Walking barefoot the three miles to school each day and back, from his family farm in the Indian countryside, certainly gave Dr Hanume Thimmegowda the resilience he needed to study medicine.
From there, he went to high school and onto university after winning a scholarship, needed to pay for his studies and board.
He said: “I was the youngest of ten siblings, from the south Indian village of Maragowdanahalli, in Karnataka. My family had high hopes that I would become a sheep farmer and look after the cattle on the small farm we had.”
But the young Dr Thimmegowda had other ideas: “Fortunately I secured a medic scholarship, which enabled me to go to university, as my family were poor and lived off the land.
“At medical school all the books mentioned the hospitals in England and I decided I wanted to go there, even though it was the other side of the world.
“On arrival in the UK in 1973, I spent a few weeks in Newcastle training and then my first job was at a hospital in Hull.”
Then he spent four years at Beverley Hospital, then onto Hammersmith Hospital for a short period in London, before bringing his family over from India to settle in Huddersfield.
Dr Thimmegowda then undertook his GP training for a year and then got a job as a family doctor in Dewsbury in May 1980, where he has worked as a GP ever since.
Today, the family doctor, who is a senior partner in family practice in the Dewsbury area at Albion Mount Medical Practice and at Mountain Road Surgery in Thornhill, is celebrating 50 years of continuous service with the NHS.
Still working part-time with five surgery sessions a week, he has no immediate plans to retire and says: “I never look at the clock when taking surgery. Patients are always my priority.”
He says he has seen huge changes over five decades in the NHS and that cutbacks and changes in prescribing are often not ideal: “Everything nowadays has to be accounted for, which is only right, but it can cause issues and delays, and for me the health and wellbeing of the patient is always the priority, they have to be. I am always humble to the NHS and kind to my patients.”
Dr Thimmegowda has been outspoken in the past about his views on how drug addicts should be treated, hitting the headlines for favouring the method where drug addicts are given a safe and clean place to take their drugs, under close medical supervision, and be supported to help combat their addiction, similar to schemes in the United States.
A celebration dinner is to be held at Dewsbury Town Hall later this month to mark the 50 years NHS milestone, inviting family, friends, colleagues and special guests such as former Dewsbury MP Baroness Ann Taylor, doctor colleagues, the Mayor and Mayoress of Kirklees and Dewsbury journalist and local historian Margaret Watson.
He has five sons and nine grandchildren. Two of his sons are consultants, one is a psychiatrist and one works in general medicine, and he says proudly that he has a grandson who is studying medicine and biology at Cambridge University. Another son with a masters in law, works for local government. Two other sons are working in the financial sector.
As a former Labour councillor for more than a decade in Thornhill, Dewsbury, Dr Thimmegowda recalls how he used to have very long days.
He said: “I would have morning surgery, then home visits, I would drive over to Huddersfield for a 2pm committee meeting, then back for late afternoon surgery, then in the evening I would have a Dewsbury Rotary Club meeting, then other times a Labour group meeting. If I was sometimes worried about someone’s health I had seen that day I would always follow up to check they were alright.
“So at the time I was holding two different sorts of surgeries, as a doctor and as a councillor.”
Today he has set up his own scholarship fund to help deserving children living in or near his home village in India, to help pupils at the local high school into Further Education.
He also built a village hall for meetings and functions and a Hindu Temple in the village where he was born with his family support.
“I try to go back there once a year. I still have relatives there, nieces and nephews but being the youngest of ten, my siblings have passed away
He has helped with pop up Eye Camps in India, where people come to have cataract operations and other eye complications dealt with.
He has raised funds for Water Aid, a Leukaemia charity, Cancer Research, The Alzheimer’s Society, MacMillan Nurses, the Diabetic Centre at Dewsbury Hospital and many more. Fundraising has seen him run two London marathons and a few Great North runs in addition to Balmoral run, today he still goes to the gym and it is only in recent years he has stopped running.
As a former president of Dewsbury Rotary Club, he remains a member, having become the first ever Indian person to join in Dewsbury. He is a past president of the British Medical Association Dewsbury division, in addition to Family Doctor Association Yorkshire and Humber representative.
He still has fond memories of his first ever medical job working on a coffee plantation run by British families in South India, walking through the woods and countryside to see patients.
Dr Thimmegowda adds: “I never forget my roots and I always look out for underprivileged or disadvantaged people, as I have been there myself. That is why I set up the scholarship for other children to be able to achieve and do their best.”