If the ongoing pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to appreciate, respect and value our strong-willed and hard working doctors and healthcare workers who have worked selflessly day and night beyond the call of duty to get our country through two deadly waves of the outbreak with whatever resources they had. Today, we celebrate and thank them for all that they do, without worrying about their own safety. As a nation, we are proud and grateful for our doctors and all front-line healthcare workers for giving their all- saving, treating and advising us and our loved ones.
In India, Doctor’s Day is celebrated on 1st July to honour Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, a physician, philanthropist, social worker, freedom fighter, Bharat Ratna awardee and the former Chief Minister of West Bengal. He was born on 1st July, 1882 and died on 1st July, 1962. He, not only ensured availability of quality health services for common people at a critical period for India’s Independence, but also played a vital role in the creation of two prominent medical institutions- Indian Medical Association (1928) and Medical Council of India, of which he was the first President as well.
He also kickstarted the Indian Institute of Mental Health and opened Kolkata’s first postgraduate medical college. He also opened centres for women for social work and nursing training. The British Journal described Dr. Roy as “the first medical consultant in the subcontinent of India, who towered over his contemporaries in several fields. At his professional zenith, he may have had the largest consulting practice in the world, news of his visit to a city or even railway station bringing forth hordes of would-be patients.”
Dr. Roy was born in Patna, Bihar. He studied Mathematics in Bihar and medicine from Calcutta Medical College. Later, he served as the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Calcutta. After his postgraduation from London in 1911, he became a member of the Royal College of Physicians (MRCP) and a Fellow of Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS). He is one of the few to have obtained MRCP and FRCS degrees simultaneously.
After returning to India, he joined Mahatma Gandhi’s Civil Disobedience movement and became his friend and personal physician. During Gandhi’s 21 day ‘self-purification’ fast in Pune, Dr. Roy was by his side and took care of him.
After Independence, he became the Governor of Uttar Pradesh and shortly after that in 1948, he became the second Chief Minister of West of Bengal, which at the time was torn by communal violence and influx of refugees. However, West Bengal finally saw peace within three years under his stewardship. He also practiced medicine and treated patients during this time. He served as the Chief Minister of West Bengal for 14 years till he died on his birth date in 1962, aged 80. After his death, his house was donated to the public to run a nursing home.
In 1961, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna. B.C. Roy National award was instituted in 1976 to award work in the areas of politics, philosophy, medicine, science, literature and arts.