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PRESIDENT, INDIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION (IMA)


(Bangalore Branch)


 

By 1979 I got busy with professional work and social commitments I had disassociated myself from the affairs of the IMA, except as a member. That was from the time I had resigned as editor of the Karnataka Medical Journal. A few senior IMA members of IMA Bangalore Branch in September 1979, approached and requested me to take over as President of the local Branch. I was not too keen about the offer, particularly because I had little spare time to be President of the biggest branch in Karnataka, demanded energy and time. I declined the offer, but it did not stop there. A few weeks later, another set of senior IMA members met me and explained the reasons for their espousal. According to them, the local IMA branch had been losing its earlier sheen because of a wrong set of people. Some juniors had become office bearers of the branch resulting in poor attendance at meetings, including scientific sessions. Number of seniors who regularly attended functions and activities of the branch, had dwindled. No new and junior members had joined the fold owing to their casual approach. Moreover, the State Government did not see eye to eye with the medical fraternity, bringing in statutory regulations on consultation fees of private medical practitioners and consultants as also on charges of each investigation and surgical operation. There was a Government Order to this effect and the rate list ran to several sheets.

That was the time when the public also did not take kindly to the medical profession. Consequently, private nursing homes and hospitals formed a consortium of nursing homes, trying to consolidate their position to find out ways and means of accommodating the new laws without antagonizing the public. Senior IMA members were thinking of getting someone well versed with the affairs of IMA and the organization. I emerged as their choice. I could not continue to press my inability in the face of such valid facts put forth by those who had toiled for the organization and whom I held in respect. I capitulated. In the following month, at the general body meeting of the Branch, I was unanimously elected its President. My association with the IMA had come the full circle!

The very Association which did not want me to take part in its affairs had come on its own, asking me to take over its reins. Yes, it was important to project IMA as a dynamic organization, striving for the good of the profession. It was also important to gamer the support of the public by identifying and spearheading areas of health care. The image of IMA had to be improved so that it rose to meet any occasion in the interests of the profession and its care.

As a first step to gain the confidence of doctors, we declared that IMA would take care of every practising doctor in modern medicine whether he is a member or not, whether a practising family physician or a specialist. Scientific programme is the core characteristic of IMA. We stepped up scientific programmes, organizing them on a weekly basis and requested_ reputed medical specialitists and experts even from outside the State, to address week-end IMA meetings. Topics of scientific interests were carefully chosen so that they had tremendous bearing and attracted not only family physicians who formed the bulk of IMA members and specialists, but also postgraduates and medical students. Several scientific seminars and day long conferences were organized. Intimations of these programmes were sent to all in advance with short write ups on topics of discussion. The audiences were reminded about these programmes either personally or by telephone. This greatly helped to improve the number attending the programmes. This added interaction and fellowship among members, which in turn increased their participation in subsequent events We organized social meets for members and their families, involving as many senior members as possible, taking care to sec to their social acceptability. Surprisingly, the attendance at scientific meets swelled, the hall always packed. The fellowship amongst members also improved, facilitating to the success of all these events.

Another significant IMA programme was health checkup camps in different parts of the city, independently or in association with like -minded non-governmental organizations. In advance, we announced the venue of such camps, resulting in large turnout of patients and the public. Schools were approached for medical checkup of students and the co-operation was overwhelming. In turn, I was invited by schools and colleges to speak on health issues. Our medical checkup camps received media coverage which not only boosted the image of IMA but also won public appreciation. This was important as there was no dearth of anti-propaganda against the profession or individual doctors in the mass media. Whenever such news appeared, the IMA reacted appropriately, furnishing the facts behind such moves. Such clarifications from the IMA lent credence and after some time the members of the profession started approaching the IMA for help and guidance in an event of public dissent against a doctor or adverse publicity.

Just responding to news items in the mass media was found 'to be inadequate, hence the need of a journal of the Bangalore Branch to serve the twin objectives of projecting the policies and providing the right image of IMA as well as counteracting the criticisms and highlighting IMA's good work and the medical profession. It would be a medium for appraisal by its members on advances in medical science.

So came about the monthly IMA News Bulletin Inaugurated on January 26, 1980, the first issue was released by Dr. J.S. Saxena, President of IMA Karnataka State Branch and Director of Health and Family Welfare. The Bulletin served a set purpose and soon became popular among the members of the branch.

