Nobody had heard of Dr. Chandrakant Patil till yesterday.
Now he is no more.
Dr. Patil was a resident doctor at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai. He was one of those rare doctors, who are driven by a passion to serve those who live at the margins of our society. Dr. Patil volunteered to work amongst the worst affected by the floods in Bihar. Not only did he volunteer he also encouraged his other colleagues to join him in this mission and apparently fought with the authorities at the KEM hospital to grant him leave so that he can go to Bihar and work amongst those who needed urgent medical care.
Dr. Patil died in tragic circumstances in Supaul, thousands of miles away from his home in Dhule, Maharashtra, when lightening hit him during a freak storm. Dr. Patil sustained serious burn injuries as he was barefoot and could not be resuscitated at the makeshift hospital tent, where he himself was working. He was 24 years old.
Dr. Patil came from a very humble background. He had completed his graduation in medicine 3 months earlier from BJ Medical College in Pune. Dr. Patil’s father is a mill worker in Dhule.
Most newspapers carried the story of Dr. Patil yesterday. It made me sit up and wonder about the profession of medicine and why we do not have more Dr. Patils. And why many of them doing yeomen service in distant parts of the country, amongst the most backward and marginalised of our countrymen never get the recognition that is their due. Had Dr. Patil not met this unfortunate fate, we would have never heard of him or others of his ilk. Ironical and sad.
Medicine has always been considered the most noble of professions and doctors have traditionally enjoyed respect of the society largely because of the nature of their vocation. The profession even in today’s commercial times can hardly be divorced from an element of service to mankind. The real issue is how do we ensure that young folks choosing medicine as a career get financially and materially rewarded as well (if not better) than their peers in other streams such as management and engineering. To expect young doctors to be motivated solely by their calling is to my mind being naive.
That is precisely the reason why we do not have more Dr. Patils.