'He was the Supreme Court of Medicine'
NAGPUR: An era in the medical history of Nagpur and Vidarbha ended on Saturday with the demise of Padmashri Dr Bal Swaroop Chaubey. Aged 77, he was ailing from Dussehra due to a chest infection.
The city lost an unparalleled clinician and visionary but above all a teacher par excellence who would be remembered with respect, love and admiration by not just his students and medical fraternity but by thousands of poor families whom he treated free after his retirement. He was a messiah to many doctors who learnt from him at Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) as a teacher and later as the dean from 1982-1992.
He was the best medical teacher that GMCH had in the second generation of teachers since the college started functioning in 1947-48. The college's first generation teachers, Dr Ramesh Nigam, Dr P K Devi, Dr C Balkrishnan and Dr J N Berry, taught Chaubey. He used to say that he inherited the qualities of good teachers like discipline, devotion, dedication and the passion to teach. Though also known in his fraternity as the best physician the city has produced till date, he always preferred to be known as a teacher. "I hope the government has honoured the teacher in me," he had said, after receiving the Padmashri on April 15, 2009.
"A teacher is always a winner. He can never be a loser. Become a good teacher, read regularly and organize yourself with topic before going to students," was his advice to fellow teachers.
"He was one of the toughest teachers yet the most sought after and most loved," said Dr G M Taori, director of Central India Institute of Medical Sciences and his classmate of the 1952 batch. The two seemed inseparable. "As students, the two of us were the most sought after by our teachers. We even did our project on same subject - he did the diagnosis and me the treatment for our MD course. We did teaching and invigilation together. His diagnosis without any testing modalities in those days was so accurate that not even his teachers questioned him," Taori remembered.
Another classmate Dr Devidas Kadasane remembers him as a good, straightforward and down-to-earth human being. "We both went to London, he for his MRCP and me for FRCS. But when I returned and took over as civil surgeon of Jalgaon, it was he who came and stayed with me for seven days to teach me medicine and administration," he recalled with tears in his eyes.
Dr Shrikant Vyawahare, a senior pathologist and Chaubey's batchmate, called him the 'Supreme Court of Medicine'. "His word was the last in medicine," he said. But he also remembers him as an excellent student. "Ours was the first and last batch in those days to be subjected to an entrance test. He topped everywhere thereafter. Not only that, he was also a good administrator which he proved in various capacities: dean of GMCH, dean of medicine faculty of Nagpur University and executive council and academic council member," he added.
Dr B J Subhedar and Padmashri Dr Vikram Marwah, Dr Chaubey's teachers, remember him as an outstanding student. "He had an exceptional aptitude for any medical student. He was topper all the time," said Dr Subhedar. Dr Marwah remembers him for the vision he had, which helped the two of them as the first president and secretary of the Maharashtra State Medical Teachers Association. In fact, the two together also were instrumental in formation of the directorate of medical education and research.
"We were taught by our teachers to insist that all our patients waited their turn while we examined them one by one. We were taught never to make exceptions, even if we were dealing with ministers and big shots. It earned us respect but also got us into trouble. In fact, we were transferred because of our insistence," said Dr Marwah.
After the entire batch of good teachers shifted to PGI Chandigarh in protest against the political pressure that they had to work in, it was Dr Chaubey who took the institution ahead in the right direction. He was instrumental in starting the department of nephrology, kidney and dialysis unit and pulmonology unit. GMCH has super speciality hospital because of him. "But sadly, his dream of seeing it develop into a post graduate institute remains unfulfilled," said his son Dr Sameer Chuabey, a nephrologist.
Chaubey was also survived by his wife Pramila and two daughters Sarika and Swati.
Besides being a good doctor, he had interest in literature and good movies. His most preferred authors in classics included P G Woodhouse but he also read popular fiction of writers like James Hadley Chase. His favourite movie was Bridge On The River Kwai.
Nagpur: While coming together for various reasons is a regular activity for the medical fraternity of the city, Saturday saw them assemble to share the grief of a great loss. The irreversible loss was of a person they all looked up to in times of professional as well as personal confrontations. Dr BS Chaubey not only left his own family in grief but a host of his students who admired him beyond measure and scores of patients who were regular beneficiaries of his benevolence.
