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Intellectual Talks

Prof. Ram Harsh Singh

Last week Dr. Airan (Managing Editor) had the privilege of interviewing Prof. Ram Harsh Singh Distinguished Professor, Institute of Medical Sciences, Banaras Hindu University,Varanasi-221005, UP, India. Prof. Singh has recently joined Editorial board of International Journal of Advanced Ayurveda, Yoga, Unani, Siddha and Homeopathy as an Associate Editor-in-Chief, during the hour-long interview, Professor Singh discussed his background,research and experiences at various universities across the world, and the Fields awards.

Cloud Publications would like to thank Professor Singh for taking the time to let us get to know him better. “Prof. Ram Harsh Singh born on Jan 10th, 1942 graduated in Ayurved, Medicine and Surgery (ABMS) from Banaras Hindu University (1961), did Ph.D (1969) and D. Litt (1982) under the coveted supervision of Padmashri Prof. K. N. Udupa. He is Fellow of the National Academy of Indian Medicine and Jewel Member of All India Ayurveda Academy. Prof. Ram Harsh Singh joined the Faculty of Ayurved at Banaras Hindu University in 1963 and served this prestigious institution for 40 years in the capacity of Lecturer, Reader, Professor, Head of the department of Kayachikitsa and Dean of the Faculty till Feb 2003 after which he joined the Rajasthan Ayurved University of Jodhpur as its First Vice Chancellor on a 3-years tenure (2003-2006) where he played a commendable role to establish a new role model institution of higher learning in Ayurveda. Professor Singh is the Visiting Professor at Wonkwang Digital University, Republic of Korea and at Mount Madonna School of Ayurvedic Medicine, USA. He has been working as Emeritus Professor and now is the Distinguished Professor at BHU. He has been appointed National Professor Guru in Ayurveda by Department of AYUSH, Government of India and is the Chairman of the Scientific Advisory Board (2012-2015) and Member of Governing Body of the Central Council for Research in Ayurvedic sciences. He is the Chairman of AYUSH sector Innovation Council constituted by Govt. of India and is the member of 12th FYP Steering committee of Planning Commission on AYUSH.”

Airan- Where is your native place?

Prof. Singh - Village Kaniyari pur, PO Kopaganj, District Mau, UP, India

Airan- What did you major in as an undergraduate?

Prof. Singh - Ayurveda – Kayachikitsa (Internal Medicine)

Airan- What made you interested in Ayurveda?

Prof. Singh- Professional reputation of my teachers namely Dr. P.J. Deshpande of BHU and Dr. K.N Udupa then at Shimala, HP.

Airan- What would you be doing now if you were not involved in Ayurveda research?

Prof. Singh- Full time Ayurvedic practice and treatment of chronic intractable diseases besides clinical research in practice settings.

Airan- Did you always know you wanted to teach?

Prof. Singh- Yes I had intuitions that I shall become a teacher because I all the time aspired to become a successful teacher so much so that my students may really respect me for my job.

Airan- What common characteristic do you see in students that you interact with?

Prof. Singh- There has been a changing trend. In comparison to 1960s to 80s now the students seem to be more attracted to original Ayurveda. Most of them respect their teachers more than the students of any other discipline.

Airan- What are you teaching philosophies?

Prof. Singh- I enjoy teaching the uniqueness of Ayurveda as the life science and medicine identifying features which establish the supremacy of Ayurveda over other systems of medicine. I try to adopt an innovative and translational approach in my teaching.

Airan- Do you have any advice for students taking Ayurveda as a carrier?

Prof. Singh- I shall advise them to understand and appreciate the unique pronature holistic approach of Ayurveda and its individualized approach of patient care.

Airan- How would you define a Doctor and a teacher?

Prof. Singh- I define a doctor as a healer and a true sympathizer for a sick, not merely as a professional. A teacher is one who generates new knowledge through his day to day research, who efficiently transfers his knowledge in relevant perspectives through his teaching and who really practices the knowledge which he researches and teaches.

Airan- How would you define your own style?

Prof. Singh- I teach any topic in the area of my specialization encompassing its historicity, linguistics of the subject matter with its contemporary status and comparative assessment leading to the steps needed for utilization of the knowledge in question in practice settings in today’s profession.

