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 Table of Contents  
MEDICINE AND SOCIETY
Year : 2022  |  Volume : 3  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 174-176

Why and when did i decide to become a doctor


Former Professor of General & GI Surgery, Seth G.S. Medical College & KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Date of Submission09-Jul-2022
Date of Decision15-Jul-2022
Date of Acceptance16-Jul-2022
Date of Web Publication29-Aug-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Surendra Kumar Mathur
Former Professor of General & GI Surgery, Seth G.S. Medical College & KEM Hospital, Mumbai, Maharashtra
India
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/JME.JME_87_22

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How to cite this article:
Mathur SK. Why and when did i decide to become a doctor. J Med Evid 2022;3:174-6

How to cite this URL:
Mathur SK. Why and when did i decide to become a doctor. J Med Evid [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Oct 5];3:174-6. Available from: http://www.journaljme.org/text.asp?2022/3/2/174/354996



I was born into a middle-class family in a district known as Bhelsa (now Vidisha) near Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh. My father was a government servant in the revenue department who was known and respected for his honesty, sincerity and hard work. My mother, who had been educated up to the 10th standard, was a devoted housewife – always calm and quiet and I was very close to her. No one in my close family was in the medical profession.

My birth was a home delivery conducted by an Anglo-Indian midwife whom I happened to meet again when I was 3 years old at the birth of my younger siblings.

I started speaking late – at about 2 ½ years of age. However, on the day my worried mother decided to take me to consult a doctor, I spoke a few sentences before we could leave home in a successful bid to avoid my first encounter with a physician! Nevertheless, my mother took me to our neighbourhood doctor's private clinic (run by an elderly bald man called Dr. Tilak) who declared me to be a healthy, normal child. That visit piqued my curiosity and I would often go and spend time in his clinic. My family often pointed out my exceptional power of observation at home and I utilised this to absorb Dr. Tilak's manner of talking with patients and patterns for treatments of common diseases.

As far as I recall up until the age of five, I was a very healthy child and loved to drink lots of milk. My first serious encounter with doctors for a truly medical problem happened when I was 6 years old studying in the 2nd standard, in September 1955. I developed a cough and difficulty in breathing and in the middle of the night was admitted to the Government District Hospital, Guna (at the district headquarters in Madhya Pradesh). I was examined by Dr. Raina, the civil surgeon, who was in charge of the hospital, a tall handsome man with an MBBS degree, who diagnosed me to be having diphtheria. He told my mother that the next 48 hours were crucial for my survival. I received penicillin injections and improved. I was admitted to the general ward surrounded by other male patients. One of them I can recall very vividly even now. He was on the bed next to me, a young boy (must have been around 15–16 years old) from a village, whose one hand had been mauled by a tiger and he used to cry during his dressings. Somehow I was deeply moved by his suffering and used to tell my mother to get home-cooked food for him as well. I wonder now whether this caused my leaning towards surgery as well?

My father was on tour and was sent a telegram by his senior officer about my illness, but by the time he returned, which was almost 2 weeks later, I had already recovered.

That near-death experience and the personality and dedication of Dr. Raina in caring for his patients left a deep impression on me and clearly, somewhere later influenced me in making up my mind to become a doctor.

Second major illness – In 1956, my father was posted at Pichhore a Tehsil place in the Shivpuri district of MP and I was in the 3rd standard when I developed typhoid fever with relapse and was efficiently treated by an MBBS doctor posted at the government hospital with intravenous chloramphenicol. Just a month after that while still convalescing I developed pneumonia and once again was successfully treated by the same doctor.

Of course, I could not appear in my half-yearly examinations.

In 1960, studying in the 6th standard in Raghogarh a Tehsil in the Guna district I fell while playing football which left me with an elbow injury. Dr. Bhoraskar MBBS working at the government hospital examined me and clinically diagnosed it to be an elbow sprain and gave a plaster slab and an arm sling but as a precaution advised me to go to the district hospital and get an X-ray done to rule out any fracture. At the district hospital in Guna, the X-ray turned out to be normal and I was examined by a general surgeon, Dr. Agarwal, who changed the plaster and reassured me of full recovery in 3 weeks to be ready to enjoy the Holi festival (since that was my immediate concern – to be able to play Holi with my friends).

I also remember about my parents' illnesses efficiently treated by MBBS doctors, fresh from medical college and posted in the Tehsil. In 1961, my father had severe shooting leg pains and was diagnosed, on a clinical basis, as having sciatica, was given analgesics and was on continuous leg traction using sticking plaster and weights with the foot end of the bed elevated on bricks and he recovered. In the same year, my mother fell sick – she was serious, with hypotension, and the doctors treated her with intravenous fluids and some injections (perhaps pressors like mephentermine). During her illness, I prayed to God to save her life and promised to become a doctor to serve the patients to save their lives (A promise I have not broken to date even after reluctantly going into private practice).

At that time, the doctors in private clinics had the qualification of LMP, i.e., licentiate medical practitioners[1] a qualification acquired from allopathic medical schools in the country whereas government hospitals were run by MBBS doctors.

