Dec 30, 2009
School of Medicine, Kochi
“Medicine is a science, and healing, an art. The right mix of a scientist and an artist is essential in a good physician.”
– Dr. V. Balakrishnan in his article “The Making of a Physician”
Amrita’s Dr. V. Balakrishnan was recently honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Society of Gastroenterology. One of two individuals selected for this honor, Dr. Balakrishnan and his colleague, Dr. Habibullah, were India’s first DMs in Gastroenterology. They both graduated from PGI, Chandigarh in 1971.
The award was presented to them at the Annual Conference of Gastroenterology, India’s largest gathering of physicians and researchers, in the field of Gastroenterology, Hepatology, Endoscopy and Gastrointestinal Surgery. This year marked the golden jubilee celebrations of this annual conference.
“I feel that my life has been worth living if I have been able to do something for my fellow men,” stated Dr. Balakrishnan. The award was given by Swami Atmasthandaji Maharaj, President of the Ramakrishna Math Mission who was the Chief Guest for the conference’s inaugural function at Kolkata.
“The award recognizes Dr. Balakrishnan’s contribution to the growth and development of gastroenterology in India and in particular, the State of Kerala,” stated the award citation. Dr. Balakrishnan is professor and former chairman of the Department of Gastroenterology at the Amrita School of Medicine in Kochi.
In a career spanning fifty years as a teacher of undergraduate and postgraduate students, Dr. Balakrishnan published four books on Pancreas and Gastroenterology. His book Chronic Pancreatitis in India published in 1986 still remains a benchmark in the field of pancreatic research in India.
“Gastroenterology was poorly developed in India even though these diseases were common in India, especially among the poor,” Dr. Balakrishnan explained. He understood the need for a common platform to promote teaching and collaborative research in this area. With this in mind, he started the Indian Society of Pancreatology.
Dr. Balakrishnan underwent advanced training at Edinburgh and London. He was a WHO Fellow in the UK and a Fellow at INSERM in France. He also served on the battle front, joining the Armed Forces Medical Services during the Indo-Pak war in the rank of Major. “I felt this was a great opportunity to serve the nation in its time of need,” he said.
As founder President of the Cochin Gut Club for 10 long years, Dr. Balakrishnan helped carry knowledge of gut diseases to the common man through articles in magazines, radio talk shows and TV programs. During his career, he received many awards including the Dr. B.C. Roy National Award for Development of Specialty in India (Gastroenterology) in 1987.
“Clinical detachment is the balance between the scientist and the human. Good physicians are born; however, it is possible to cultivate the qualities. Gaining the patient’s confidence is an art; a sense of humor can greatly help. Give a child respect and he becomes your friend. Death is inevitable, but a physician can help make it less agonizing. A good physician combines in him the qualities of a good scientist and artist, has basic human qualities, has an open mind, and bears the mark of humility. He knows his very small but unique role in the vast scheme of things that the great artist above is constantly shaping.”
– Dr. V. Balakrishnan