Today, more than ever, the role of doctors in our society is undeniable. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an imminent need for us to acknowledge the experts in the field of healthcare and medicine who are selflessly and tirelessly working to ensure the safety of the people world-over.
The first of July is a day that honours this noble profession and its practitioners in India. Named after the “iconic and internationally renowned” Indian Medical professional, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, National Doctors Day honours his legacy and that of others like him who continue to serve mankind through medical service, many a time even at the risk of their own lives.
Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy was an Indian doctor born in Patna during the British rule in India, in the year 1882. Dr Roy initially did his study in the field of mathematics but continued the rest of his study in the field of Medicine at The College of Calcutta.
Being an Indian under the British Rule, Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy had aspirations that far exceeded that of other Indians at the time. Facing levels of racism unheard of today, despite his education in the medical profession, he was rejected over 30 times from the “prestigious Saint Bartholomew’s Hospital” simply because he was of Asian origin. However, he remained undeterred until he was accepted to Saint Bartholomew’s, going on to even be a “Fellow of at the Royal College of Surgeons”. At the apogee of his career, he gained recognition from British and Indian medical journals and press sources alike, for his immense dedication and skill.
Upon his return to India, despite his initial attempts to steer clear of the freedom movement and focus his attention on his passion for medical service, he was drawn to the Indian Independence Movement soon enough. The doctor who was the personal physician of both Nehru and Gandhi, famously once said “No Gandhiji, I could not treat all patients free. But I came… not to treat Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, but to treat “him” who to me represents the four hundred million people of my country.”.
His valuable contributions to the field of mental health and other fields will be especially remembered, as he played a crucial role in establishing the Indian Institute of Mental Health as well as other notable hospitals and organisations. He is even credited with founding Kolkata’s very first postgraduate medical college. He opened centres for women where they could train in social service and nursing.
Post-independence, as a result of Gandhi Ji’s prodding, he played an active role in the administration. He spent a significant part of his time in the administration of Bengal, laying the foundation for several social initiatives such as free medical facilities, free education, women empowerment and clean water.
Despite his active involvement in the field of administration, his commitment to Medicine remained unwavering. For his invaluable contributions in a number of fields, “Medicine, Politics and Service to the nation, in the year 1961, he was honoured with India’s highest civilian award, Bharat Ratna”.
Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy will always be remembered as the “towering figure of the medical profession” in India. He passed away on his 80th birthday. He is to this day remembered as a legend in the field of Medicine in India. “The British Medical Journal, in its obituary of Roy, called him the “first medical consultant in the subcontinent of India, who towered over his contemporaries in several fields”.It also said, “… at his professional zenith he may have had the largest consulting practice in the world, news of his visit to a city or even railway station bringing forth hordes of would-be patients.”
The legacy of the great man lives on…..