PETALING JAYA: FROM humble beginnings as a milk boy to the nation’s pioneer aviation medicine doctor.
That is Captain (rtd) Dr Jagdev Singh Badhesha who turned 88 on March 18.
In fact, thousands of the nation’s civilian and military pilots may not have continued flying, if not for people like Dr Jagdev.
He even helped save lives during the 1969 racial riots.
Dr Jagdev also captained the national cricket team, at one time, during his prime where he was a top bowler.
Later as a medical practitioner, he propagated cardiopulmonary resuscitation techniques and helped formulate the country’s Occupational Safety and Health Act.
THE 1969 RIOTS
The 1969 racial riots flashed vividly across Dr Jagdev’s mind during an interview at his Section 6 home here in Selangor.
At the height of it all, when the federal capital was in a state of chaos, the dashing doctor was roped in by the Red Cross to
provide emergency medical treatment at Kuala Lumpur Hospital.
“I was summoned to the hospital’s accident and emergency ward in an army vehicle.
“It was helter-skelter with people screaming and bloodstains everywhere.
“It was a shocking scene and I had to summon courage and calm my nerves to get the job done — that of assisting the skeleton crew of medical officers in attending to slash victims,” said Dr Jagdev, whose cousin is Lieutenant-Colonel (rtd) Baldev Singh Johl, who had served as the 6th Battalion Royal Ranger Regiment’s commanding officer and was arguably the best parade commander the country ever had.
Dr Jagdev said he had to work tirelessly with government doctors to render medical aid to the victims.
“At one stage, we had 100 patients brought in for emergency treatment for slash wounds and we had to work overnight owing to a shortage of doctors.
“The scene was gory!” said the octogenarian.
PIONEER IN AVIATION MEDICINE
Dr Jagdev is probably the first local in the early years to
screen pilots to become great aviators for the airlines and air force — serving a total of 62 years in all.
“At that time, other than military officers, I was among a handful who was qualified in aviation medicine, to screen cadet pilots and professional ones, too.
“I did my basic aviation medicine training at the Royal Air Force base in Singapore in 1961.
“It was only very much later that the (Malaysian) armed forces established a proper aircrew screening centre (the Institute of Aviation Medicine at the Kuala Lumpur air force base),” he said.
Today, Dr Jagdev serves the Civil Aviation Authority of Malaysia as its chief medical assessor.
“My services are still sought, owing to my years of experience in the medical field. I oblige whenever called upon, if I am not preoccupied with other chores and family life,” he said.
Dr Jagdev kept his sporting skills going even after school.
Equally deft in hockey, he played cricket for his varsity, clubs, state (Perak, Selangor
and Melaka) and the armed forces.
Dr Jagdev was a top bowler and eventually went on to captain the national team.
He represented the country in tournaments like the Saudara Cup with Singapore, inter-port series and Carl Shubert Trophy.
He was also a regular in the Malaysian Cricket Association’s Navaratnam and Stonor Shields.
One of his finest achievements in cricket was when he turned out for his alma mater, King Edward VII School of Taiping, Perak.
“I managed to grab five wickets for six runs against Penang Free School, who were dismissed for a paltry 11 runs, in an inter-school match in 1949,” he said.
The same year, Dr Jagdev represented Perak and took six wickets for 37 runs against Negri Sembilan, which was all out for 73 runs.
AS A YOUNG SCHOOLBOY
Recounting his early years, Dr Jagdev recalled how he supplemented his family’s income by delivering milk on his bicycle to the police barracks before morning classes at King Edward VII School.
“The experiences and hardship of my early childhood inculcated a sense of discipline and a steely resolve to pursue my dream to become a doctor,” he said.
After completing his Senior Cambridge (Form Five) in 1950, he left home to continue his pre-university studies at St Xavier’s Institution in Penang.
OFF TO AUSTRALIA
Two years later in 1952, Dr Jagdev left for Australia to attend Adelaide University’s Medical School, graduating as a doctor in 1958.
While there, he represented South Australia in hockey, apart from actively playing cricket for his university.
“It was during that time that I also learnt horse-riding which kept me in tip-top shape,” he said.
LIFE AS A DOCTOR
“Upon my return, I began my government service at Melaka Hospital, and continued my sporting activities.
“Six months on the job, I was seconded to the armed forces as a military doctor for two years (with the rank of captain).
“My initial stint was the Port Dickson garrison before taking charge of aviation medicine at the Royal Malaysian Air Force base in Sungai Besi, Kuala Lumpur,” said Dr Jagdev.
He added that he was among the first to propagate cardiopulmonary resuscitation technique to many industries then.
He is credited to have served under the country’s first army chief (General Tan Sri Tunku Osman Mohd Jewa) and its first armed forces chief (Lieutenant-General Tan Sri Sir James Newton Rodney Moore).
In 1963, Dr Jagdev joined the Drs Young, Newton and Partners clinic and rose to be its principal partner in Kuala Lumpur.
During his long sabbatical leave, he took the opportunity to first pursue aviation medicine at Farnborough in England, then occupational medicine at Dundee University, Scotland, followed by public health at University of Singapore.
Later, Dr Jagdev helped formulate the country’s Occupational Safety and Health Act for the Human Resources Ministry.
Dr Jagdev even served as a “flying doctor” in Kargoolie, Western Australia, during another sabbatical in 1966.
“Upon my return home, many potential and serving airline pilots were sent to me for their aircrew medical screening.
“I guess, I was the only one available at the time other than the military doctors,” he said.
After retiring from Drs Young, Newton and Partners in 1980, Dr Jagdev served Exxon-Mobil as its medical director until 1996.
He is also an active member of the Armed Forces Medical Corps Veteran Officers Association, headed by its president Lieutenant-Colonel (rtd) Dr Jaswant Singh.