The name of th_e journal was "IMA News-Bangalore Branch". Understandably, the journal on its own merit tried to find a .place in the Registrar of Newspapers of India, the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, New Delhi. Interestingly, the same title had been registered earlier by the IMA Headquarters, New Delhi. Hence to avoid confusion and overlapping, the Bangalore Branch registered its name as "IMA Bangalore Bulletin". The Registrar of newspapers had this monthly English journal christened accordingly. The local Bulletin continued to be published and distributed free, month after month, year after year. Successive IMA Presidents of Bangalore Branch, being its editors.

It was equally important to spread the message of health and healthy lifestyles. In order to achieve this, several programmes were planned arid implemented. Two such need special mention. One; talks on matters relating to health from public platforms at meetings of NGOs, schools and colleges by competent doctors of IMA. We supplemented these programmes with talks on All India Radio and articles in newspaper columns. Another idea was to exhibit slides in theatres, slides carrying simple but catchy slogans on several health issues. These effectively projected the preventive aspect of diseases.

During the summer of 1979 there were heavy rains in some districts and the surroundings of Bangalore. The worst affected was Kolar district and Bangalore itself. This led to pockets of water in the fields, grounds and low lying areas, serving as good breeding ground for the mosquitoes. This resulted in the outbreak of Japanese Encephalitis (a type of brain fever). Non-immune piglets carry the virus of Japanese Encephalitis and the mosquito which forms the vector transmits the disease to man. The disease mostly affects children and the mortality rate could be as high as 50%.

Increasing density of piglets which is the reservoir of the virus and refusal by the local people to spray insecticides as sericulture is the main occupation of the locality and the change in strategy of malaria eradication programme contributed to the outbreak of the epidemic. There were 625 reported cases from 450 villages in Kolar district. We, in the IMA, appealed to the citizens to co-operate in eliminating areas of water stagnation (breeding ground of mosquitoes) and keep their premises clean and piglets away from houses.

Apart from health measures and preventive steps, there was the administration of vaccine. The vaccine had to be imported and this was not easy procuring it and making payments which meant lot of money.

As President of Bangalore Branch I made an appeal to Indian Red Cross Society for help by providing the vaccine, adding that IMA and its members would volunteer their services in administering the vaccine. In addition to the co-operation of its local branch, I had a good friend in Lt. General Dr Hoon who was the General Secretary of Indian Red Cross Society at Delhi and whom I used to meet at physicians' conferences. This made things easy. The Indian Red Cross Society imported the vaccine and released it in batches to Bangalore Branch. On occasions I had to telegraph my request to Lt. General Dr. Hoon. I periodically gave press statements about the availability or arrival of the vaccine.

With improved health education on the preventive aspects and timely treatment, the disease died down in a couple of months. The way the epidemic was handled made deep impression on the people about IMA. Meanwhile, we had organized a public seminar on Encephalitis at the Town Hall in Bangalore (December 9, 1979) with Dr. J.S. Saxena, Director of Health and Family Welfare, Dr. D.G. Benakappa, Professor of Paediatrics, Dr. S.R. Basavaraj, Health Officer of the City Corporation, Dr. S.R. Prasad from Pune and Dr. V.S. Achar, neurologist. As President of the Bangalore Branch, I moderated the seminar, which attracted a large audience and the press. Its proceedings were widely covered in the news mediaI papers. During the epidemic, slides on brain fever and its preventive aspects were displayed at cinema halls. Our efforts helped in instilling confidence in the public and avoided panic reaction.

7th April of every year is World Health Day throughout the globe.
The WHO selects a theme and gives a slogan year after year. The theme is selected on a particular health issue which has enormous application all over the world. In 1980 considering the havoc of tobacco use, the WHO gave a clarion call to go all out against smoking. The slogan on World Health Day was "Smoking or Health-Choice is Yours". The World Health Day is observed the world over by medical associations, taking on the main role in spreading the message. We, in the IMA, had thought of organizing a befitting function and organized a public meeting at the local Town Hall. Considerable advance publicity was given about the function and eminent personalities and specialists were invited to speak about the ill effects of tobacco. Amongst them were the Director of Kidwai Institute of Oncology, Director of the Health and Family Welfare, Health Officer of City of Bangalore. I chaired the seminar which was well attended with good interaction between panelists and the audience. We had also organized an impressive exhibition depicting the adverse effects of smoking. The exhibition and the proceedings received wide coverage in the mass media.