Many of those who came to attend the last rites were upset at the abruptness of Dr Chaubey's demise. The master physician continued to treat patients even a couple of months before falling ill, attending his last patient on Dussehra day. Everybody present was busy recalling some profound changes that Chaubey made in the medical services available in the city. Shaken colleagues and students recounted the reasons behind the many epithets he had earned through five decades of his career. In four decades that he spent as a teacher, the physician touched the lives of more than 8,000 students.
Daughter-in-law Smita said that he would be missed sorely by his grandchildren, whom he dearly loved. "It pains me to see the condition of my mother-in-law, Pramila, who is the most dedicated wife I have ever seen," she said. Son Dr Sameer Chaubey said that though he has learnt a lot from his father, he would never be able to match up to him in terms of his skills as a physician. A friend of Dr Chaubey, Gopal Krishna Acharya broke down when he saw his friend's body being lifted. He recalled how 'the doctor of the poor' would not only waive off his own fees, but also gave money to many of his patients for their treatment.
While social worker Umesh Chaubey remembered fondly how Dr Chaubey would often go out of his way to take care of his patients, former MP Banwarilal Purohit recalled his efforts to upgrade the GMCH as its dean. A patient of his, Subhash Pandey said, "I have been seeking treatment from Dr Chaubey for so long that I feel medically orphaned with his demise."
Though many people spoke about the great loss to humanity as a whole and the field of medicine in particular that was brought in by the demise of Dr Chaubey, many silent tributes and unspoken prayers would keep pouring in for the benevolent soul.
Nagpur: Despite the many feathers that adorned his crowded cap, one of Dr B S Chaubey's heartfelt wishes was to be remembered more for his work as a teacher than a doctor. On Saturday, as many of his students took one last look of their beloved Chaubey Sir, his wish seemed to have been fulfilled as most of them remembered him for the ethics and life lessons he imbibed in them.
Students still looked up to the legendary medico with fear-mixed-awe, recounting how entire corridors would suddenly empty when this disciplinarian dean of the Government Medical College and Hospital (GMCH) would be on the rounds. Some of them also remembered the softer side of their seemingly hard-to-crack teacher, who was known for his kindness towards the patients.
Two of his students, who have been lucky enough to get a chance of carrying forward the legacy of Dr Chaubey, retold some fond memories of the teacher. Magsaysay award recipient Dr Abhay Bang recalled how he got an incomparable explanation about Parkinson's diseases from Dr Chaubey. "He was in a hurry when a patient with the disease came in and he explained us about the syndrome in ten minutes' time. I have read and heard a lot about it afterwards, but no explanation matched his," recalled the medico-social worker, who immediately came to Nagpur from Gadchiroli on hearing the news of Chaubey's demise.
Dr SP Kalantri from Mahatma Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (MGIMS), Sewagram, who is trying to keep alive the ethics he learnt from his beloved teacher, enthused about many of his qualities. "He was such a fine blend of knowledge, wisdom and humanity. He made the science of medicine seem like an art," said Kalantri, who is now a teacher himself. His colleague from Lata Mangeshkar Hospital, Dr Ramesh Mundle, considered himself fortunate to be able to witness an era of the medical history that would never come back. Radiologist Dr Sanjay Khemuka, who was a classmate of Dr Chaubey's son Sameer, said the strict teacher for others was more like a father figure to him.
Dr Pradeep Mishra, who turned physician for his teacher, felt extremely lucky to be of some help. Dr Mishra, who treated Dr Chaubey during his illness, said, "It is a privilege to be chosen to be the physician for a man thought to be the most admired among physicians. I feel good to have been able to utilize the knowledge he gave me to help him when he needed it the most. For most of us, he was our role model and the reason why we chose to stick to general medicine."
One of his youngest students, Dr Sameer Bhisekar, who belonged to the last batch of students who had the good fortune of having Dr Chaubey as a teacher only last year, too had similar things to say. "He would never stand any mistake of ours but yet he never scolded us. He corrected us in a way that the lesson would stay with us for a lifetime," said the young doctor.
Tributes and epithets would fall short to describe the emotion that seemed to be surrounding the students of this great teacher. Thousands of his students practising across the globe are indebted to him for giving them lessons in medicine and a lot more.