Millennium Post

Life-saving legacy

Doctor’s Day, celebrated on July 1 each year, is a tribute to medical practitioners who brave all odds to carry forward the rich legacy left by BC Roy

Life-saving legacy

Some months ago, I visited Tivoli Court, a popular residential complex in Kolkata. As I was about to depart, I suddenly saw one gentleman coming out. For an instant I could not recognise him. There was another gentleman along with me who pointed out that it was Mani Chetri who regularly held consultations in one corner of Tivoli Court. It struck me sharp because I knew Chetri to be more than hundred years old. I was even more surprised to know that he had been taking care of his patients on a regular basis. As I was returning in my car, the doctor's image lingered in my mind and something flashed upon my inward eye. I kept on wondering about the commitment of the gentleman towards his vocation; towards his patients. It must be this commitment that prevented him from shuddering within domestic security even during the worst phase of the pandemic. Mani Chetri represents a class of professionals whom we call medical practitioners. The first day of July is commemorated as Doctors' Day in India, celebrated after the birth and death anniversary of the legendary physician and the architect of modern West Bengal — Bidhan Chandra Roy. There is no problem in celebration but I think every day is doctors' day. There cannot be any nook and corner of the globe where a doctor is not taking care of a patient every minute. So, when we talk about this day, we ceremoniously remember the physicians whom we otherwise remember every other day. If seen candidly, the vocation of medicine demands an extra shade of empathy than any other vocation. This became even more prominent during the pandemic when physical distancing has been the requisite for social well-being. The very method of medical treatment came under challenge as treatment of patients and physical distancing are contradictory to each other. Still, medical consultation went on — both at the private level and at hospitals. Today if we have been able to maintain the death percentage of Covid at less than four per cent, then the lion's share of the credit must go to physicians.

A study of BC Roy's life would reveal the sincerity that he displayed in his medical profession. Remember, apart from being a doctor he was an active politician who went to win elections defeating none other than the great Surendra Nath Banerjee. He was one of the 'Big Five' of the Bengal Congress during the third decade of the last century. He went on to become the Chief Minister of West Bengal at a time when the state was reeling under the threat of communal violence. There was a huge exodus of displaced persons from East Pakistan. Their rehabilitation was the biggest challenge. Overcoming all these odds with some success, BC Roy could engineer such measures of reforms and development that modern West Bengal owes almost everything to him — from city planning to employment generation; from industries to agriculture and to infrastructure development. Despite shouldering all these responsibilities, the doctor in him always remained active. He used to hold consultations for his patients every day for one hour. This is the glory of the medical profession, for it presents an urgency which a doctor can never ignore — be it hundred years back; be it today.

Medical profession concerns the health of the community. It has a deep social impact. As a vocation, it demands absolute precision because even a minor error may be fatal for the life of a patient. The amount of psychological pressure that a medical practitioner has to endure is not so easy to understand. Even with all this, doctors do not just remain confined within their daily professional routine. Here again BC Roy is a notable example. With his medical acumen, he had the insight of an engineer who could carve out the planning of converting an area of brackish lakes into a city like Saltlake in Kolkata. It may be surmised that the clinical eye which Roy possessed helped him to be so particular in forming policies — both in medical and non-medical domain. While on one hand he ensured that the then Calcutta got four medical colleges, he also guaranteed projects like Damodar Valley Corporation and the Durgapur Steel Plant. He was instrumental in forming the Indian Medical Association in 1928. The Medical Council of India was his brainchild as he was its charter president in 1939. He also played a key role in establishing the Indian Institute of Mental Health. Roy also ably managed the University of Calcutta as its Vice-Chancellor.

Like all vocations, the medical profession is also undergoing transformation with new methods and means developing. But one thing has remained the same — something that is carried forth as a legacy from legends like BC Roy to the physicians of the modern generation. This legacy is the legacy of responsibility, legacy of trust and confidence. Today we hear about incidents where medical practitioners are blamed; at times they are even subject to improper behavior. However, that does not stop us from rushing to a doctor in medical necessity. We do have faith in them. When the pandemic was preventing the scope for conventional treatment, doctors immediately switched over to tele-medicine. Virtual media in the form of video calls over computers or smartphones became popular as medical advices got transmitted. This not only saved people's lives; it boosted the morale of the common man who was assured of medical assistance. Had it not been so, panic would have gripped us all to the extent of damage to social health! Covid 19 was not the only disease. Millions had thousands of problems which needed constant medical attention. The doctors continuously provided that. Just imagine when we were so eager to confine ourselves at home, doctors were busy ensuring that we remained safe. Maintaining protocols, they stood between death and the patients. The special dress that they had to wear along with gloves and other items was extremely uncomfortable, particularly in our weather conditions. No wonder the doctors have truly been termed as frontline Covid warriors. In fact, their efforts strengthened the efforts of others. In India, the ratio between number of doctors and patients is highly odd. Despite that, how many cases can be cited as examples of medical negligence, even though an individual is not beyond error? Doctors not only secure individual health, they ensure social security by preventing random outbreak of diseases which, in turn, would affect socio-economic health. The Covid period took away so many doctors from us and yet the show is going on; patients crowding and doctors examining them risking their health, their own families. Now how many of us would exactly do that is a million-dollar question. So next time when we try to assault a doctor, we need to realise the contribution that he makes towards maintaining social order. It is this realization that would sustain the harmony of the medical profession and our health.

The writer is an educator from Kolkata. Views expressed are personal

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