“God and the Doctor we alike adore
But only when in danger, not before;
The danger o'er, both are alike requited,
God is forgotten, and the Doctor slighted.” — Robert Owen
Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, second Chief Minister of West Bengal, in whose memory Doctor's Day is celebrated in India on July 1, is cherished as a great physician even today. Born on July 1, 1882, and died the same date in 1962 aged 80, he left an indelible mark by his contributions and proved Robert Owen wrong! He was the embodiment of the following statement:
“A doctor, like anyone else who has to deal with human beings, each of them unique, cannot be a scientist; he is either, like the surgeon, a craftsman, or, like the physician and the psychologist, an artist. This means that in order to be a good doctor a man must also have a good character, that is to say, whatever weaknesses and foibles he may have, he must love his fellow human beings in the concrete and desire their good before his own.” — Auden, W. H.
Dr. B.C. Roy was one of the foremost national leaders of the 20th century. A legendary physician, distinguished political leader, philanthropist, educationist and social worker, he was one of the longest serving Chief Ministers and is rightly hailed as the Maker of Modern West Bengal.
A many-splendoured personality, he had a wide range of interests and he created a large number of institutions. He had a great vision, political and administrative acumen, and concern for the common people. He tried to solve crucial problems in the nation's life, especially during the 15 years that he served as Chief Minister. Dr. Roy, a bachelor, not only excelled as a physician, he was an educationist, amicable reformer, leisure warrior (he joined Mahatma Gandhi's Civil Disobedience movement), and a celebrity of the Indian National Congress.
After completing his FRCS and MRCP, Dr. Roy served as Professor of Medicine, Fellow of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene and Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University. He was instrumental in starting the Indian Medical Association in 1928 and making it the largest professional organisation in the country. He served the association in various capacities including as national president for two terms. The Medical Council of India was his creation and he was its first president in 1939, a position he held till 1945. He played a key role in establishing the Indian Institute of Mental Health, the Infectious Disease Hospital and the first-ever postgraduate medical college in Kolkata.
In spite of his hectic political duties — he was an MLA, Mayor and Chief Minister — Dr. Roy devoted one hour everyday for the cause of poor patients and the profession. He gifted his house to the people of Bengal in 1961.
Referring to the work of physicians, Dr. Elmer Hess, a former president of the American Medical Association, once wrote: “There is no greater reward in our profession than the knowledge that God has entrusted us with the physical care of His people. The Almighty has reserved for Himself the power to create life, but He has assigned to a few of us the responsibility of keeping in good repair the bodies in which this life is sustained.”
Voltaire, the French writer, said: “Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men, by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above all the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create.”
Dr. Roy aptly fits the bill. Will there be more B.C. Roys?
(The writer is Medical Director & CEO, Kalra Hospital, Sri Ram Cardio Thoracic Neurosciences Centre, New Delhi. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org)