samedi 5 avril 2014

OPTIMIST, PHILOSOPHER, HUMANITARIAN: THE DIABETES CRUSADER OF KUALA TRENGGANU, DR MENON

Most medical students would swear that it is the humanitarian interest that brought them to the study of Medicine. In my years of studying and teaching Medicine in Asia, Australia, Europe and the Americas, I have observed that these good intentions disappear by the time they become doctors, overcome by the distress of the society and their position in it, except a few diehards who cling on their dreams.
I once met a classmate of mine from Guyaquil, Ecuador who now enjoys capitalist accoutrements of his predatory medicine while complaining about everything including his patients, he asked me"
What happened to our dreams?
Excuse, I said to him, I still live my dreams.
So meeting a doctor, who has had a parallel life but still keeping and living that dream is an occasion for celebration in my heart.
I met one such doctor today in Kuala Trengganu in Malaysia. The location is significant in that during my travels around the world it is rare that I meet doctors of this caliber. A couple of years ago, the ageless man of Thursday Island (see my blog under that title) told me about the doctor attending to him, and during my short stay at KT, I couldn't meet him face to face because of his busy schedule.
Talking in an excited voice, Dr M, whose ancestors came to this country from the land of the western ghats, revealed his analytic thoughts about what lies underneath the physiology of Medicine, now hijacked by drug companies, much to the delight of their stockholders.

 

 

This Malaysian doctor had been born with a kind heart and a sharp intellect and nurtured both as a student in the UK as well as a junior doctor in the rural areas of Malaysia. He chose to live in this medically underserved eastern seaboard, but never abandoned his fiery enthusiasm and curiosity of human physiology, in the academic isolation of the early days of being a doctor. A lifelong interest has been the human physiology, his curious mind kept alive by asking not HOW but WHY (anthropologists ask WHY, medical doctors ask HOW). He refused to accept the drug company gospel about how drugs worked and this Bumiputra, son of the soil (even though the soil may not be only Malaysia) has through observation, incorporated his experience into his medical practice, ignoring the collected but influenced wisdom of paid peons of the drug industry and their Administrative and Medical Association colleagues.

This over a lunch of local dish of Fried Rice  at a restaurant facing the calm ocean. We talked about our own interpretations of how human body works in Illness, Health and Disease and how we can alleviate the suffering of the patient.
His main concern was the welfare of his patients, no greed, no commercial interest, I never heard him say any single bad thing about his patients, but only his strong desire to make their lives better.
I have noticed that erudite, curious, intellectually oriented doctors are attracted to Neurology, Endocrinology and Renal Physiology (not nephrology, dialyzing for dollars) and Dr. M was no exception. We reminisced about our student days in London, with afternoon lectures at Queen Square with impeccably dressed Prof Sir Roger Bannister and Prof Zilkha, giving orations on history and physiology of neurological illnesses.

The conversation led us to discuss another mutual passion and dream-DIABETES, prevention, treatment and attenuation of suffering.
I had always wanted to be of service to the rural Malays of Malaysia, the neglected in more than one ways of this emerging nation of divided racial and religious loyalties. Malays are gentle souls, they are being burdened disproportionately with Pre-Diabetes and Diabetes. Dr.M has already a plan in mind, to devote his talents to the holistic service of this population, to prevent and treat and alleviate the suffering in the field of Diabetes. He paraphrased the ancient dictum, if you know Diabetes, you know Clinical Medicine. Having been involved in such work among American Indians, I was happy when he invited me to join the ranks to educate and treat Diabetes in his region and for patients under his care.
Two hours went by swiftly. His phone was ringing constantly and he was wanted back in the hospital. We parted with the promise that we shall see each other soon.
I felt a tremendous satisfaction of meeting a good human being in this country, Malaysia, a country that I am fond of.
I know I will be returning to KT soon enough.