National Doctors’ Day is celebrated on July 1 every year in the memory of India’s first medical consultant and former Chief Minister of West Bengal – Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy, also known as Dr. BC Roy.
The legendary figure was also a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi and contributed actively to India’s freedom fight.
On the occasion of Doctors’ Day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted doctors and shared a voice message hailing their role in saving lives. He said, “Doctors Day greetings to all hardworking doctors who play a key role in saving lives and making our planet healthier.”
Doctors Day greetings to all hardworking doctors who play a key role in saving lives and making our planet healthier. pic.twitter.com/5yFw2nNofV
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) July 1, 2022
A physician, philanthropist, freedom fighter, and politician, Dr. Roy served the nation in many ways. He was one of the few in history to have become both a fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons and a member of the Royal College of Physicians. He was also instrumental in setting up the Indian Medical Association and Medical Council of India.
In its obituary, the British Medical Journal described Dr. Roy as the “first medical consultant in the subcontinent of India, who towered over his contemporaries in several fields.”
Dr. Roy was born in a Bengali family in Patna in 1882. While his father served as an excise inspector, his mother was a devoted social worker. Dr. Roy’s parents were ardent Brahmo Samajists and led disciplined lives.
Dr. Roy completed his undergraduate degree from Patna college, obtaining honours in Mathematics. This was followed by his joining Calcutta Medical College.
Among his biggest struggles was the challenge to get into St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the United Kingdom where his application was rejected many times by the authorities who didn’t wish to accept Asian students.
He believed that swaraj (the call to action for India’s freedom) could only be achieved when people are healthy and strong in mind and body.
Dr. Roy started his political career in 1925. He was both a friend and doctor to Gandhi. According to a famous anecdote, when Gandhi was undertaking a fast in Parnakutivin in Poona (now Pune) and had refused to take any medical help.
It was Dr. Roy who had intervened and convinced him to take the treatment. Dr. Roy was reportedly a very generous man who continued treating patients even during his political career.
In 1948, on the advice of Gandhi, Dr. Roy took the seat as the Chief Minister of West Bengal. For his great contribution to the country’s development, he was awarded the Bharat Ratna in 1961. A year after, on July 1, he passed away on his birthday.
Among his various contributions to the development of hospitals, two notable establishments were the Infectious Disease Hospital, the Indian Institute of Mental Health, and Kolkata’s first postgraduate medical college.
Known for his selfless services to the country, it is in his honour the country celebrates National Doctors’ Day on his birthday.