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Year : 2019  |  Volume : 12  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 100  

The good old family doctor

Department of Community Medicine, Ex-Urban Health Training Centre, Dr DY Patil Medical College, Hospital and Research Centre, Dr DY Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune, Maharashtra, India

Date of Web Publication25-Mar-2019

Correspondence Address:
Dilip Kanade
48/26 P.C.N.T, Pradhikaran, Nigdi, Pune - 411 044, Maharashtra
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/mjdrdypu.mjdrdypu_152_18

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How to cite this article:
Kanade D. The good old family doctor. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth 2019;12:100

How to cite this URL:
Kanade D. The good old family doctor. Med J DY Patil Vidyapeeth [serial online] 2019 [cited 2020 Aug 11];12:100. Available from: http://www.mjdrdypv.org/text.asp?2019/12/2/100/254764

Everybody who was a child in the fifties and sixties fondly recalls his family doctor. He used to be the friend, guide, and philosopher for the family.

The first thing which was unique of a family doctor then was the unhurried and unharried demeanor. Whatever be the situation one will neither find wrinkles on his forehead, nor will one find him taking rapid steps. His confident approach itself was a source of relief for the patients.

The clinic used to be of an open plan with the doctor's desk surrounded by long benches occupied by the patients. The spillover used to be accommodated in rows of similar benches, a little away but in the same hall. Privacy to the patient was neither provided nor asked for. Only some of the patients were taken inside another room for examination in lying down position or for intramuscular injection. Most of the clinical examination was conducted with the patient sitting as the family doctor used to follow an important tenet of clinical medicine namely “Eyes most, hands less, and ears the least,” i.e., clinical impression was primarily based on observation of the patient. Even after giving allowance to the fact that many patients were suffering from short lasting and self-limiting illnesses, it can be said that the clinical examination used to be adequate to decide the line of treatment.

A compounder in his mysterious cubicle was an integral part of the clinic's set up. Through a small window people used to see, most of the times, only the hand of the gentleman, and could enjoy the aroma of various liquids, stored in large bottles. In what proportions, those liquids were poured make a mixture was a trade secret known only to that worthy. Once such a mixture was emptied into the patient's glass bottle, the compounder used to deftly cut a strip of paper in such a way that the height of each scallop used to represent one dose of the mixture. After sticking that strips vertically on the glass bottle of the patient, the latter was closed by a cork spigot and brusquely handed over to the patient.

Paying a visit to the house of a patient after closing the clinic was a regular feature for the family doctors of that bygone era. He used to carry a box like bag in one hand and the stethoscope in the other.[1] On opening the door, the bag was accepted reverentially by some member of the family, and the doctor would be led to the bedroom. He would gracefully sit by the side of the bed and then put the thermometer in the patient's mouth, simultaneously checking the pulse. After the clinical examination, sometimes to the horror of the patient, a syringe box would be taken out from the bag and handed over to the lady of the house for boiling. While that was being done a discussion about the weather or the political situation would ensue with the head of the family. The talk will continue throughout the act of filling up of the syringe and giving the injection. After supplying medicines from the bag, the departure procession will solemnly move from the bedroom to the outside door when the doctor's bag would be handed over carefully. When was the fees actually paid to the doctor would always remain a mystery, because many a times, it used to occur on the first of the next month.

We the present inheritors of the institution of family doctor have come a long way, thanks to the advancement of technology and enhancement of medical science. Yes, we are better off in treating more complicated cases but still have a lot to learn about the art of medicine from these ancestors of a bygone era.[2]

  References Top

Souter K. The Doctor's Bag: Medicine and Surgery of Yesteryear. Venice, Florida: Sundown Press; 2015.  Back to cited text no. 1
Banerjee A. Can the family physician make a comeback? Med J DY Patil Univ 2017;10:505-6.  Back to cited text no. 2
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