Beloved pediatricians to retire

Published 8:55 pm Saturday, June 26, 2010

When Dr. Kalathil “K.N.V.” Sankaran began his pediatric practice in Suffolk on July 7, 1976, all he had was a stethoscope and a table.

Thirty-four years later he and his wife, Dr. Nellie Sankaran, who joined him at his practice, are retiring.

“I love taking care of the children,” Nellie said. “We love them, and they love us. Many of our patients are now grandparents. These people are our family. But it’s time to go.”

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The couple moved to Suffolk after Nellie secured a job with the Tidewater Public Health Clinic, where she worked for five years before joining her husband at his 440 W. Washington St. practice.

“I started with nothing,” K.N.V. said. “You can’t do that these days. After a few years, I had so many patients, I told her I needed her to come work with me. It was more than one doctor could do.”

So for the past 30 years the two have worked as a team to help keep the children of Suffolk healthy.

“We worked seven days a week,” Nellie said. “Back then, private practice doctors worked in the hospital, too. At 7:30 a.m., we’d do a round at the hospital, come to the practice and in the evening we’d do another round at the hospital. We took our kids on the weekends.”

“Things were different then,” K.N.V. said. “In the old days, you never advertised. Everything was word of mouth, and if your patient needed you, they had your home number. I would meet people at the door.”

The doctors never turned a patient away, regardless of their ability to pay.

“If someone needed help, we took care of them,” Nellie said. “We saw everybody.”

Because they had formed relationships and opened their doors to their patients, their patients opened their hearts to the doctors.

“A patient gave me a card and was saying goodbye and how much she loved us, and there would never be another doctor like us,” Nellie said. “I’m sad to leave. I love my patients.”

But after raising two daughters in Suffolk and taking care of three generations of patients, the Sankarans say it’s their time.

“I’m from India, and she’s from the Philippines,” K.N.V. said. “We want to be able to go home for more than two weeks. And so much has changed, it’s time.”

It wasn’t until the doctors found a replacement, however, that they would feel right leaving.

“I didn’t want to leave until we knew there was someone to step in and take care of our patients,” K.N.V said.

Dr. Gracie Bernardo of Nansemond Pediatrics will come in to work at the location, with the help of rotating doctors from the 1005 Commercial Lane location of Nansemond Pediatrics.

“I’m greatly honored that I was chosen to take over their practice,” Bernardo said. “They’re very dedicated to the population, and I’m sure they’ll be greatly missed. I felt that. I probably have to step up and carry on what they’ve established.”

Bernardo currently works in Elizabeth City, N.C. and lives in Chesapeake.

The Sankarans will take their last patient on Wednesday.

“I just want to thank the patients and their families for giving me and my wife the privilege to serve them these past several years,” K.N.V. said.