians in the registry. Vrushali never found a match and sadly died. However, increasing South Asian bone marrow donor registrants became a calling for Dr. Parameswaran. This mission brought him to IACAN. He joined IACAN in 2009 as a board member during its formative years. He created the bone marrow program. Under his leadership, IACAN held drives at cultural and religious gatherings all over Houston. He helped register thousands of South Asians into the donor registry. The current IACAN advisory board members remembered him fondly as “Dr. P”.

On recollecting his zeal and dedication towards the cause, one IACAN member mentioned that “any event that we could participate in, Dr. P was there with a booth!” Over the 15+ years that he conducted the drive, he met many patients waiting for donors who gave him the inspiration and energy to continue to work hard for this cause. Over 20,000 South Asians in the Houston area have been registered in the marrow registry due to his initiative. His work was recognized by the National Marrow Donor Program. Dr. Parameswaran’s message was that it would be a shame if our community lets patients die because we, as a community, failed to register enough people and motivate them to be donors. He was relentless in spreading this message and often quoted the proverb “Dig the well before you get thirsty,” and reminded us to register into the Marrow Registry in case one of our loved ones needs a marrow transplant.  Dr. Parameswaran’s was conferred with a Lifetime Service Award by IACAN in 2016 and continued to advise and mentor the organization and was always ready at a moment’s notice to impart his energy, enthusiasm, and kindness. He is considered “a legend” among the IACAN members.

“We have truly lost a wonderful and compassionate human being, a great physician, and a valuable community member. But his legacy of care, love, and commitment to helping others lives on in the many contributions he made to IACAN! Rest in peace Dr P. You will be dearly missed and never forgotten!” is the current sentiment harbored among IACAN members. We offer our condolences to his family and cherish his legacy. IACAN is committed to continuing to work hard to fulfill Dr. Parameswaran’s vision of increasing South Asian marrow or stem cell registry so that one day every South Asian suffering from blood cancer or blood disorder will find a match and have a second chance in life.