My whole schooling was in government schools at the district and Tehsil level where the medium of teaching was Hindi and the English language as a subject was taught only from the 6th standard onward.

Government doctors at Tehsil and district levels then and now:

I can recall in 1954 one of my distant uncles was operated for a hydrocoele by an MBBS doctor at the district hospital Vidisha.

It was common in those days for MBBS doctors to perform operations at district hospitals and some of the senior doctors use to perform even gastrectomies.

The freshers use to be posted as part of their service bonds (yes it was there at that time as well), whereas seniors were usually on transfer from district hospitals on promotion and were in charge of the hospital. Here, I would like to appraise the present generation about what used to be the social fabric at the Tehsil level and what infrastructure facilities were there during those days (1954–1965).

  1. There were government servants (Officer class, Tehsildar and Naib-Tehsildar, senior police inspectors in charge of the police station, 2–3 MBBS doctors in the government hospital, The Principal of Government Higher Secondary School (9th to 11th standard), Headmaster of the Primary to Middle School and all the teachers posted in these schools)
  2. A few Advocates
  3. Clerical staff working in these offices
  4. Nurses and compounders
  5. Police constables
  6. The general public – shop owners (some rich people use to be called Seths), mechanics, sweepers, iron and leather smiths, butchers, farmers, etc. Indeed, I studied and played with them including learning wrestling from the butcher's son. There was no tension based on religion; I used to participate in the Taziya procession with my Muslim classmates and they in our Ganpati and Krishna Janmashtami). Most of the students from the socially upper classes also did the same.


Infrastructure:

  • Road connectivity with district headquarters was there
  • Government school and hospital.


What was not there:

  1. No electricity (I studied till 10th standard under a kerosene lamp light) no fans, (so had to sleep in the open during summers). Certainly no air conditioning!!
  2. No piped water supply (water was drawn from the wells with a rope and bucket for drinking as well as bathing. As a child I have done this quite a few times when the servant was on leave)
  3. Toilets were there but without a flushing system. Manual scavenging gave way to hydraulic forces!


Hence, the MBBS doctors, revenue officers and teachers along with their families all lived in those circumstances without complaining. This must have been hard for MBBS doctors and some of the teachers who had all studied in medical and arts and science colleges situated in big towns where all the facilities like electricity, piped water and flush toilets were there.

However, all of them worked with full sincerity. I can vouch for government doctors from my personal experience. I can consider myself as a proof of the competency of my teachers from 1st to 12th standard in a government school in Tehsils and districts.

My own reluctance to go into private practice and strong desire to serve in the public sector has emanated from the dedication I saw in those government doctors and teachers who treated their patients and taught the students with dedication and selflessness without expecting any monetary gains. Still, they all lived a decent standard of life which was above average.

When I look back at my childhood days spent in Tehsil (villages) and my interaction with the MBBS doctors posted there in government hospitals, what strikes me is that:

  1. They were well dressed at work, had pleasant manners and never showed resentment for being posted in the village
  2. They were competent
  3. They were not money-minded (none ran private clinics even out of office hours. Yes if someone called the patients for home visits they were paid Rs 2 to 5 for the same. Which will translate into the current equivalent of Rs 250 – Rs 500 only.


The government doctors in state service in the 60s used to get a salary of Rs 250–400 per month (starting to retirement salary) which is equivalent now at Rs 21 to 35,000 per month.

(The inflation rate in India between 1960 and today has been 8228.02%. This means that 1 rupee in 1960 is equivalent to 83.28 rupees in 2022. In other words, the purchasing power of Rs 1 in 1960 equals Rs 83.28 today. The average annual inflation rate between these periods has been 7.39%).[2]

Today most of the Tehsils and districts have all those amenities including connectivities which did not exist at that time, be it electricity, roads, vehicles and cellular phones (at that time the only phone available was in the district post office). The fastest communication means was a telegram sent through Morse code from the post office.

The majority of India's population both in the Tehsils, districts and also in bigger cities get their care at government-run hospitals and clinics. I would like to remind our youngsters of their calling into medicine and where they can make a massive impact on the lives of our patients and the Indian people. What we as a health-care community need to do is to provide these young doctors with confidence, support and infrastructure to be successful.

The currently prevailing adverse perception of the public about the medical profession is worrisome. The present and future generations of young doctors will have to work hard to change this.

I would like to end this article with a quote by F. D. Roosevelt which in a way also reflects my own philosophy towards the medical profession, 'Happiness is not in the mere possession of money; it lies in the joy of achievement, in the thrill of creative efforts.'

Financial support and sponsorship

Nil.

Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.



 
  References Top

1.
Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery – Wikipedia. Licentiate in Medicine and Surgery (Also Known as Licentiate in Medical Practice in Some Instances) is a Medical Degree of Historical Importance in India. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org'wiki'Licentiate_in_Medicine.  Back to cited text no. 1
    
2.
Value of 1960 Indian Rupees Today – Inflation Calculator. Available from: https://www.inflationtool.com'1960-to-present-value. [Last accessed on 2022 Jun 08].  Back to cited text no. 2
    




 

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