Monday, September 7, 2015



          I met this 89 year old doctor last night at his grandson's wedding . He looked fit, slim with neatly tucked in shirt, walked tall with a straight back and moved with agility. He knows me for the past 38 years.I had performed surgeries on his entire family of three generations.

          He is a well respected, most senior physician in that large town. He sat next to me throughout the wedding reception to welcome the guests and of course the bride and the groom.

         Almost everyone in the gathering came to pay their respects to him. My son Pravin who is a surgeon had accompanied me. We were introduced to almost everyone who had come to greet him.

         His thoughts were so clear when he articulated them. His instant grasp of the names and details of each person  who met him astonished me. He was 89 and not a tremor or lapse of memory; he was most jovial, cordial and kind to everyone.

        When there were moments of pause in group of admirers, he managed to fill me in with tit bits of interesting stores about some of the folks we knew together. 

        He had lost his wife recently. Though he had a couple of accomplished doctor children, he chose to live by himself and maintain his practice.

        His patients from his hometown when they visited me, used to tell me that he still sees outpatients the whole morning. Recently he had resorted to post lunch nap while he manages to meet more patients in the evening.

         In all the years I knew him, he neither smoked or touched liquor. He was a pious man without being overtly religious.

         When the moment was right, I asked him what had him going so strong, so long! I vividly remembered meeting a famous doctor 2 days before  in a similar sized town, who said that he himself had totally retired at the age of 55 in private practice.

          To my query, he answered that he continued seeing patients as that was his calling. He spoke of disdain how some of the newer generation work by the clock and give up the gift of seeing patients at an early stage of life , as they make a large saving to retire in comfort.

          This got me thinking - do doctors actually live longer than the rest of the population?

                                                          (From huffington post)

- We know that doctors generally come from good families - either like mine, where the parents sacrifice everything to give you a good life in school and college OR from rich families where you're pampered with luxuries.

- As medical student, you learn about taking precautions about infections, diseases and advice patients on safe water, safe food and save air.

- When you graduate, you advice everyone not to smoke or drink or eat at all sorts of shady restaurants by the roadside to prevent gut infections.

- As a doctor, you are trained to pick up the main killers such as diabetes, hypertension, stress and heart diseases.

- As a practising physician, you tell folks that young people die early of heart diseases with sudden deaths and hence the need to change the jet setting, burnt out life styles with relaxation, holidays,enough sleep, yoga, meditations and the such.

- As a friend to the public, you advice everyone on diet - high fibre, bright colored vegetables with enough anti oxidants to prevent cancer; plenty of fluids to avoid urinary difficulties.

          So by al logic, a doctor should live longer. Your doctor should be more healthy, more disease free compared to the non medical common man on the road.

         You do not expect your doctor to be smoking when he tells you to give up your beedies, or not to be sipping on his whisky when he tells  you should avoid liquor.

         At  least you expect your doctor to live longer, hoping he will be able to diagnose his own illness earlier and treat it before complications set in. 

         This may be a tall order- like hoping that all dermatologists will have a bright skin, all plastic surgeons will be handsome and all orthopaedic surgeons will be arthritis free!

          Well, the stats on the longevity of doctors proves that this is not necessarily so!

          In USA, the average age of physicians at math was 73 years for whites and 68.7 for the backs compared to the average non doctor 70.3 and 63.6 respectively.

          In India the converse is true. A doctors lives upto 55-59 years whereas the common man lives to an average age of 69-72 years.

          The commonest causes for death in doctors are cardiovascular diseases, accidents and surprisingly suicides due to depression, when being a doctor is considered noble!

          Stress along with varying levels of depression has been blamed as the prime factor. It appears that the doctor who advices others to take holidays apparently does not follow his own prescription.

         So to my physician friends, relax regularly, exercise actively and live happily.

         I have stopped advising anyone beyond 70 years how to lead their lives , as they seem to know more about long lives compared to mere doctors who live shorter - at least statistically!