One of the most prestigious professions one can ever be in is the medical field. Doctors are considered next to Gods as they are the ones who give humankind a second chance to live on this planet earth. Therefore, they are no less than the almighty. Doctors give their blood and sweat throughout their careers to ensure that human beings lead healthy and happy lives. They sacrifice their personal lives, families, and holidays for the human race to continue. Therefore, the entire human species will always be indebted to doctors for making us live longer.
However, in this fast-paced globalized, and materialistic world, even the service to humankind has become expensive to afford. Due to the rise in population, increase in pollution, and most importantly, more awareness of an average individual due to good educational resources, more deadly diseases have come in front of human beings. Moreover, the prominent growth of private hospitals across India has made medical expenses out of reach for the commoner.
Still, there are gems of doctors worldwide who work for humanity. One such gem of doctors is present in the heartland of Odisha. Not only has this person given free medical service to thousands of patients every day in his illustrious career spanning over 37 years, but he has also been a pioneer in making the common public of Odisha as well as India aware of two important branches of medical science, Clinical Immunology, and Rheumatology. The person is none other than Dr. Bidyut Das, who currently holds the position of Professor and Head Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at SCB Medical College, Cuttack.
Dr. Bidyut Das has been instrumental in bringing a revolution in medical science, especially in the state of Odisha.
Dr. Das was the person who brought awareness of the term Rheumatology among people in Odisha and has also as an important super-specialty in the state since 2002. The awareness led to the creation of the Department of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology at SCB Medical College in 2011.
In 2011, the Rheumatology department in SCB medical college was only the 11th among government medical colleges in the country. It has drastically changed the diagnostic and treatment standard of rheumatological and immunological disorders. Today at SCB the department treats over 40,000 patients from Odisha and the neighboring states a year. The department serves the needy, underprivileged, and chronic disorders at no cost as per the provisions of the government.
One of the most revolutionary changes Dr. Bidyut Das brought in his career was when he started the Telemedicine consultation service (Tele-rheumatology)at SCB Medical College in 2015. The main aim of the Telemedicine consultation service is to provide consultation to all patients at their doorsteps, especially those from remote areas who are poor and unable to come regularly to monitor the disease activities. This has been transformative in providing specialist consultation to people who cannot access tertiary care facilities due to distance, resources, and inconvenience. Through the Tele-rheumatology service, over 20,000 consultations have been done till April 2022, which includes around 6000 during the Covid Pandemic. Doing so has saved over three crores in cost to the patient.
Interview Times had a great opportunity to have a nice conversation with this legendary gentleman in his department. Dr. Bidyut Das was kind, soft-spoken, and had a conversation full of knowledge and wisdom. This was how the interview went-
Q- You have provided free services to thousands of patients every day for 37 years. What motivated you to do such a noble deed for so many years?
Answer: It was spontaneous. My primary aim was to become a good doctor and a good individual. So, after becoming a doctor, my main motto was to serve and cure patients. Money was never a factor. I have always seen patients in the hospital (Government hospitals). It is a great platform as we find many diverse patients in these hospitals, most of whom are underprivileged. Moreover, it always gave me a flavor of satisfaction whenever I treated them without any charges.
Q- When you started serving patients for free, what challenges did you initially face?
Answer: Yes, indeed, there were challenges. My colleagues were surprised. According to them, a good doctor needs to see patients in clinics as well. However, for me, the concept of a good doctor was to treat the patients, and the place of treatment never really mattered. This was the challenge of proving to people that good doctors do not necessarily need to practice in chambers.
Q- How do you want to describe your illustrious journey in medical science?
Answer: I am content, happy, and satisfied with what I have achieved in my life. I have served a large number of underprivileged patients for free and brought a smile to their faces. I started a new field of study of Immunology and Rheumatology, which is still a growing field in India. More and more doctors from Odisha are getting into this super specialty and today, patients in Odisha and across India are well aware of the diseases we deal with.
The greatest satisfaction I got in my life was when the state Government accepted my proposal, and I was able to start the Rheumatology department at SCB medical college in 2011. Just imagine, just 11 government medical colleges across India have this field of study, and we are one among them. This gives me immense pleasure. Also, a different department meant we could give more time to patients and treat more patients. However, things were still not sorted out after starting the department.
Lots of patients were coming from far-off cities in Odisha, costing them lakhs of rupees to visit us for follow-up. So, I planned and started the Telemedicine consultation service (Tele-rheumatology)at SCB Medical College in 2015. The Telemedicine consultation gave me the greatest satisfaction in life as patients now just had to visit SCB once and then as the need arises. Once we knew their medical history and problem, they could be treated in the district headquarter hospital via video conferencing. The Tele -technician connects us with the patient via video call, where we discuss further treatment drastically reducing their logistical expenses like travel accommodation and food. So, I have lived a life of my ambitions and am very happy and satisfied.
Yes, there is still one thing I would love to do in the next few years. There is a disease named Lupus that affects young women. The disease is not curable but controllable and it reduces longevity if not treated well. Therefore, I want to create an awareness campaign/drive all over Odisha and India to ensure more and more people know about the disease and take full precautions against them.
Q- Many students/ young doctors follow in your footsteps to become good doctors in Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology. Do you see them as following your path of providing free treatment to patients?
Answer: It’s highly unlikely, and I will never force them either. See, the primary motto is to become a good individual and a good doctor. So I always emphasize to my students to develop these two qualities. Giving free service is a personal choice. After all, there is a generation gap between us. However, I expect honesty towards the patients and rational treatment which will facilitate cure or relief.
Q- How do you see medical science growing in Odisha? Also, how do you see SCB growing?
Answer: Oh, there is a huge potential. The problem with a state like Odisha was that we had only three medical colleges including SCB during my time. Now there is a rapid growth in the numbers due to the progressive vision of the government. And we lacked the technology.
However, today, due to the state government’s interest, we see world-class medical equipment coming up in SCB. Moreover, we also see very good state government hospitals with modern equipment building up in every corner of Odisha. Therefore, there will be a huge boost to medical science in Odisha. Also, making more and more private hospitals ensures that the elite class gets world-class treatment.
Q- Any advice you want to provide young medical students/ professionals?
Answer: For young medical professionals, I have already answered it before. You have a long career ahead. First, make your name in society by being a good doctor and an individual. Get the proper treatment of the patient done and be honest with them. Then, you will surely excel in your profession.
My advice to students is to do research. The Internet can be a boon or bane. You can get deeply involved in research related to a particular field of interest or you can either research deep in various medical journals or go to various OTT platforms and watch web series and movies. Yes, one more thing- the teachers also need to adapt to modern society. You need to be innovative and inventive to attract the attention of all students for 40 minutes. Gone are the days of boring lectures. There need to be examples cited with more practical exposures.
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