Airan-  In your journey as a Professor, have you made wrong judgments?

Prof. Singh- Yes , I have made several wrong judgments in my life but I have realized soon and have not hesitated to rectify them with greater force. Now I realize that such wrong judgments have been my silent teachers.

Airan-  What is the role of a teacher in a society?

Prof. Singh- A teacher is a role model, not merely in his profession, rather also in other societal matters.

Airan-  What were your experience as a Vice Chancellor of Rajasthan Ayurved University Jodhpur ?

Prof. Singh- I was the first and the founder Vice Chancellor of this newly established State University now in its 10th year of its existence recently renamed as Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan Rajasthan Ayurveda University located at the Surya Nagari Jodhpur. I was Vice Chancellor of this university for three years wef Feb 16, 2003 to Feb. 15, 2006.It was really a challenging job for me which involved planning and actions from an scratch to a really functioning state. We started functioning in a borrowed state Govt. building in the city affiliating all AYUSH colleges of the state including the NIA a central Govt. institute at Jaipur taking up the centralized admission and examination at state level with due value addition along with continued fast track action to develop a new campus 20 KM outside the city over a big piece of land of 350 Acres provided by the Govt. The landscaping and building designs were finalized soon and construction work began the same year.

The foundation stone was laid down by the Honorable Chief Minister Shri Ashok Gehlot on March 24, 2003. The main faculty and Admin building was completed and the hospital building was half done during my tenure. The University college of Ayurveda was started in July 2004 when we admitted our first batch BAMS besides Diploma and Certificate courses in Panch karma, herbal farming. Ayurvedic Pharmacy and Nursing as well as a certificate course in Ayurvedic education on our campus besides a full range of UG, PG courses in Ayurveda, Unani, and Homeopathy including nursing and pharmacy in our about 20 affiliated colleges spread all over Rajasthan. We recruited a group of teachers on deputation from state Govt. The Govt. fully cooperated with me and the students and the faculty members had extremely cordial relation with me. However, the frequent changes in Jaipur Raj Bhawan and the frequent transfers of the Registrars of the University by the state Government created lot of problems in day today administration. During my three years tenure as Vice Chancellor nearly six Governors came and went out because of unpleasant situations. I joined as VC during the period of HE Justice Anshuman Singh and I retired as VC during the tenure of HE Smt.Pratibha Devi Singh Patil. The Governor of the state is the Chancellor of the University, so it really matters.

The state Government too changed and I had the fine opportunity to get advice from two Chief Ministers during my tenure namely Shri Ashok Gehlot and later Smt Vasundhara Raje. Both the governments were supportive of Ayurveda University but RAU was more close to the heart of Sri Ashok Gehlot who laid the foundation stone of the university in 2003 in my presence and RAU was his dream project. Even subsequently when he was not the Chief Minister he used to enquire about its development. At one occasion while he was not the Chief Minister on one of the Sunday while he was in Jodhpur on personal visit telephoned me and desired to see the new coming up RAU campus in Karawad. I arranged his visit and accompanied him along with my OSD (tech) Dr. Anand K.Sharma and spent over two hours to see every thing coming-up there and urged upon me to accelerate the campus development and building work He was assured in the matter. Besides, during my three years tenure as Vice Chancellor as many as Seven Registrars Changed. All were senior RAS officers of the state, most of them did not like to be the Registrar of a new university instead of becoming State Govt. officers in the Secretariat or in the field. Many of them were unduly egoist administrators and could not appreciate the role of a University system and its functioning. This was the greatest difficulty in development of the university. In one such case I was forced to request the Govt. to call back the Registrar, she was transferred from RAU but was soon appointed Registrar of another university in Jodhpur where within few months because of her similar attitude and behavior she was removed from there by the orders of the Vice Chancellor without waiting for any approval of the State Government where the VC exercised her special powers provided in the university Act. The State Government remained helpless. Later I came to know that many Universities in Rajasthan were facing such administrative problems because these RAS officers substantially interfered with the autonomy of the university ignoring even the statuary provisions. During my tenure as VC I regularly took classes in Ayurvedic physiology in first professional course of BAMS on the campus. Most of the teachers also attended my classes. I really enjoyed these classes and this gave me an unique opportunity to come in first person contact of students of the university. The students remained very cordial and respectful to me. We made best arrangements of their training inspite of meager facilities at that stage. Because of such superior training the students of this university Campus college topped the list of successful candidates in the state in first professional examination.

