Since 2009, Dr. Satya Packianathan has helped heal University of Mississippi Medical Center patients coping with thoracic and gastrointestinal tumors.
But Dr. Pack, as his patients and colleagues call him, offers them more than his medical expertise. He hand-crafts lamps and places them around the Department of Radiation Oncology and its clinic at the Jackson Medical Mall so that patients can take solace in their whimsical beauty.
His hobby isn't unusual, seeing that Packianathan, an assistant professor of radiation/oncology, worked as an electrical technician in his native Malaysia before beginning his medical education.
Dr. Pack finds broken lamps from area flea markets, second-hand stores and thrift shops and repurposes the parts to make his artistic recreations.
“You kind of miss working with your hands,” said Packianathan, who came to this country to earn an undergraduate degree at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, then went on to receive his doctor of philosophy degree at Loma Linda University in California and his doctor of medicine at the University of California-Davis. He completed a residency at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla.
He scours area flea markets, second-hand stores and thrift shops for old lamps, whole or in need of repair, and then repurposes the parts to make completely different lamps. “I started out collecting old oil lamps and converting them to electric, so making lamps manually followed,” Packianathan said.
Although his lamps are not for sale, Packianathan has donated his works to patient fundraisers.
He prefers to use glass lamp shades, but will adapt most any shade he finds.
“It's pretty simple to find things,” Packianathan said. “People are always throwing out lamps.”
His lamps aren't for sale. “I mainly make them to decorate this place and make it look nice for patients,” Packianathan said.
“Dr. Pack” lifts the spirits of not just patients, but all those who work in Radiation Oncology, said Susan Garner, an insurance verification specialist.
“They are gorgeous,” she said of the dozen-plus lamps that grace tabletops, nurses' stations and patient exam and conference rooms. And because so many patients have fallen in love with the lamps, Garner said, the physician has donated a number for fundraisers to help their cancer patients with unmet needs, such as transportation or medications.
The lamps can be found throughout the clinic at nurses stations, hallways and patient areas.
“He will go to anywhere where he thinks they might have parts, and he buys them out of his own pocket,” Garner said. “He's extremely generous. His patients love him.”
Packianathan returns that love. He says he yet to clean out the metro area's second-hand lamp market. “I use whatever I have available, and if something better shows up later on, I'll replace it,” he said.
“You have a lot of parts lying around. You need a lot of inspiration.”
When repurposing parts of old lamps to hand-craft new ones, Packianathan prefers to create shades of colorful glass.