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Major (Dr) Surendra Poonia

Major (Dr) Surendra Poonia

Doctors are custodians of our health. It is them we turn to for any matter related to our fitness, so it is only expected for a doctor to be hale and hearty himself…but the level of fitness Major (Dr) Surendra Poonia has surpasses all expectations. He is a Limca Record Holder of most international sport medals won by any Indian doctor, has represented India in 4 World Championships and is also Indian’s first power-lifter to win 4 consecutive gold medals.

Vishist Seva Medal awarded by the President of India, Big Reliance Most Entertaining Sportsman of the year -Jaipur 2013, Chief of Army Staff Commendation Medal recipient 3 times for meritorious military service in India and abroad,5 Gold,8 Silver and 2 Bronze Medals at World Medical and Health Games (2010-2012), Best Student Award in Young officer’s Course at Officer’s Training Academy, (Lucknow-2002), Mr AFMC- these are just some in the long list of awards and recognition that Maj (Dr) Poonia has been honored with. However, upon coaxing, he admits that some of them are a little more special for him, “All my awards are hard earned but my first International medal at Croatia in 2010 was my proudest moment as I was representing India and when I was given the medal under our Indian tricolor, I felt like I was in heaven! Getting the Vishist Seva Medal by President Pranab Mukhejee for ‘Distinguished Service of an Exceptional Order’ in the field of Sports is very close to my heart too.”

Maj (Dr) Poonia had always dreamt of serving the Indian Army. So, when he got the opportunity to join Pune’s prestigious Armed Forces Medical College (AFMC), he did so without a second thought. He maintains that this was one of the best things to happen to him.

AFMC was a turning point in his life.  He says, “I am sportsman by default. In AFMC, my seniors noticed that I am a good athlete and they motivated me further. My sports officer, Col Rajbir Singh and Col PK Singh helped me in getting proper coaching from Army Sports College and Army Sports and Physical Training Centre, Pune. There I met my coaches, Mr Chouhan and Mr Indra Singh, who helped me professionally. It was basically AFMC that made me a good sportsman.”

Not only was his fitness noticed and he walked away with the titles of Mr AFMC, Best Athlete, Best Sportsman etc. but he also selflessly and tirelessly worked as a physician and served the country.

In 2001, he was commissioned in the Indian Army following which he interned at the Ambala Cantonment’s Military Hospital. After that, he did his Medical Officer Basic Course (MOBC) from the AMC Centre and School, Lucknow. He topped the course.

Maj (Dr) Poonia says, “After my Internship, I volunteered for India’s best Combat regiment -Special Forces and did my probation for 6 months to become a paratrooper. I served in 60 Parachute Field Ambulance and then went to 2 Para Special Forces in Jammu & Kashmir. After a year, I joined 10 Para Special Forces in Jammu & Kashmir. In Kashmir I served in various counter insurgency operations with my comrades in arms. In 2006, I got the Army Chief Gallantry medal for saving the lives of 16 soldiers who were hit by militants’ bullets.”

He emphasizes that as an Army doctor, one has to be-

a- Mentally tough

b- Physically robust to work under stressful environment

c- A Team man

d- Mentally prepared to work in and with any type of environment, terrain,situation, people

e- Of nationalistic spirit- the comfort and lives of your soldiers come first, no matter what.

f- Mentally prepared to stay away in field for long time.

Srinagar, Baramulla, Kupwara, Shopian, Anantnag, Bandipur, Siachen Glacier- Maj (Dr) Poonia has served them all. Then came his international stint; He was selected for the UN Peacekeeping Mission which saw him head to Congo for a year with 5 Para Airborne Special Forces. “After the UN Mission, I got selected as a doctor in Rashtrapati Bhawan as part of The President’s Bodyguard. I was part of all the medical teams and at ceremonial functions of Rashtrapati Bhawan.I served for almost 5 years with two presidents- Pratibha Patil and Pranab Mukherjee.”

Maj (Dr) Poonia took premature retirement from his Army life in 2012 but his experiences as an Army doctor have given him numerous unforgettable memories. From saving lives of his colleagues in war to an incident last year where he had to urgently treat two patients of hypertension and diabetes aboard a flight- all these helped him take an important step of his life.

He reveals, “After this exposure, I realized I should share my knowledge and experience with young students who are going to be the back bone of future India in terms of sports, discipline, the Army way of life and ethics, health, hygiene, sanitation and environmental issues.”

His upbringing in a village in Rajasthan had made him come face to face with the harsh realities of poverty, gender bias, problems of farmers, issues of health and sanitation etc. He along with a few friends from different fields started working at a grassroot level for these causes. He also started speaking at institutes like IIM’s, IITs, Engineering and Medical colleges to make the students and faculty aware of these. He has recently joined a political party as well with the aim to work for social causes and for the general people.

Health, hygiene and sanitation, sports for young students, their diet ,training and rehabilitation, environmental issues like tree plantation, encouraging the youth to join Indian Armed forces and motivational speaking for young students and corporates- these are Maj (Dr) Poonia’s focus areas.

He wholeheartedly believes in the importance of fitness for all doctors. His healthy body was what kept him going successfully even in hostile combat environment. “A fit body houses a fit mind…and patients also feel good to see a fit doctor rather than an unfit one. A fit doctor can work for longer hours and still remain stress free. At the same time, they can easily motivate their patients about fitness and the benefits of good health.”

World Class athlete, doctor, social worker, politician- by donning all these hats, Major (Dr) Surendra Poonia has our expectations pinned on him to continue to bring more laurels to the country in the form of not only medals but also a more aware and healthy population.

3 Responses so far.

  1. DRCSBUCH says:

    Heartiest Congratulations
    It is very heartening to know and we are very proud to have your achievements for yourself,family and India!
    Best Wishes for future

  2. Ajay Kumar says:

    Glad to know about his multi disciplinary successes. Its an inspirational success story for youths and young medical professionals.

  3. Rashmi Singh says:

    Major Surendra Poonia is a highly decorated Retired Indian Army Officer. He has served 12 years in Indian Army. Since schooling he was very fond of sports and has made presence in Kabbadi and Khokho during school days. It was AFMC, where his skills were churned out and sharpened. Read his motivational story : Major Surendra Poonia

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