A SHORT HISTORY OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PSYCHIATRY PGI, CHANDIGARH – A PERSONAL ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST TWENTY YEARS BY
Dr. N. N. WIG (1963-1980)
Psychiatry Department at P.G.I. Chandigarh began in 1963. This is a personal account of the first twenty years by the person who started it; how step by step various services OPD, inpatient ward, resident training programme, clinical psychology, psychiatric social work, research activities and international recognition occurred. Psychiatry department can proudly say that last fifty years have been a constant march forward to be recognized as one of the leading department of psychiatry in terms of service, training and research in India.
Ward & O.P.D.Services
I have already described opening of inpatient ward of 20 beds in the Cobalt Block in 1971. It had many novel features. Both male and female sections were served by the common nursing station, to make maximum use of limited nursing staff. Existence of both male and female patients in the same area created no problems – rather it improved the atmosphere.
One other innovation was to insist that one attendant must stay with every admitted patient. This reduced pressure on nurses and improved the care of disturbed patients. In O.P.D. section, E.C.T. with the help of anaesthesia department was regularly started three times a week. Soon special clinics like walk-in clinic for emergency service, Child Guidance Clinic, Lithium Clinic etc. were started.
Many innovations in training were introduced, many of which are still in position. Some notable innovations are listed below:
a General Hospital. To cover this deficiency every resident was sent to a mental hospital for two months for additional training. Most of the residents went to NIMHANS Bangalore, CIP Ranchi or Amritsar Mental Hospital. This practice still continues.
Selection of Residents:
I would like to mention here some memorable events of resident selection of that period. We were fortunate that quite early in the history of the department some very bright medical residents were attracted to psychiatry and decided to take it up as their career. 1969 was a memorable year when four of the very bright residents, Dr. Param Kulhara, Dr. Subhash Bhatia, Dr. Harish Malhotra, Dr. Sarabjit Singh all applied for two seats in Psychiatry. I had hard time to persuade the Dean, Dr. Chhuttani to take all four of them by allotting extra seats. Just when I thought I have won the battle, Dr. Salman Akhtar arrived late. I was convinced his selection will be good for the department and again persuaded Dr. Chhuttani to relax the rules one more time. Six months later came another crisis. Selection of one resident Dr. Kasturi Lal Garg was over when Dr. Srinivasa Murthy arrived very late with a letter from Professor of Psychiatry, Vellore for selection. I again went to Dr. Chhuttani who was generous and gave me permission to take him. It is difficult to imagine such freedom to Heads of Department in selection of residents in the present time. But the results prove that my instincts were right and all these residents we selected had outstanding record in their career. The next batch in 1970, had equally brilliant four residents. Dr. Anil Suri, Dr. Anirudh Kala , Dr. Anindya Ghosh and Dr. Virindra Mohan. I would love to mention the names of all subsequent residents selected during my time (the last one was Dr. Ajit Avasthi) but space does not permit me to go on. However, I must record one more land mark in 1974 when all the three selected residents were ladies. Dr. Usha Rao (Naik), Dr.Savita Gupta (Malhotra) and Dr. Sudha Jain. This was the first time that any woman resident took up psychiatry as a speciality in P.G.I. The results of their progress in the profession is there for all to see.
The First Kataria Gold Medal
Talking about residents – I would like to mention an other event. In 1975, Dr.R. Srinivasa Murthy won the coveted Kataria Gold Medal as the best all round resident of P.G.I. of that year. It was an important event for the recognition of psychiatry as a speciality in P.G.I. (It happened again in 1996 when Dr. Nitin Gupta won it).
In early years, it was a great challenge to get good nurses for psychiatry, train and retain them for long period. There was usual prejudice against the speciality. Extra time and effort was required to motivate nurses interest. Some of the good nurses were selected and sent for one year diploma course in psychiatric nursing at NIMHANS Banglore e.g. (Sister Verma, Sister Daya Gainder, Sister Shreshta etc.). It improved their status among colleagues and was very helpful in the growth of the department.
One of the big task in early years the department was how to develop the section of clinical psychology which will be suitable for an academic psychiatry department in a general hospital setting? Clinical psychologists were very vital in the department not only for service and teaching programs but made a very important role in most of the research activities of the department. As I saw it there were three much more challenges in this area:
Psychiatric Social Workers
Developing psychiatric social work section was an equally difficult challenge. Trained psychiatric social worker were not available. My requirement was to find a person who is willing to go in the community, interacts with families, does the follow up after patients discharge from hospital and helps in rehabilitation. Again I was lucky to find suitable persons through research schemes. Two outstanding persons initially were Patric Isaac and Inam Shastri. Both were excellent in communication with patients and families and willing to travel in the city and villages. When Mr.Inam Shastri left in 1973, Mr.Arun Mishra joined who had a very long stay in the department. Later more qualified psychiatric social workers like Ravinder Kala, Suman Gupta joined and enriched the Department. Arun Mishra had great talent in research. After a brilliant contribution in W.H.O. projects, he completd his Ph.D. and got absorbed in the faculity of the Department.
