Year : 2018 | Volume
: 21 | Issue : 4 | Page : 347--348
Prof. Shyamal Kumar Das (1954–2018)
Ex-Additional Chief Health Director, Neurology, B. R. Singh Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Dr. Bhaskar Ghosh
Ex-Additional Chief Health Director, Neurology, B. R. Singh Hospital, Kolkata, West Bengal
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Ghosh B. Prof. Shyamal Kumar Das (1954–2018).Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2018;21:347-348
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Ghosh B. Prof. Shyamal Kumar Das (1954–2018). Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2018 [cited 2020 Sep 26 ];21:347-348
Available from: http://www.annalsofian.org/text.asp?2018/21/4/347/244865
Prof. Shyamal Kumar Das was born in Dhaniakhali, West Bengal, on January 3, 1954, as the son of Mr. Pashupati Das. Meritorious since his school days, he had always been well ahead of the rest of the class in completing assignments and winning accolades and prizes. He passed the higher secondary examination with National Scholarship in 1970. His teachers spoke very fondly of him and his performance for many decades after the completion of his school education. For nearly three decades, since his higher secondary examination, he held the top score anyone had ever achieved in board examinations in his village. Young girls and boys in his village looked up to him as a role model and took up the challenge of beating his academic records in the board examinations.
He completed his MBBS from Medical College, Calcutta, and during this period too, he performed brilliantly throughout, receiving many medals and awards including the Pardey Lukis Memorial Scholarship and Dear Prize in Clinical Medicine. Having completed his MD in Medicine from PGI, Chandigarh, he also completed his DM in Neurology from the same institute in 1983 and 1985, respectively. He had to his credit, a fellowship from the University of Calgary, Canada, and a visiting fellowship in Movement Disorder from the Institute of Neurology, London, UK (scholarship awarded by the Indian Academy of Neurology).
Dr. Das started his professional career as a government physician in Malda District Hospital from 1986 to 1992, practiced as a consultant neurologist and carried out research work during the same period. He was promoted to RMO cum clinical tutor, Department of Neuromedicine, Bangur Institute of Neurology (BIN) in 1992. Since then with his marvelous clinical, teaching, and research performance, he stepped up the ladder at BIN, Kolkata, from clinical tutor to professor and head of the BIN in 2007. He was subsequently transferred to Rural Burdwan Medical College, West Bengal, where he established DM (Neurology) course. After few years, he was again transferred to BIN, Kolkata, as professor and head where he worked till his death.
He left important contributions in the field of neuroepidemiology, movement disorders, stroke, dementia, and neurogenetics in his professional carrier.
He carried out epidemiological studies on neurological diseases while working in Malda district of West Bengal. After moving to BIN, similar works were conducted in Baruipur, West Bengal. In 2003, he started a large epidemiological study in the city of Kolkata on major neurological diseases with grant from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). This landmark study led to the demonstration of very high prevalence of stroke in urban India. It also led to a publication on the prevalence of mild cognitive impairment in Kolkata city, the first such study from India. The ICMR study continued till 2009 in which the incidence of stroke and poststroke cognitive dysfunction and depression was looked into with some very important publications. He had published epidemiological data on Parkinson's disease, essential tremor, dystonia, epilepsy, dementia in peer-reviewed journals. He had to his credit, more than 150 national and international publications. He was also the editor of some books including a book on movement disorders. Dr. Das was also a reviewer in several international and national neurological journals of acclaim.
He was conferred the Title of “Honorary Calgarian” by the Mayor of the City of Calgary, Canada. He was invited as a visiting professor at the Brain Repair Centre, Cambridge University, UK. He was invited to speak in a symposium on “Brain Imaging and Dementia in developing countries” held in Nairobi, Kenya, 2012.
Prof. Das was a great teacher as well as teacher of teachers. His interest in teaching spanned over three decades, nurtured many young and budding neurologists. He was always an inspiration to his juniors. He always encouraged young neurologists to collect their own data, present it, and publish it, and then interact with this data in conferences. Even now, many juniors talk about it while remembering Dr. Das.
