The Art of Medicine
We were honoured to welcome to our meeting last week Padma Bhushan recipient, Dr. Farokh Udwadia, physician extraordinaire. Eloquent and intelligent, this man is one of the most reputed physicians, professors, and music enthusiasts – a triple treat, indeed. Dr. Udwadia wowed us Rotarians as he engaged us with snippets of three essays from his new book, ‘Tabiyat.’ He described it as, “Divorced from the technical aspect of medicine,” making it an easy read for us not fluent in the language of medicine.
Touching upon the first essay in his book, Dr. Udwadia said, “The knowledge and awareness of humanities and history make a better physician.”
Further explaining his comment, he stated, knowledge and awareness of humanities inculcate an aesthetic sense and a feeling of sympathy in a physician. The study of humanities lends sympathy and empathy, which makes doctors more compassionate to the patients they treat. Not just that, it increases one’s analytical and observational powers and instills important moral values which are important for physicians in this fast-changing world.
Humanities essentially humanise medicine, said Dr. Udwadia.
Modern medicine, unfortunately, has created doctors that relate more to machines than patients. There is more to medicine than science and technology; he believes that technology cannot thoroughly understand a patient’s history. “The art of historytaking and the heart of good examination is unfortunately lost today,” he explained. Therefore,
the practice of medicine should be based not just on science, but in equal measure, on arts.
To describe the art of medicine in words, Dr. Udwadia said, “It is the artful application of science to the holistic wellbeing of a patient.” Often referred to as the art of healing, some aspects of this art lie in being able to detect subtle, untold nuances in medical history and make an intuitive diagnosis. In this manner, a physician is able to understand and treat the patient, not just the disease. Moreover, the bond between the patient and the doctor, “a bond that stands the test of time,” according to Dr. Udwadia, is the heart and soul of medicine. Further describing this bond, Dr. Udwadia quoted poet and philosopher John Donne, “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
Moving on to another essay from his book, Dr. Udwadia chose to speak about ‘War and Medicine,’ describing the strange
relationship they share despite being stark contrasts. War is man’s supreme inhumanity to fellow men, while medicine represents humanity and humanism; War represents death and destruction while medicine represents healing
and preservation. However, war has also brought great advancements and research in medicine, such as varied surgical
techniques, the ambulance, and transfusion services. These innovations were discovered on the battlefields of Europe
and Asia. War is stitched in the genome of humankind, illustrating the dualities of good and evil that exist and have existed in the world.
Concluding with his last essay, Dr. Udwadia discussed a subject very close to his heart: ‘Music, the Mind and Medicine.’ Music, what Dr. Udwadia calls the greatest of all arts, is a form of creation comprehended but not translated. By this, he means music has no relation to the external world, but it is the most emotive of all arts and its beauty is found in the subtlety of its tones, in transcendental meditation, and even in numbers – in reference to Bertrand Russell’s ‘Principia Mathematica.’ Furthermore, Dr. Udwadia highlighted the pain-relieving abilities of music therapy.
After his thoughtful and moving speech, Dr. Udwadia left us all with some insightful food for thought. He exited the dias to a thunderous standing ovation from newly enlightened minds.