In Memoriam: Professor Kirpal Singh Chugh

December 12, 1932 – September 17, 2017

The global nephrology community mourns the passing of Professor Kirpal Singh Chugh, fondly called the “Father of Indian Nephrology,” on September 17, 2017. He was 85.

Dr. Chugh was a remarkable individual on every front. For over five decades, he was the driving force of nephrology in India, the Asia-Pacific region, and the international arena. After completing his medical education at Punjab University in India, he trained in the UK and returned to India to establish the Department of Nephrology at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh, in 1965. In addition to establishing the first nephrology training program in South Asia, he led the formation of the Indian Society of Nephrology in 1970, and was instrumental in launching the Indian Journal of Nephrology.

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Dr. Chugh was a teacher par excellence. His students came first, and he spared no time nor effort to ensure that every clinical, teaching, or research question raised had been answered in its entirety. More important, he inculcated a culture of excellence, global leadership, and high aspirations. Each year, he invited world leaders in nephrology to visit PGIMER and spend time with the fellows, to ignite high expectations and instill in them a responsibility to advance science and patient care. Over three decades, he trained over 75 fellows, many of whom went on to lead the premier nephrology departments in India and abroad. His trainees have also provided leadership at the highest levels of global nephrology societies, including as past and future Presidents of the National Kidney Foundation (NKF), International Society of Nephrology (ISN) and American Society of Nephrology (ASN). He is rightfully acknowledged as the Dronacharya of Nephrology, after the legendry teacher in the Indian epic Mahabharata.

A commitment to the advancement of nephrology in the developing world was one of Dr. Chugh’s ardent passions. He helped set up nephrology societies in most South Asian countries, and was one of the founder-members of the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology. An early leader in ISN, he was the first Indian to be elected to the ISN Council, served on several Committees, and was the first Chair of the South Asian Committee of the ISN COMGAN Program, a forerunner of the current Regional Boards. His distinctive turban and engaging personality made him a stand-out at global nephrology conferences. He received numerous awards, including the Padmashree, one of the highest civilian awards in India, the Bywaters Award of the International Society of Nephrology, the Oshima Award of the Asian Pacific Society of Nephrology, and the Distinguished Medal of the National Kidney Foundation of the US.

On the personal front, Dr. Chugh was disciplined, punctual, and industrious and instilled the same expectations in his trainees and colleagues. He was fiercely loyal to his trainees, opened many doors to them, and would leave no stone unturned to ensure his trainees got their due. He and his wife Harjeet set a high bar in affection and hospitality, a “Chugh Trait” that his trainees took along as they set up departments and institutions of their own. He knew and remembered the names of every spouse and every child of his trainees and kept close track of their own careers and personal progress. Dr. Chugh took charm and grace to the level of an art form.

Although no longer with us, Dr. Chugh’s lasting legacy lives through generations of his trainees and their own trainees—“The Chugh Way” will endure!

October/November 2017 (Vol. 9, Number 10 & 11)"