Some weeks ago, I wrote about my primary school teacher who was responsible for some of the interests I developed later on in my life. Sadly the next fifteen years including the five years I spent in medical school, none of my peers, teachers and professors included, made much of a positive impression on me. Many of them were good teachers but none really enjoyed teaching or helping us out to understand the relationship between illness and patient. May be I am biased, but it was truly a disillusionary period, those five years were, in my life. All my ideas of nobility and sacredness attached to this profession disappeared when I saw firsthand what was happening in the hospital and college. Add personal, emotional and financial difficulties to this and you realize the dismal life I led.
I only realized what a fascinating profession medicine is, when I got out of medical school and began working in the wards as a houseman, directly involved in patient care. I was extremely fortunate in having a rare human being as my mentor. He was late Dr Sarosh Patel. Sarosh was only a few years older to me and worked as a junior doctor preparing for his post graduation in medicine. He was a hugely built man, fair as Parsees go, already balding and had a regal air around him. I was reedy, pale, and ill dressed, always ill at ease and thus we made a contrasting pair. I was fortunate that Sarosh took me under his wing and taught me the basics of patient care. He was a contrast to the boring teachers who made teaching disease centric where as Sarosh’s methods were patient centric. It is from him, for the first time I learnt that the patient was not a collection of organs, that he is ill not for our benefit and that every illness had a socio psychological background to it. Punctual, hard working, he still found time to teach me, sometimes late into the night when both of us were on duty.
He had a very bright future ahead of him. But he did not live long. Within a year of my coming to know him, he died of a brain tumour. I was told even when he was a patient at the Tata memorial at Bombay he would help in the treatment of other patients. Such an extraordinary man was Dr Sarosh Patel. My contact with him was a brief one year but I rate him as one of the finest doctors and human beings I have come across, and now after a lapse of forty-five years, I still grieve at the untimely loss.