Patient care had always been of paramount importance to Dr. Das. Whatever work, academic activities he carried out, had always been aimed at providing the highest quality of medical care. He was very much loved and revered among his patients. They looked up to him as an angel and trusted him with their lives.
The untiring efforts of Prof. Das to provide high quality medical care to patients in the government setup resulted in tremendous popularity of the Movement Disorder Clinic, Botulinum Toxin Clinic, Dementia and Neurogenetic Clinic at the BIN, Kolkata. He was instrumental in initiating the neurogenetic laboratory, the first of its kind in a government-based health system in Eastern India in BIN, Kolkata, in 2008. The Neurogenetic Clinic and its laboratory continue to serve numerous patients with various genetic disorders, in the eastern region of our country.
He successfully initiated the stroke thrombolysis program in BIN in 2015.
His foresight of future development of the Department of Neurology of BIN led to the introduction of Ramrik Das Harlalka Hospital as an Annex of BIN in 2016. It is a 100-bedded hospital serving emergency patient care of neurological diseases. The plan for future expansion of this hospital and creation of numerous posts was also credited to him. He left no stone unturned to provide best medical care to the patients of this hospital till his death.
To spread awareness about dementia and provide service to the elderly population suffering from Alzheimer's disease and other dementia, Dr. Das, as the president of the NGO, Alzheimer's and Related Disorder Society of India (ARDSI), Kolkata Chapter, worked till his last breath. With generous help and contribution from some kind-hearted people, he almost single-handedly built a center of Rural Dementia Care and Research Center at Chandannagar, an initiative of ARDSI, Kolkata chapter. He had also initiated a Movement Disorders Forum at Kolkata way back in 2009 which has now been renamed as Movement Disorders Society of India (MDSI) – Kolkata Chapter, which holds clinical meetings every 3 months. He was the founder member of MDSI and the second president of the MDSI.
Prof. Das was also very well read and well informed both socially and politically. He was deeply concerned with the ongoing social and political activities and was an avid consumer of multiple sources of news media. He believed that different media outlets reported the same news from different perspectives. Hence, to develop a proper understanding of the social and political events, it was important to assess all the information and analysis provided by the different media outlets. A champion of the public health system, he believed that a thorough understanding of the society and its people was fundamental in providing ethical and high-quality medical care to his patients.
Outside his professional life, Prof. Das was a big cinema lover. Thriller and detective movies were his favorite genre of cinema. As a young medical student, he was known to be a cinema addict and watched a movie before appearing for every examination throughout his medical career. As a child growing up in his village Dhaniakhali, he was notorious for quietly escaping study sessions at home to watch “bioscopes.”
He had a wonderful charming personality and used to recognize everyone who had met him earlier. He also used to give due respect and recognition to any clinical and research work done by juniors. He was a man of great integrity, with profound knowledge and a teacher of teachers.
Dr. Das passed away on August 6, 2018, even before retirement. He is survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter. He was a proud father. His son is an engineer, trained in bioinformatics, specialized in statistical genetics. His daughter is a social scientist, specialized in public health policy and clinical ethics in India. His children believe their career choices (although, not medicine) were greatly influenced by their father's dedication to scientific research, aiming to improve the health of the wider population.
Dr. Das continues to live on in the minds and hearts of several students and patients of his and even those who were touched briefly by his gentleness, humility, and generosity. He will remain an inspiration for those of us who were fortunate to observe this great teacher and human being at work. We are tempted to use the quote of Albert Einstein (while speaking of Mahatma Gandhi): “Generations to come will scarce believe that such a one as this ever in flesh and blood walked upon this earth.”
I acknowledge the help of Dr. Barnini Ghosh, MD PGT, Medical College, Kolkata, and Prof. Atanu Biswas, Bangur Institute of Neurosciences, Kolkata, in preparing the manuscript.