Airan- What is your leadership philosophy?

Prof. Singh- I believe in collective leadership but with adequate role for the leader of the team.

Airan-  What has been the contribution of Ayurveda to the Indian and International medical          sector?

Prof. Singh- Ayurveda, although has not been given full opportunity to function, it has inspired the serious medical thinkers as well as the scientists in general to adopt its unique pronature holistic individualized approach to health care which is the epitome of the new thinking in World Medicine today. Ayurveda is an individualized system of medicine where each patient is considered a basically different entity in terms of his Prakriti and vikriti. Ayurveda does not prescribe the same medicine in all cases suffering from a particular disease. Allopathy is drug and disease specific system where all patients suffering from a particular disease are given the same drug. With the growing knowledge of modern genomics it is now not considered really a scientific practice to prescribe the same medicine for all patients suffering from a particular disease because each individual being is a different entity. In this perspective Ayurveda is more scientific than Allopathy. It is hoped that Allopathy will also now move in this direction, but it may take another hundred years and in that case it may become extremely costly. I think it will be easier to develop Ayurveda with an open mind to become a better safe and cost effective alternative more suited to our people.

Airan-  Do you have a role model, if so who is it and why?

Prof. Singh- I have had two role models in my life. No.1 is my teacher Prof. K.N.Udupa as a science activist, researcher and educationist and No.2.Prof. P.V. Sharma as an in-depth scholar of classical Ayurveda who authored over 50 scholarly books on Ayurveda in all three major languages viz Hindi, English and Sanskrit.

Airan- Your own words for Padmashri Prof. K. N. Udupa.

Prof. Singh- Dr. Katil Narsimha Udupa was born on July 28, 1920 in South Canara district of Karnataka originating from an orthodox Brahmin family. He came to Varanasi to study integrated Ayurveda at BHU and was a regular student of the then Ayurvedic college between 1936-1943. After obtaining AMS degree of BHU he did additional internship at RA Poddar Ayurvedic medical college and famous KEM Hospital Bombay. Subsequently he proceeded to USA where he did his MS and FRCS and returned to India and became Civil Surgeon in Himachal Pradesh and after two years of service proceeded again to USA and worked in Harvard Medical School where he conducted original research on wound healing and published several outstanding research papers and established himself as a rightful medical scientist. He returned to India again in 1956 and re-joined his job in Himachal Pradesh and soon became very popular as a Surgeon. Then he was picked up by the Central Govt. and was appointed Chairman of the famous Udupa Committee to assess the status of Traditional medicine and to recommend strategies to further develop these systems to serve the people better. He submitted the report of his committee in April 1959 and was offered the post of Professor of Surgery and Principal of the Ayurvedic college at BHU. By his devoted efforts this college was upgraded and converted into college of medical Science to accommodate Allopathy system of medicine with MBBS degree courses too. Further this small Ayurvedic college and its 100 bedded hospital rapidly grew to the status of Institute of Medical Sciences (IMS) with unique facility of both the systems of medicine under one roof and Dr. Udupa continued to be the Director of this unique Institute for 20 year wef 1960-1980. IMS has two faculties and UG, PG degree courses of both system. It is the largest medical organization of this part of the country with an attached hospital of over 1200 beds with facilities for higher studies and research and patient care in all branches of medicine and Ayurveda. All this happened in a short duration of 20 years because of Dr. Udupa’s vision, activism and determination. He was known for his spotless integrity and honesty and had a very charming personality. He commanded respect of one and all in his time. When he joined BHU I was a final year ABMS student. Dr. Udupa taught me classes in Surgery. I also worked as a House Surgeon under him in1962. In 1964 I joined BHU as a permanent lecture and in 1966 I registered myself for my Ph.D. degree under the supervision of Dr. Udupa and was awarded Ph.D in 1969. I learned every thing in my personal life and in my career from my beloved teacher Padmashri Prof.K.N.Udupa. Dr. Udupa was was honored with Padmashri in 1070. He formally retired from BHU in July 1980 and later became a life long Emeritus Professor at BHU. Dr. Udupa also became Rector of BHU twice, first in 1967 and again in 1981. He expired in July 1992 because of Cancer Colon.

