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BOOK REVIEW Table of Contents   
Year : 2007  |  Volume : 49  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 71-72
Book review

Psychiatrists, Martha's Hospital, Bangalore, India

Click here for correspondence address and email

How to cite this article:
Bhide AV. Book review. Indian J Psychiatry 2007;49:71-2

How to cite this URL:
Bhide AV. Book review. Indian J Psychiatry [serial online] 2007 [cited 2022 Dec 9];49:71-2. Available from:

Mens Sana Monographs: Vol. III. No 6 / Vol. IV. No.1-4. Mar-Dec 2006

Theme Monograph: What Medicine Means To Me

Singh, Ajai and Singh, Shakuntala, Editors.

Mens Sana Monographs, Mumbai-400080.

This volume came into my hands just over a fortnight ago and this is the first time I have seen a Mens Sana Monographs' (MSM) compilation. It is also the first 'theme monograph' issued by MSM.

I was pleased to be asked to write this review because I had heard complimentary remarks about the series and am glad to report that I found my high expectations largely fulfilled.

On the specific theme of "What Medicine Means To Me", there is wide coverage. The quality varies, being mostly well above middling. The "To Me" aspect has not received adequate attention in some of the essays.

Prof. Donelson Dulany, editor of the American Journal of Psychology, writes on 'What Psychology Means To Me' with a vital narrative touch. He traces the evolution of modern psychology, acquaints us with his own research, out of tune with the then dominating school of behaviorism and attempts to address the questions of the role of consciousness, symbolic representation and conative processes in an integrative manner. Dr. Roy Sugarman from Sydney, on the same topic, traces his journey into psychology with personal vignettes that are by turn poignant and heuristic. His voyage through more than two decades and across three continents is laced with gentle humor. Of all the theme articles, I found his the most appealing and memorable.

Dr. Sadhu Charan Panda, editor of the Journal of Community Medicine, takes on the eternal question 'Medicine: Science or Art?' and of course, concludes that it is both. His argument is bolstered more with apt quotations from many authorities, than with personal insights. Another Community Health specialist, Dr. Adamson Muula sensitively looks at the relationship of Aesclepius and Mammon in 'Medicine and Money: Friends or Foe'.

Prof. J K Trivedi and Dr. D Goel write on 'What Psychiatry Means To Us'; this account labours too much on defining psychiatry. It elaborately covers the arborization of our subject and its relationship with many other disciplines, but seems almost shorn of any personal perspective and this disallows justice to the title. Also somewhat impersonal, but not devoid of richness, is Dr. Morten Hesse of Copenhagen, on 'What Addiction Means to Me'.

Dr. S Malhotra (NOT our Prof. Savita, though also of PGI!) and Dr. N Shafiq address 'What Clinical Pharmacology Means To Us' with excellent case studies. Issues like informed consent, 'me-too' drugs and the not too polished stratagems of the pharmaceutical industry are properly dealt with here. A well rounded essay by Shaukat Ali Jawaid, a medical journalist and senior editor, covers 'What Medicine and Medical Journal Editing Mean To Me'; there are plenty of illustrations of the highs and lows of being a competent editor that liven up this piece. Drs Vance Berger and Rosser Matthews write on 'What Does Biostatistics Mean To Us', again revealing and enlightening, but not quite personal.

Other than Dr. Sugarman and Prof. Dulany, the most personal accounts come in the form of two articles by the veteran neurosurgeon Dr. Sunil Pandya. He covers his own illustrious career from its humble beginnings through its turning points in one, with vivid portrayals of his gurus who led by example, not only in the craft and art of healing, but in altruistic values too. In the other, he writes feelingly about 'Where Medical Practice In India Is Heading' and here, he is understandably pessimistic. Not the smallest reason for this negative outlook is the rarity of good role models for young doctors. There is also the commercialization that has crept in and all but taken over medical practice, not unlike the story of the camel that shooed the considerate rider out of his desert tent.

On the theme, it might have been interesting to have a psychiatrist write about 'What Psychology Means to Me' and a general practitioner spell out her/his views on 'What Psychiatry Means To Me'.

Apart from thematic fare, there are poetry, musings and 'looking glass' sections; the latter is a passionate piece on the high handed dismissal of the senior editors of a prestigious medical journal and the battle that ensued. There are touching obituaries of the late Dr. Dhanalakshmi D'souza whom I had met once; one is by her psychiatrist son and another by a former colleague.

This is a composite volume and it has three editorials. One deals with the quality of a good editorial! Another handles the primary goal of healing, 'To Cure Sometimes, To Comfort Always, To Hurt The Least, To Harm Never'. The third looks at the uneasy and unavoidable conjugal relationship of psychiatry and clinical psychology. Suffice it to say that each editorial is a treat. For these and for putting together a well conceived compendium, Dr. Ajai Singh and Dr. Shakuntala Singh are to be commended.

A few matters that rankled my mind a bit: each article is preceded by an abstract AND followed by 'questions that this paper raises'. One of these could be dispensed with; I would do away with the latter which seem too pedantic for scholarly writings. The authors are introduced too often and I would have preferred just the brief write-up at the end of each article. A little more attention to editing would have made this collector's volume even more refined (one example, "…Friends or 'Foe' "? Or 'Foes'?).

From now on MSM will be brought out as annual issues. I am disappointed at the reduced frequency, but I suppose it is better than having to publish composite volumes. I look forward to future volumes with a well whetted appetite.

Correspondence Address:
Ajit V Bhide
Vasant Vihar, 79, Amarjyothi Layout, Sanjaynagar, Bangalore - 560 094
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

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