Sunday, October 19, 2008

Sarosh Patel

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.


Dr K Lakshman said...

How true! Passionate and motivating teachers are difficult to come by. Treating the patient as a whole and tailoring treatment to the patient's need - physical, psychological and economic - and training youngsters to think on these lines, is the need of the hour.


jk said...

Share bereavement. It is said that all noble people die early. Swami Vivekananda, Bhagwan Shankaracharya etc etc. May be he deserved a place in heaven. Ones loss is often another's gain. But the good thing is I see this noble soul serving through you. Goodness is always eternal.

Anonymous said...

How true, Doc !! Very few doctors distinguish between the illness and the patient. The first time I really understood this concept was when I watched the movie "Patch Adams", based on the true story of Dr. Hunter Campbell Adams.

When you wrote about your mentor Sarosh Patel, it reminded me of Patch Adams' similar direction : to understand the patient first, not jump into treating the disease.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I remember seeing the movie.That is also the first time I think the wards were made attractive to patients with bright colours and the environment was made patient friendly. This reminds me of circus comedians visiting hospitals to cheer the patients up.I feel that needs to be done for doctors too.
We [including yours truely] should learn to laugh more often even if it means at ourselves!