Airan- So could you tell us a little bit about the Ram Narayan Sharma National Research Award ?

Prof. Singh- Pandit Ram Narain Sharma national research award is the highest AWARD in Ayurvedic sector given to very distinguished scholars and researchers of Ayurveda regularly for several decades. This Award which is given away by the HE the Honorable President of India to a candidate chosen by Nation wide assessment carries a cash prize of Rs, 1,50,000.00 and a Citation. I received this prize for the year 2005 by the hands of HE Smt Pratibha Devi Singh Patil in Rastrapati Bhawan.

Airan- Can you tell us a little bit about what your research was on that gave you this award?

Prof. Singh- Developing strategies for an appropriate interface of Ayurveda with current science and development of Ayurvedic research methodology in clinical research with special reference to Rasayan therapy and Geriatric health care.

Airan-  What do you think about the future for AYUSH?

Prof. Singh- I visualize a bright future of AYUSH. Its success rate is slow because of lack of activism of AYUSH fraternity and sectoral image crisis and lack of our own work culture.

Airan-  What is the scope and future of Ayurveda in abroad ?

Prof. Singh- It is growing fast, but future is still uncertain.

Airan-  How can people incorporate Ayurveda into their lives?

Prof. Singh- One should believe in the system and then adopt Swastha vritta, Sadvritta , Achara Rasayan and positive life style advocated in Ayurveda.

Airan-  Would you like to share something about your academic experience as a doctor and as a Professor & guide?

Prof. Singh- I am teaching and practicing Ayurvedic Medicine for over 45 years in a university system. I enjoy interacting with students in the faculty and patients in the hospital. They are my real deities. I like to work in group, I cannot work alone. It is gratifying that my students and my patients shower all the love and affection on me.

Airan- You published more than 20 books and 200 national and international papers, what you see the scope of research in Ayurveda ?

Prof. Singh- Research is the prime need of Ayurveda today. Research is needed to validate Ayurvedic theories and practices and also to make new discoveries in medicine. The modern world demands evidence-based practice of Ayurveda and research is the only way forward. Ayurveda can not be mainstreamed without evidence-base. Merely Shastra and Experience based evidence is not enough now.

Airan-  Are you aware with publication of open access journals?

Prof. Singh- I am fully aware about the open access journals and their utility.

Airan-  What do see the future of open access journals ?

Prof. Singh- I see a rich scope.

Airan-  Do you think open access journals will increase the research work internationally?

Prof. Singh- Yes sure. But current Ayurvedic fraternity is not fully prepared to utilize the facilities, although the younger generation is accessing this source of fresh knowledge much more than their seniors.

Airan-  Do you think open access publication can save trees life and will save environment also?

Prof. Singh- I agree only partly.

Airan-  What are the benefits to authors if they publish their research work in Cloud Journals ?

Prof. Singh- There is greater possibility of the online published work getting recognized and known with opportunity of getting cross referred.

Airan-  Something about your family?

Prof. Singh- I live in Varanasi on a walking distance from BHU Campus at 6-Ganga Bagh, Lanka, Varansi-221005 with my wife Smt Vidyawati Singh and my eldest son. My eldest son Dr. Girish Singh is a statistician and works in the Department of Community Medicine , IMS, BHU. The second son Dr. Bharatendu Singh is an Associate Professor and Head of the department of Commerce at Mizoram Central University. My only daughter Dr. Bharati Singh is a medicinal Chemist and is married with an Allopathic doctor who is presently employed in UP Govt. medical services and is working as District Tuberculosis Officer. She has two children, a son who is now 21 years old and is doing B.Tech in IIT and a daughter who is a High school student. My both sons have a son and a daughter each, they are in primary school.