by LAUREN CODLING
THE daughter of an NHS doctor has praised her father for inspiring her to pursue a career in medicine, noting the contribution of migrants and their children to the beloved health service.
Dr Binita Kane’s father Professor Bim Bhowmick is a specialist in geriatric medicine, who served in the NHS for more than 47 years until his retirement in 2017.
Inspired by her father from an early age, Binita admitted that she did not want to pursue anything else but medicine. Her elder brother Arnab is a consultant surgeon in Preston.
“It wasn’t because we were told we must go into the NHS and this is the only job in the world – it really came inherently from within us,” Binita told Eastern Eye. “I saw how hard my dad worked and how passionate he was about his patients when I was growing up.
“We went through that journey with him as he reached the dizzy heights of his career and that is hugely inspiring.”
Her father’s journey to the NHS did not come without hardships, however. Professor Bhowmick is a survivor of Partition, when British India was divided into India and Pakistan in 1947, after gaining freedom from the British. An estimated two million people are thought to have died at the time.
Born in a small village in east Bengal, which was then part of India, Bim was one of 10 children. When he was six years old, he and his family were driven out of their home in the first outbreak of Partition violence. Although they managed to escape their village and were helped to safety, they became refugees and Bim’s father Jamini sadly died of starvation soon after.
Shortly before his death, Jamini had urged his son to strive for a career in medicine. “I saw how (my father) suffered,” Bim, now 80, told Eastern Eye. “He perished within six weeks (of our escape) and he asked me to be a doctor as his dying wish. That led me to the commitment and the passion (I have today). I wanted to help older people.”
His father’s words stayed with Bim throughout his life and he worked hard to pass his exams and earn a scholarship. After he graduated from a medical school in West Bengal state, Bim arrived in the UK in 1969 with his wife Aparna. The couple had only £3.50 in their pockets and no job at the time.
They lived in the home of a fellow doctor and faced a number of difficulties in the initial years. At first, Bim struggled to find work and the couple had no source of income. There were also some language barriers and cultural differences which proved challenging when Bim eventually found a job at a hospital.
“You’d just assume you know what you’re doing because of what you’d been taught at medical school, you didn’t think about the other challenges,” Bim explained. “When I got my first job, there was no induction or anything – you were thrown right in the deep end.
“Seeing the patient was no problem, as we’d been trained and we had the knowledge, but the system was so different in the UK from that in India.”
Reflecting on her father’s experiences, Binita said it was important to note the hardships foreign doctors faced when they first arrived in the UK. Many arrived with no money or work and faced racism and prejudice – yet, undeterred, they worked hard to offer their services to the NHS.
“So many people who came in that position went on to be pioneers, helping to develop and create new systems within the NHS despite all the racism, the barriers and the challenges they faced,” she said. “Despite being up against that, they still managed to achieve amazing things.”
Eventually settling down in Rhyl, north Wales in 1974, Bim and Aparna carved successful careers for themselves in the health services. Aparna, who sadly passed away last year, specialised in dermatology and psychiatry.
Meanwhile, Bim focused on geriatric medicine. During his long career in the NHS, Bim received a number of accolades for his work with elderly patients. In 2000, he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for his contribution to the development of elderly care services in Wales. He received the Lifetime Achievement NHS Wales Award in 2009.
Now based in Manchester, his daughter Binita has forged out her own successful career in the health service and works as a consultant respiratory physician. Although still relatively early in her consultant career, she has led development of integrated respiratory services in Manchester and has leaderships roles at Greater Manchester and National level.
Binita said she is “extremely passionate” about her job, and stressed she had no financial motivation within her line of work. She is driven by wanting to help her patients.
“I think that we are incredibly privileged that we can do a job where we serve other people,” the mother-of-two explained. “Making a difference is what drives you, not all of those other things. It is inherent – there is definitely something running through our family and it binds us, in terms of how we feel about (our work).”
Seeing his children’s achievements in the NHS makes Bim “extremely proud”, he said. They have dedication and commitment for the health service, he said, and have worked to improve the system. “They really put their whole effort into it,” Bim said. “They have worked together to advance the NHS practise and improve the quality of care.
“They want to make changes, to transform it and to deliver service in a different way.”
Among the four members of the family who have all worked in the NHS, Binita tallied up they have contributed approximately 120 years of service.
“People like my dad were fundamental in building the NHS as an institution,” she added. “Immigrants who came to this country did amazing things for the NHS and now their offspring are doing amazing things too, and it has been carried on throughout the generations.”
Asked what the NHS meant to him, Bim described the institution as “his life, his religion”. Commenting on the 72nd birthday celebrations of the NHS, he praised the services for “doing such wonderful and unique things”.
“My late wife once said that I live for my children and I am married to the NHS,” he recalled. “There is a lot to be done for the NHS in the future and I hope that from the pandemic, positive things come for the NHS from it and we can change things for better.”