Psychiatric research has been always the strong point of the department from its early days. Initially there were two main sources of research. M.D. thesis of the students and research grants from I.C.M.R. In the later years the department became a W.H.O. collaborating centre and a number of W.H.O. supported research projects were started.
After initial years of consolidation there was a steady flow of publications from 1970 onwards. For the residents thesis the stress was on research based on our own data generated from the department’s clinical material. The second major consideration was that as far as possible research should relate to the Indian problems. Among students’ theses, significant topics covered were B.C. Khanna’s analysis of O.P.D. data, follow up studies on schizophrenia by P.N. Kulhara, on obsessive-compulsive disorders by S.Akhtar, Vignettes for attitudinal research by H.Malhotra, effect of Cannabis on Mental Health by Sarabjit Singh etc. etc. It is important to recall that most of the thesis done by resident made an impact nationally and are still widely quoted.
I am deliberately not going into details of department’s research and publication records and Awards won etc. because it has already been covered well in many earlier documents. By 1980, most of the research awards offered by Indian Psychiatric Society or ICMR were already bagged by the Department. The major research areas covered include Psychiatric Classification, development of psychological tests for use in India, extension of psychiatric services in the community. The community psychiatory work in Raipur Rani, eventually became a model for National Mentall Health Programme. It is a matter of pride that Department of Psychiatry at P.G.I. has been one of the few departments in the country who with its researches was directly involved with national issues like development of National Programme of Mental Health or psychosocial consequences of family planning measures or failure of students at university level etc. etc.
Involvement with the activities of Indian Psychiatric Society
Right from the early years the staff of the Department was actively involved in the programs of the Indian Psychiatric Society. I (N. N. Wig) remained its Hon. General Secretary from 1968-1973. Following this, Dr. V. K. Varma became the General Secretary and President. This tradition has continued till this day and subsequent staff members have been important office bearers of many national and international psychiatric bodies.
In 1972 December, Indian Psychiatric Soceity held its Silver Jubilee Conference in Chandigarh, hosted by the Department. It was the biggest conference of psychiatry held in India till then attended by over 50 foreign delegates including President of American Psychiatric Association and a very large and distinguished group from U.K.
From 1970 onwards, I (N. N .Wig) was involved in many W.H.O. programmes and attending regularly many international meetings as consultant or advisor. In 1976, WHO decalred the department as a “W.H.O. Collaborating Centre for Mental Health”. It was a big honour. Our department was the first such centre in whole of Asia at that time. As a result of this, a number of multi centric W.H.O. research projects were located in the department. A number of mental health professionals from all over the world regularly visited the department and participated in teaching and training programme.
Extra Curricular Activities
It is again a matter of pride that he staff and students of the department took deep interest in extracurricular activities like – music, poetry, literature, drama, sports etc. and won acclaim in various fora. The residents were encouraged to get involved in these activities. I feel very happy to record , that even after leaving P.G.I., many Alumni of the department have distinguished themselves in these activities where ever they have settled in the world.
This is brief account of the events of the first twenty years or so of the development of psychiatry, P.G.I. Chandigarh. It is obviously a subjective account and a personal view as seen through the eyes of one person who was the founder and its first head of department. Still it is important as a record because it is the foundation on which next thirty years progressed.
I left the department in June, 1980 to join at A.I.I.M.S. New Delhi. Prof. J. S. Neki had already joined as Director P.G.I., a year before. I kept visiting the Department for brief periods to supervise W.H.O. research projects for next two years. Then the link was broken. I moved to W.H.O. in 1984 and after retirement returned to Chandigarh in 1993. It was a matter of great happiness in 1996 when P.G.I. designated me as “Professor Emeritus” of Psychiatry Department. It is perhaps one honour which I have cherished most in my life. It re-established my link with the department.
It gives me great satisfaction to note that the department since inception has always moved higher and higher in its achievements in all three fields of service, training and research. It is indeed fortunate that after me it was steered by leaders like Prof. Vijoy Varma, Param Kulhara and now Savita Malhotra who have taken it to the present state where it is rightly considered as about the best department of psychiatry in a general hospital setting in India “