A physician pure in heart dies, leaving a legacy

Anwar A. Khan

5 February, 2019 12:00 AM printer

A physician pure in heart dies, leaving a legacy

Dr. Bernard B. Nath

Francois Marie Arouet Voltaire said, “Men who are occupied in the restoration of health to other men, by the joint exertion of skill and humanity, are above all the great of the earth. They even partake of divinity, since to preserve and renew is almost as noble as to create.” Physicians are many in title but very few in reality. Dr. Bernard B. Nath is a rare species of physician in our country. He died on 16 January 2019.

Please join me in exploring and honouring the life and legacies of Dr. Bernard. He has never tried to rest on any laurels. Instead, he has made a career out of helping others. He has derived a sense of accomplishment from doing his absolute best, and is devoted to helping others do the same. Kindness and care have inspired him to give generously over the years to the patients. And every day he went home, knowing he has helped someone who was in a crisis of health complications. Every day, he got to make a difference.

Dr. Bernard was an amazing and heartwarming story; and he has tried to restore our faith in the inherent goodness of humanity. He does shine as an extraordinary testament to the power of hope sustained through the darkest times of crisis of his patients. “A physician is judged by the three A’s, Ability, Availability and Affability” was written by Paul Reznikoff and undoubtedly, Dr. Bernard falls under this category of physician.

David B. Allman said, “The dedicated doctor knows that he must be both scientist and humanitarian; his most agonising decisions lie in the field of human relations.” Whenever I fell into sickness, I preferred to consult with a humanist physician like Dr. Bernard B. Nath, MD (Medicine), Italy and maybe, because we also are in the same age group. There is, within physicians, special breeds who have honed the uncanny ability to simply feel what is wrong with a patient, and pursue this observation appropriately. This is the breed of Dr. Bernard, a man perhaps most famously known for being the real-life inspiration behind all patients. He used to assert in the tone of Dr. Abraham Verghese, “I grew up and I found my purpose and it was to become a physician. My intent isn't to save the world as much as to heal myself. But in entering the profession, we must believe that ministering to others will heal our woundedness.”

Only the healing art enables one to make a name for him and at the same time give benefit to others. Only those who regard healing as the ultimate goal of their efforts can, therefore, be designated as physicians. Physicians are many in title but very little in reality. Dr. Bernard comes under the purview of that very few little in reality. Physicians still retain something of their priestly origin. The best physician is also a philosopher and he is like a philosopher. “The ideal doctor would be a man endowed with profound knowledge of life and of the soul, intuitively divining any suffering or disorder of whatever kind, and restoring peace by his mere presence” as spelt out by Henri-Frédéric Amiel, has been interanlised in the heart and soul of Dr. Bernard B. Nath.

His chamber is a harbinger of commitment to quality, to safety, and to providing quality medicine, gratitude for generosity, health, and well-being. Reaching the pinnacle of excellence in his field, he used to treat patients like they are very special.  His focus was to create images of people who demonstrate a sense of hope and nobility. He wanted to show the strength and integrity of the human being and the human spirit. He will always be an inspiration to me and those who knew him. He was passionate and did not sit on the sidelines. He was a big thinker. He was ahead of his time, a remarkable human being. He was a very good critical thinker about medical issues. He had a vision of what it takes to be a good doctor and how to be compassionate with patients.

He set the highest standard for integrity and professional ethics. Everyone was in shock when the news of his death was known.  In anyone's lifetime, if you are fortunate, you might meet one or two people larger than life.  Dr. Bernard will be remembered for his amazing accomplishments, his medical skill and his inspirational words to the patients. He was a rare doctor and friend to the patients.

He was an icon in his field. His patients loved him and he treated them with the same respect and love they gave him. His legacy will live on forever.  On the 16th of January, Dr. Bernard B. Nath went out of tune, even as the sun goes down to end the light of day, it is rising on a new horizon, somewhere far away. We shall find him in the grey summer garden amid the rain-wet roses: stir of wings and the morning hills behind him. “The song ended but the melody lingers on” - Irving Berlin.

In one of the stars he shall be living and his light will shine forever. And it is a light that never dims. Step softly, a dream lies buried here. At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember him. No day shall erase him from the memory of time. A day of duty done. A day of rest begun. Grace was in all his steps, heaven in his eyes, in every gesture dignity and love. He had a kindly word for each and he died beloved by all. He lives with us in memory and will forever more. He was loved by all who knew him. He will be dearly missed, but will live on in our hearts for generations. The winter is going to be past, flowers appear on the Earth and the singing of birds is come.

The world of Bangladesh is diminished because he is gone, but it is still a better place because he was here. His true wealth was in his generous heart. And what endless wealth he did have.  He will always be our sunshine. Fond memories linger every day; remembrance keeps him near. Duty, decency, reliability, honour, dignity, respect: these are all qualities that Dr. Bernard not only held in high esteem, but practised every day during his time on this earth. He was a serious and disciplined man, but he could never resist the opportunity to have a laugh with friends and loved ones, given half the chance. A soul that brought joy and fulfilment to many, and whose legacy will live on forever. That is the way he lived.  That is what he leaves us. He made a rare and noble contribution to the Bangladesh’s spirit. 

Restore a man to his health; his purse lies open to thee. To us, the ideal doctor would be a man endowed with profound knowledge of life and of the soul, intuitively divining any suffering or disorder of whatever kind, and restoring peace by his mere presence. Each patient ought to feel somewhat the better after the physician's visit, irrespective of the nature of the illness. "In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity. We must go through the storm to appreciate the sunshine!” as has been defined aright by Albert Einstein and Dr. Bernard is the sunshine; he is one of few finest gentlemen physicians of the country. As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. The fragrance of flowers spreads only in the direction of the wind. But the goodness of a person spreads in all directions. Goodness is about character - integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage, and the like. More than anything else, it is about how we treat other people. And Dr. Bernard treated patients in an exceptionally different way to heal them.

A beautiful life came to an end. He died as he lived — everyone’s friend. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Losing my friend, I wish to remember the words of Poet John Donne, “Death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind.” Thank you, Dr. Bernard bhai, for making us shine.


The writer is a senior citizen, writes on politics, political and human-centred figures, current and international affairs.