September 1 was the 3rd death anniversary of Dr Edric Baker. The cold hand of death snatched away Dr. Edric Baker's life on this day in 2015 at the age of 74. He was a qualified physician and as a servant of mankind, he treated persons who were in dire emergency need of medical care. He was born into a noble family and an affluent society in New Zealand in 1941.
Dr. Baker obtained his MBBS degree from Otego Medical College in his country in 1965. He could have lived there with pompous life earning so much money. But he didn't do that. He was a confirmed bachelor and decided to sacrifice his whole life treating the down-trodden people and patients in the remote villages of Bangladesh. And he did so with so much care and deep love till his sudden death three years back.
Dr. Edric Baker loved to give or bring back a patient's life. He set up a healthcare centre at a remote hamlet at Pirgacha, Madhupur Police Station, Tangail District of Bangladesh in 1983 where he served the poorest of the people by his treatment for more than three decades sacrificing his whole life. Smile was always writ large on his white face. He was affectionately called "Daktar Bhai" (doctor brother) throughout Tangail District.
Expressing an honest, personal, sensitive, caring attitude in every patient-physician encounter, despite objective difficulties such as time constraints, is an essential part of medical care and healing. As a result, both patients and physicians gain immensely and the quality of care and 'hard' health outcomes improve.
Thus, empathic medical practice adds an absolutely essential domain to the current sophisticated, technological and scientific medicine; therefore, existing deficiencies in the empathic aspects of care need urgent attention which this most revered Daktar Bhai selflessly rendered his most caring services to hundreds of thousands of poor patients almost at free of cost. He has trained up 89 young boys and girls as health assistants and paramedics who visit the neighboring villages to give treatment to the sick people, especially the pregnant mothers and newborns.
In a rare example of love and sacrifice, he had treated poor patients unto his death. In the language of Baker, "The people here are really good and they do not get healthcare due to poverty. I've chosen this country in order to give them a little health support." That was his simple assertion.
He collected the money from private donors including his friends and well-wishers in New Zealand, the US and the UK and spent the same for the treatment and welfare of his patients; not for his own purpose. He lived in a hut made of earth; used to wear ordinary lungis which our poor people usually wear in the villages; and used an ordinary bi-cycle to visit the patients' houses to render his kind-hearted treatment to them.
He was a humanist doctor; and undoubtedly, also a doctor par excellence! He lived and led a very simple life but at the same breath of pace, he was an extra-ordinary kind-hearted human being. Where shall we get another high quality of humanist doctor who will serve the destitute in those remote areas of Tangail District?
Becoming a doctor, he fostered humane caregivers through his treatment and made the patients feel well. For more than 30 years, "Doctor Bhai" has been a beacon of burnished humanism to the people and the patients there. Throughout his life, he has consistently and boldly stood up for the dignity and respect of all.
There many people out there in the world, travelling and discovering and learning and loving and inspiring and doing what people thought was impossible. He did impossible things to make them possible. Whether these poorest people realize it or not, an alien physician has inspired many people in that remote area. Not with a gun or a superpower, laws or missiles, but a medical-box, a stethoscope and with some medicines.
"Sitting in his mud-built one-room home just behind the centre, he told one correspondent of a reputed Daily once upon a time with flurry that he now waits for a successor. Many students get MBBS degree in the country every year. I'm waiting for one of them to come and take the responsibility to provide treatment to the poor in the area." But he lamented that no one did turn up!
As he was laid to rest, two lines of people formed surrounding his house and extending all the way out to the road. Slowly everybody gave their final farewells and each person sprinkled earth over his grave.
At the end of the day the staff was happy that they were able to fulfill two out of three of his final wishes. His first wish was to take his last breath at Kailakuri. His second wish was that he be buried here at the Kailakuri Health Care Centre. His third wish was that the hospital continues to stay open and operational long into the future. His last wish will never be completed without the help of others.
The Dr. Edric Baker is the greatest humanist the universe has ever known. He considered treating of patients was a great privilege for him. Good doctors are humble doctors, willing to listen to their patients and gather together the full array of resources-medical, human, social, and spiritual-that will contribute to their patients' healing. And he was such a great and noble physician!
Expressing an honest, personal, sensitive, caring attitude in every patient-physician encounter, despite objective difficulties such as time constraints, is an essential part of medical care and healing. As a result, both patients and physicians gain immensely and the quality of care and hard health outcomes improve. Thus, empathic medical practice adds an absolutely essential domain to the current sophisticated, technological and scientific medicine; therefore, existing deficiencies in the empathic aspects of care need urgent attention.
Dr. Baker achieved distinction because of his humanistic approach to medical practice for his patients. His profile helps to demonstrate the huge potential of the medical humanities.
He was a man, led by his feelings, who helped poor patients in various ways, regardless of their social status, ethnic and religious affiliation, and sometimes even regardless of the current moral values of the environment he or she has been working in. Science and medicine, however, as Dr. Baker realized, are practiced in the context of human desires and needs, and so always within some sort of moral context, as he made clear in summing up:
"The doctor must be practiced in logical theory in order to discover the nature of the body, the differences between diseases, and the indications as to treatment; he or she must despise money and cultivate self-control in order to stay the course.
He or she must, therefore, know all the parts of philosophy: the logical, the physical, and the ethical: In that case there will be no danger of his performing any evil action since he or she practices self-control and despises money: all evil actions that men or women undertake are done either at the prompting of greed or under the spell of pleasure. And so he or she is bound to be in the possession of the other virtues too, for they all go together. It is impossible to gain one without acquiring all the others as an immediate consequence; they are connected as if by one string."
He offered a graphic, idiosyncratic imagining of his followers. He imagined them gathering around God…and nearest God, forming a circle about Him, are geometers, mathematicians, philosophers, doctors, astronomers, and scholars. After them the second band: painters, sculptors, grammarians, carpenters, architects; and after them the third order: all the other arts.
Each is drawn up in his individual place; but they all fix God with the same constant look, obedient to His bidding…You will find here, too, many who stand actually with the God?-?a sort of fourth rank, picked out from the others…The contemplation of this band and of its character will, he fancied, conduced to emulation and, indeed, adoration. Socrates is among them, and Homer, Hippocrates, and Plato, as well as their lovers; these are people to be revered like Jasminum officinale, as they are the true jasmine.
The concept of humanism has been a cornerstone of medicine throughout history. Most physicians would probably agree that a humanistic approach to patients - one that is sensitive to the cultural backgrounds, values, and preferences of the patient-is essential for quality patient care. Dr. Baker worked tirelessly to give quality treatment for his patients. Famous English Poet John Donne once aptly said, "Death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind." His death is a rude shock to me; and to us all in Bangladesh.
A modern day saint died letting us to shed tears because of sadness or pain for his noble services for the poorest of the in a remote hamlet of Tangail District. Rise up and salute this sun repeatedly. The Bangladesh Government should make necessary arrangements to honor this noble soul as quickly as possible.
The writer is a freelance
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