I followed this up by writing in the columns of newspapers about the harmful effects of tobacco and smoking. The All India Radio asked me to give a series of talks on ill effects of tobacco and smoking. Our efforts seemingly had given a wakeup call to many a citizen as was evident from the feedback in letters to newspapers and to the IMA News Bulletin, a useful tool to put across the views of medical experts on the harmful effects of tobacco. Colour posters depicting the dangers of .smoking were distributed and exhibited throughout Bangalore, Karnataka and the neighboring States. Slides depicting the harmful effects of smoking were screened in all cinema theatres and public places. The posters became so popular that the City Corporation of Bangalore placed an .order for thousands of these posters and distributed them to all educational institutions and public offices and places.

The World Environment Day is observed every year on 5th of June with a theme. The theme for 1980 was "Environmental Pollution and its Prevention". The IMA, Bangalore Branch organized a seminar and an exhibition on environmental pollution. Chaired by Dr. Nagappa Alva, former State minister for Health, the deliberations of the seminar were well received. Any theme meant for public good needs to be sustained and followed up with continued energy and commitment. Unfortunately, most well- intended programmes though with a good start, after a while slows down and remain only on paper. One of the main reasons for this is that they do not seem to be people oriented with active participation of citizens. The result is World Health Day and Environmental Day come and go with new themes each year.

Another notable IMA programme on public education was observation of Cancer Week from. 29thJune1980. The "Cancer Week" was inaugurated by State Minister for Health and Family Welfare. An exhibition on cancer at IMA, educative lectures on cancer and cancer detection camps in different parts of Bangalore and neighbouring areas were organized in collaboration with the newly founded Bangalore Cancer Society.

The Bangalore IMA branch was organising annual refresher courses for doctors from all over Kamataka. Several consultants from other cities were invited as faculty members. These courses were held in IMA building and notified throughout Karnataka. The State Government would depute some of the doctors in service to attend the refresher course.

During the year when I was President, we added a practical dimension to the refresher courses to help family physicians in their day to day practice. The change was from pure lectures to interactive sessions, workshops, seminars and bedside clinics. In addition, problem solving cases were presented with scope for self learning and clearing of doubts by teachers whose main job was to lead the discussions. Thus the sessions were made attractive with halls packed to capacity. Having realized that medical students are the future and prospective members, IMA took the lead to involve final year medical students in scientific programmes of the association. They were invited and actively involved in all the programmes. A medical student wing was created in IMA, Bangalore Branch and special courses on different topics in medicine were conducted round the year, besides special coaching before the examinations. Seminars and symposia were organized for post graduate students in medicine, where experts from different parts of the country were invited to teach and participate. These courses were a great success.

In one such course on cancer, we invited specialists from Adayar Institute of Cancer, Madras. Once we organized a day long course on electro cardiology by Dr. K.P. Misra from Madras. The programme attracted a large audience, consisting of medical students, postgraduates and doctors and had to be extended for two more days on request. The participants were provided a write up on the proceedings of the scientific programmes and a feedback questionnaire. This helped to. assess the performance of the faculty members and recollection of the information gained by the participants.

During my tenure as President of IMA Bangalore branch, I was ably assisted by its honorary secretaries Dr. A.S.N. Swamy, a consultant surgeon at Kidwai Institute of Oncology, and Dr. Vishwanath Hamsabhavi,. an Assistant Surgeon in Government service. Though Dr. Swamy was senior in age and Dr. Hamsabhavi far younger, there was full co-operation amongst us, in every one of our endeavors for the branch. This was rewarding. Every member not only extended his support but felt proud to have me as the President. The achievements of the branch in the year were eminently satisfying and the events impressive. The membership broke all past records, getting not only doubled, but neared the 1000 mark. Additional features among its achievements were organisation of refresher comses, joint activities with sister medical and cultural organizations and felicitating eminent professionals.

The publication of the monthly 'IMA Bangalore Bulletin' became regular, an issue of prestige. Co-operation with the Government and excellent coverage of activities in the press and All India Radio reckoned that the branch was gearing up its activities in the right direction. To crown it all, the branch won the shield for the 'Best Branch' in the country for the year, from IMA Headquarters, New Delhi.

In the following year (1980-81), I was elected Vice President of IMA State Branch. Dr. Sudha Kalyanpur of Hubli was President. As Vice-President, I did not have much of a role. Most assignments consisted of officiating for the President in her absence. Obviously, I needed a break after a hectic year as President. My pre-occupation with consultation practice was a factor in keeping a little away from the IMA aactivities.