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06 April 2012

There are Godly doctors even today and patients need not lose faith in doctors. The silent majority do their good work unsung, unwept and unnoticed. Let us bring them out to the world to be known. May their tribe increase for the good of human kind

“If everyone were clothed with integrity, if every heart were just, frank, kindly, the other virtues would be well-nigh useless, since their chief purpose is to make us bear with patience the injustice of our fellows” — Jean Baptiste Molière, Le Misanthrope.

LASIK is one of those techniques which are making the rounds for medi-business these days in eye surgery. If only we believe the advertisements, LASIK is the in thing replacing the time tested reading glasses and sending them out of business. Laser (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is, in short, a light beam where all the photons are in coherence (holding together) so that an effective beam of light could be focused on a pin head and even could be used to cut very hard materials like steel or extra soft materials like the human cells. It is produced using photons to reflect one on the other, back and forth, at the speed of light to make other atoms to emit their photons using mirrors inside the beam. Unlike a search light where the light beam diffuses as it goes, the laser beam goes in coherence and you can focus it on a crater even on the moon using powerful telescopes. The man who showed that this could work even at room temperatures to freeze and remove even a single cell layer on the outer side of the cornea without heating the cells was a brilliant Indian Bengali, born to abject poverty on the mud floors of a small village on the Ganges near the Buddhist port of Tamluk, not far from where the Bengal Tigers used to roam. Dr Mani Bhoumik was a brilliant student of IIT who went on to do his PhD at UCLA and then there was no looking back.

Doctors: The good ones carry on their work unnoticed

Indian surgeons must be grateful to him for giving them this new tool to make money. Mani made lots of money himself by his discovery; bought the most expensive Rolls Royce, BMWs and many other sports cars, large palaces on Beverley Hills, Bel Air and enjoyed the company of celebrity girls from Hollywood for varying times. He was the greatest party man in LA who partied with the rich and powerful including many presidents of America and the who’s who in Hollywood. Eventually, one night at 2 am, after all the guests, more than one hundred of them departed, he realized, sitting alone (his last girl friend had left him after having lived with him for six years) on the side of his Olympic size swimming pool, that all that glitters is not gold. The last one of his girl friends had told him that he will not be a good husband material but, could be a good boyfriend. He then came to his senses to come back to the path of sanity. Putting his scientific knowledge to better use Mani reinvented God through science for atheists like him to see God in his book Code named God. Dr Bhoumik started a foundation to help educate poor children in his village in Bengal through scholarships. He discovered inner peace through meditation.

A dear friend of mine went for a LASIK surgery to one of the leading names in Mangalore as he was not pleased with his looks with the glasses on. He had a pleasant surprise waiting for him. The young man, the surgeon, was very friendly. After examining him at length the doctor explained in great detail what lasers are and what they do in effect at the end of the day. The surgeon was successful in fully convincing this young man that he would look very handsome in his spectacles and might not look better after surgery. He also gave the patient an inkling into the uncertainties of this kind of surgery. If LASIK could make a blind man see, the doctor told him, that he would use it for certain. But he said “in your case it is only of cosmetic value which is not advisable.” The surgeon also told him that he would charge Rs35,000 for the surgery but, would not advise this patient to have it done. He sent him home with a pair of good glasses to wear.

The patient was nonplussed and came to tell me his story. I was very happy for reasons more than one. The first and the foremost thing, is that I need not lose faith in all the doctors; there are gems among them. I know some of the best cardiothoracic and vascular surgeons, ENT surgeons, general and plastic surgeons even in Mangalore (the best is the one who knows when NOT to operate). Mangalore, unfortunately is gradually getting a bad name because of the unholy alliance between doctors and the industry, goaded and abetted by the corporate culture in hospitals these days where the fee-for-service concept of yesteryears' America is being reinvented more effectively, thus beating even bigger cities like Mumbai.

The second reason is that this surgeon's late grandfather used to be my colleague, a highly ethical doctor. His father was my student and a very good human being. So this young man, the third generation eye surgeon, had to be good. Epi-genetics tells us that we are not children of our parental genes but are the children of our parental environment. Children learn by seeing what elders do at home and not by what the elders preach! I have now full faith in Lamarck and have become a confirmed Lamarckian. Neo-Darwinism has been proven wrong.

Good things, like bad ones, come in crops. Next, I heard the first hand information about another young orthopaedic surgeon of Mangalore who takes time to explain to patients the pros and cons of aches and pains and advises them NOT to use pain killers. I wanted go and hug this young man because by and large orthopaedicians are the biggest pain killer prescribers. Pain killers are the real killers among chemical drugs. Some of them could even provoke a heart attack after a gap of five years. The side effects of pain killers are not dose–dependent, either. There are many simpler pain relieving methods which, I am told, this young man advises in plenty. Many times our patients are more informed than us doctors, thanks to the Internet where information (not wisdom) is available in plenty. Even if the patient insists on pain killers, I am told; this surgeon writes down a prescription but, strongly advises the patient not to consume those medicines. I was also told that this doctor takes plenty of time to tell patients who come for surgery to avoid the same unless it is absolutely necessary to save the patient's life. Most of the time he reassures them that they will get better with physiotherapy, drugs if needed and, patience to wait till the body's immune system repairs the damage. What a great surgeon he should be? Blessed are his parents who brought him into this world. Hundreds of his grateful patients will bless him and his progeny. Money can never ever replace this debt of patient gratitude.

There was a great orthopaedic professor in New York in the 1950s and 60s who had done ground-breaking research in the area of fracture healing even when the former was a mutilated compound fracture. He, for the first time, demonstrated how, even the red blood cells, in the blood clots under the broken bones lifted up periosteum, could transform themselves into pluri-potent stem cells to get the patient back to normal without much human interference. Professor Robert Becker was the professor of orthopaedics at the New York State University whose research papers found place in journals like Science and Nature. Bob had written a treatise, Body Electric, for all doctors, not just orthopaedic surgeons, to get wisdom from.

I couldn't wait to let the world know that there are Godly doctors even today and patients need not lose faith in doctors. There are many good ones, but the bad ones only get publicity. The silent majority do their good work unsung, unwept and unnoticed. Let us bring them out to the world to be known. May their tribe increase for the good of human kind. The caption is from George Orwell's NewSpeak.

“The only exercise some people get is jumping to conclusions, running down their friends, side-stepping responsibility, and pushing their luck”—Anon

(Professor Dr BM Hegde, a Padma Bhushan awardee in 2010, is an MD, PhD, FRCP (London, Edinburgh, Glasgow & Dublin), FACC and FAMS. He is also Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of the Science of Healing Outcomes, Chairman of the State Health Society's Expert Committee, Govt of Bihar, Patna. He is former Vice Chancellor of Manipal University at Mangalore and former professor for Cardiology of the Middlesex Hospital Medical School, University of London. Prof Dr Hegde can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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