The medical fraternity in India has been ranting and raving even a month after Prime Minister Narendra Modi dubbed doctors dishonest during his speech in London.
The one-million-odd allopathic mediciners, especially those in the country’s 35,000 government hospitals, are on the boiling point particularly because Narendra Modi humiliated them by accusing them of being hand-in-glove with pharmaceutical companies who, he said, reward them with foreign jaunts.
The Machiavellian politician was perhaps oblivious of the fact that in Britain, where he tarred all medicos with the same brush, 63 percent of doctors are of Indian origin, and they number 250,000 even in the United States.
It is a different matter that Modi hates physicians’ guts following their strong opposition to his government’s upcoming “pro-rich” National Medical Commission Bill but not all healers have itching palms as proved by the yeoman’s service rendered by just three of the countless honest-to-boot doctors in his own home state, Gujarat.
Ahmedabad’s famed neurologist Dr Sudhir Shah, expert cardiologist Dr Ramesh Kapadia and golden-hearted dentist Dr Pratibha Athavale have not only won prestigious awards for doing exemplary work in their respective fields but have been devoting their precious time for noble causes to be rightly called “flowers of our civilization” as Robert Louis Stevenson would describe them.
Multifaceted Dr Shah has, indeed, lost count of the coveted awards, honors and recognitions bestowed on him as the medical specialist of the nervous system for the past 28 years – Padmashri, UNO Award, Global Visionary Award and scores of other trophies, citations and decorations from local, national and international organizations.
People also know him as a professor, writer, researcher, speaker, scientist, occultist and administrator of repute but last month he surprised everyone when he raised Rs 1.5 million for the Border Security Force (BSF) by dreaming up a unique musical program in which renowned doctors from different branches of medicine displayed their immense singing talent.
If the packed audience was thrilled to watch the 65-year-old, no-nonsense, busy-as-bee brain doctor crooning a Hemankumar Hindi song, imagine an ophthalmologist (Dr Vaishali Patel) intoning a Lata Mangeshkar hit, a cardiologist (Dr Shalin Thakore) carolling a Mukesh number and an intensivist (Dr Raj Raval) belting out a Kishorekumar oldie.
In order to strengthen Dr Shah’s hands, all the medical experts took time off from their tight schedule for fatiguing, long-winded rehearsals, offering their services gratis for the novel event, and they included a senior anaesthetist (Dr Ashok Patel) who served as the anchor and left many rolling in the aisles with his spring-fresh, witty one-liners.
Though the program to collect funds for the BSF jawans guarding the borders in tough terrains without creature comforts was the brainchild of Dr Shah after he witnessed their plight, it was a radiologist (Dr Gurudatt Thakkar) who not only presented golden oldies of various singers but also successfully accomplished the challenging job of scouting for talent, preparing the dozen-strong team of doctors, and coordinating with them during and after the rehearsals.
A philanthropist at heart known the world over for his painstaking research on fasting and meditation, Dr Shah has time and again conducted free diagnostic camps for orphans, senior citizens, visually impaired people, etc. and has made his medical services available to some 5,000 saints from different religions and sects so far.
Having penned numberless books on mind-boggling brain functions for professionals and laymen, he has donated all the royalty money from the sale of about 60,000 copies of his books published in various languages for poverty-stricken patients.
Octogenarian Dr. Ramesh Kapadia is also on a mission to end human sufferings by banishing expensive angioplasty and bypass surgery for patients down with coronary heart disease (CHD). Having been practicing cardiology since 1964, he found that though the patients followed his advice to a T to kick their smoking and drinking habits, they did it only out of the fear of the CHD.
Bent on finding an affordable approach to tackle CHD, he founded in 1991 the out-of-the-world Universal Healing Program (UHP), a simple, holistic body-mind-soul regime to heal and prevent the deadly CHD without compromising on the quality of life.
The program lasting a few weeks is just what the doctor ordered, having benefited thousands of participants, including those who do not want to go under the knife and the penniless patients who just cannot afford to pay the exorbitant fees of the doctor.
The UHP, which is all the rage in the medical world, is not an alternative but a complementary component to the mainstream medical treatment and consists of diet counselling, moderate exercises, yoga (shavasana), meditation and group discussion to finally remove the fear of CHD, the root cause of stress, which damages the heart.
Says Dr Kapadia who travels around the world to popularize UHP: “The Program not only heals the coronaries but also heals the individual as a whole and so it is called Universal Healing Program. It is a combination of the wisdom of the East and knowledge of Western modern medicine, so to say a combination of a philosopher and a physician”.
According to him, fewer people all over the globe now go for angioplasty and bypass surgery after it has dawned on them that 90 percent of CHD cases are preventable.
Dr. Pratibha Athavale has not only earned name and fame as a popular dental practitioner and has been an expert mountaineer since 1990 but has also been offering free treatment to the poor villagers in the cloud-capped, rugged regions of North- Eastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur and Nagaland for the past 17 years.
Since 2015, the self-effacing dentist has also been driving in her jeep on bumpy roads for treating down-and-out villagers coming to camps organized by the Indian Army in Guhalan in Uri sector of Kashmir Valley, just 700 meters away from Pakistan post, with deafening bombings audible to one and all.
Every year, during summer and Diwali vacations when countless adventurous people head for the Himalayas to create records, she packs her bags with essential medicines, rushes alone to the remotest corners of the countryside in the North-East and sets up a month-long camp to offer her services gratis to the poor patients.
The 63-year-young dentist, who has been honored by several prestigious organizations of Gujarat and Maharashtra, has trekked right up to the base camps of the Everest, the Kanchenjungha and Nandadevi. But it was during her Kailash MansarovarYatra in 1995 that she witnessed the plight of the locals who were struggling to find a doctor or even a chemist in the hilly region.
Golden-hearted Athavale took a pledge to serve the needy but had a tough time taking weighty dental chairs and scores of huge boxes carrying medicines and equipment first to Tejpur in Assam--a 60-hour journey--and to five other hamlets in Meghlaya and Manipur where permanent clinics and laboratories now work round the clock even in her absence.
What’s more, she even brought many young dedicated girls from the North East to her clinic in Ahmedabad and imparted extensive training to them for six months.
Of course, if Dr Athavale – she has held 60 free camps so far – has been able to start seven free-of cost clinics and three laboratories in desolate areas of the North-East, credit also goes to the support given by Seva Bharati, Vivekanand Centre and Ahmedabad-based reputed dental lab, Manish Patel’s M Dent.
Her book, ‘Purva Rang, Hima Rang’, narrating her memorable, both pleasant and bitter, experiences as a dentist, mountaineer and Good Samaritan has won a Maharashtra government’s literary prize.