PAREKH, Dr Jyoti
India: family doctor
Dr Jyoti Ramnik Parekh, M.B.B.S., D.G.O., F.C.G.P. [Hon] and her husband, Ramnik (pictured at right) are leaders of family medicine in India and WONCA life direct members.
How did Jyoti start out as a family doctor?
About half a century ago in 1966, Mumbai in India was destined to get a Family Doctor called Jyoti Parekh, to begin her practice with her equally enterprising husband Ramnik Parekh.
At a time when some medical specialists with highly lucrative practices could not think of a fully air-conditioned, opulent and well appointed office, the office of Dr s Jyoti and Ramnik Parekh could and did - it was considered path-breaking in a number of ways. Their joint practice maintained paper medical records of all the families, immunisation records of children and designed a unique postal reminder system for repeat doses of vaccines and booster shots. They had probably arrived before their time. After Ramnik Parekh changed his career to occupational health in 1982, Jyoti carried the baton to become an iconic and a most popular family physician in South Mumbai.
Although she was also qualified in Obstetrics and Gynaecology Jyoti’s first and only choice was Family Medicine and Paediatric practice. She started and managed
Mumbai’s first private immunisation centre, where smallpox, triple, polio, MMR, typhoid and anti rabies immunisations were administered. When she retired after about 45 years of practice she had immunised three generations of children, a total of about 5,000!
Along with immunisation, she imparted guidance about child care to mothers. She was also the first family doctor to use a computer in her practice, in 1982. Another first for her practice was the “Child Guidance Clinic” – together with a team comprising of a child psychologist, a counsellor and a psychiatrist. A modest pathology lab and physiotherapy service were added during her last two decades of practice.
What have been Jyoti’s other interests?
On the academic side, Jyoti presented a number of scientific papers at national and international conferences (see photo). She held the post of the president of the General Practitioners’ Association of Greater Mumbai where she was a founding member. She also pioneered activities of the IMA College of General Practice, Mumbai as the first Honorary Secretary. She also was past-President and an office-bearer of the Bombay D Ward Medical Association.
Jyoti was also teaching in the Sophia College Polytechnic and SNDT University for training medical secretaries. She has been contributing a medical column regularly in “Good Housekeeping” magazine for many years.
Jyoti unhesitatingly claims that she enjoyed every moment of her family practice career and would not have given up for anything. Several young family physicians worked as interns under her tutelage.
“I instinctively chose Family Medicine because of my natural love to be close to human beings; and I believe that each patient is a holistic organism with feelings with an inherent need to be cared for. I always believed in being easily accessible and intimate with a patient and made him or her participate in treatment and decision making. Very often I was assertive, but always in the patient’s interest. My long career was most fulfilling.”
Jyoti, a lifelong Direct Member of WONCA, and Ramnik Parekh were instrumental in starting The Spice Route Movement for Young Family Physicians of South Asia. Both of them are now Direct Life Members of WONCA and have founded the “Ramnik & Jyoti Parekh Scholarship” with an annual grant of Rs100,000 for the Spice Route members. The Bangladesh Academy of Family Physicians’ “Friends of Young Physicians” Award to this duo during WONCa South Asia region conference in February, 2014 did not come as a surprise!
After her reluctant retirement from family practice in 2011, Jyoti has been teaching science, history, geography etc. to street children through Vatsalya- (an NGO); looks after Healthcare initiatives for the disadvantaged section of society on behalf of Maharashtra State Women’s Council; and continues writing her health column. Along with Dr Ramnik Parekh she is a Trustee for Antim Samskar Seva, a community service for dignified funeral and cremation of the departed. They both coach family physicians on art, culture, and music etc under the banner of ‘Culture Club’. Jyoti’s hidden talents in i-Phone photography were revealed during “Worldscapes”- a joint exhibition of photographs on canvas, with Ramnik in Mumbai’s prestigious Jehangir Art Gallery in 2012.
Jyoti’s advice to young doctors.
“With the world moving towards universal coverage and resurgence of faith in primary care as the basis of accessible and affordable healthcare delivery, young generation of young physicians will do well to look at Primary Care or Family Practice as a first choice. This career has unlimited range of possibilities.”