Doctors as Spiritual Teachers

Doctors as Spiritual Teachers

Overview:

The practice of medicine is intrinsically linked to spirituality. Legendary doctors have been more of healers than just dispensers of medications to combat a disease. Spirituality is inseparable from life which a doctor treats by giving a healing touch to the patient who is in trauma due to disease. Thus, a doctor-patient relationship goes much beyond the contours defined by medical science imparting a tinge of divinity in the healing process.

Job responsibilities of doctors:

The science of medicine deals in the diagnosis and treatment of disease. The crucial element that makes a difference is the care and comfort showered on the suffering patient that hastens the process of recovery, convalescence and rehabilitation. While more and more doctors concede the fact that spirituality is the key to patient care for its wholesome impact on health, some dispute it not being in alignment with science.

Doctors themselves being human, cannot disassociate themselves from being compassionate or empathetic towards their patients’ suffering. If one looks back in history, doctors of today are akin to the priests and the shamans of the past who resurrected  human life from misery and suffering due to ailments. This accentuates the effect of spirituality on the treatment of patients.

Skill/Training required:

The medical schools impart nuances of science dealing with anatomy, physiology, psychological, and diagnostics for the treatment of diseases.There is no mention of spirituality or lessons on it. . But the Hippocratic Oath defines their stepping into the field of ethics that ultimately adds the element of spirituality in the profession a doctor is destined to pursue.

It is true that advancement in technology has somewhat blunted the human touch in medicine, but on the contrary it also acts as a potent tool in modern healthcare treatment. It is this aspect that makes the practice of medicine inseparable from spirituality towards  the upliftment of humanity.

Even as we look back in history, we see the use of traditional medicine in juxtaposition with western medicine. Practicing the art of Yog and meditation was designed for spiritual elevation associated with divinity. In opposition to the abject commercialization of healthcare, the idea of accompanying patients on the journey during illness is as much about caring for their souls as their bodies. It introduces the ethical obligation of doctors to address not only the physical agony of patients, but their  psychological and spiritual suffering as well.

List of Doctors as Spiritual Teachers:

India has a rich tradition of following the best medical practices over the years. The biggest boon to the Indian populace is in the area of affordability as compared to the healthcare ecosystem abroad. It is true that in some ailments the west scores over India because of the continuous pioneering work in unraveling the mysteries of ailments and their cure. Nevertheless, there are a host of legendary Indian doctors who have left a rich legacy behind as spiritual teachers apart from being  medical practitioners  and healers.

  • Bidhan Chandra Roy: The Doctor’s Day is celebrated in India on his birthday on the 1st of July, which is interestingly also the date of his demise in 1962. A decorated Bharat Ratna, he was academically brilliant as much as he was revered as a principled politician. The architect of modern West Bengal and as the first Chief Minister of the state, his professional life as a doctor are full of anecdotes, typically anointing him as a spiritual teacher as well. He was a great advocate of home remedies, rather than relying only on medications. In other words, he remained an embodiment of humility and compassion empathising with the patients regardless of their status.
  • Kadambini Ganguly: The first female graduate doctor from the iconic Calcutta Medical College, she dedicated her life to practice medicine. She was a pioneer in the times when a lady doctor would raise many an eyebrow, which did not deter her from travelling to the UK to pursue higher education in medicine. The independent practice and her empathy was an inspiration for many women to embark on her trodden path in later years.
  • SI Padmavati: She is the first lady cardiologist in India, still pursuing her practice at the age of 96 years. A spirited lady, she developed her interest in cardiology during her stay in the UK. She practiced in hospitals there, after completing FRCP from both the Royal Colleges in London and Edinburgh. Realising the lack of cardiology care in India, she returned opening the first cardiology department in a medical college. She founded the first Indian Heart Foundation to spread awareness and was decorated with the Padma Vibhusan in 1992.
  • Indira Hinduja: An Obstetrician and a Gynaecologist by profession, she wrote the contours of infertility cure by delivering the first test-tube baby in the year 1986. She has to her credit the invention of Gamete Intra-Fallopian Transfer (GIFT) and the development of Oocyte donation techniques for premature ovarian failure and menopausal patients. She was decorated with the Padma Shri in 2011.
  • Kamini Rao: Trained in the best traditions of western medicine in the UK under reputed international doctors, she pioneered the birth of India’s first SIFT baby. It was under her patronage that the first Semen Bank was set up in South India. She was recognised for her contribution to developing innovative fertility techniques when she was decorated with the Padma Shri in 2014.
  • Christiaan Barnard: His name is etched in the field of cardiology when he performed the first heart transplant in South Africa 1967. It was a path-breaking effort that revolutionised the contours of healthcare in the world giving a fillip to organ donation and transplant as a viable means to cure fatal illnesses.

Bottom Line:

The world of medicine is surely recognising the role of doctors as spiritual teachers, so much so that there is an impetus to incorporate the art of compassionate care of patients into the curriculum. Medical science and spirituality go hand in hand best exemplified by the legendary pioneer doctors of India who are also remembered for their compassion as much for their acumen as healing doctors.

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