Dr. De­nis J. Aloy­sius - In whose strides young doc­tors should fol­low

Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - FEATURES -

It takes some­one spe­cial to im­press a young lad, I must say. As a child, I have met many doc­tors, but my impression on this ex­em­plary doctor is un­for­get­table; tall, slim, a sporty look, long-sleeved shirt with a match­ing tie and a friendly personalit­y are etched in my memory even to this day. His dis­pen­sary was si­t­u­ated on Galle Road in De­hi­wala where Ar­pico is housed. But that was where my mother used to take us when­ever ill-health was wav­ing at us. He had a unique way of win­ning over the hearts of his young pa­tients by giv­ing him a ‘naarang­bik’ lozenge. In our era, this was an absolute treat. The lozenge took the shape of a man­darin slice.


He spends a good 20 min­utes or more, first lis­ten­ing to the par­ent, then ask­ing the child questions fol­lowed by a thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion of pulse, lungs, throat, ears and eyes. I par­tic­u­larly re­mem­ber him check­ing behind the ear for any in­flamed glands. He was very gen­tle. Today, some doc­tors start writ­ing the pre­scrip­tion by the time you en­ter the room. But Dr. Aloy­sius was cer­tainly a doctor who cared about his pa­tients and spent all the time re­quired to make a full as­sess­ment of the patient and come to a clear con­clu­sion. His clin­i­cal diagnosis was based on the con­ver­sa­tion and thor­ough ex­am­i­na­tion. I re­mem­ber wait­ing for our turn be­cause he paid the same at­ten­tion to each and ev­ery one of his pa­tients. Never did he re­quest for any test to be done un­nec­es­sar­ily. Blood and urine tests were also done at his dis­pen­sary, but he NEVER used it as an opportunit­y to mint money.


Dr. Aloy­sius never gave medicine where the patient was re­quired to visit him again. We never heard him say: “come back in two weeks or one month.” What I re­call was the liq­uid – which was a mix­ture he pre­pared in the dis­pen­sary – he gave us which had a hor­ri­ble taste. Along with that he would make a pow­der by crush­ing a few tablets. Within two or three days, you are com­pletely cured. It cer­tainly was not the strong an­tibi­otics that the present day ‘One Shot’ doc­tors give. His heal­ing process in­cluded less medicine, good hu­mour and sound ad­vice. This has been the per­fect cure for many for decades.


This good doctor gen­uinely prac­tised “an ap­ple a day keeps the doctor away.” When­ever we were taken to him, he would al­ways ad­vise us to stay healthy. He would ad­vise us to do ex­er­cises, sports, eat healthy food and lead a bal­anced life. Of course, peo­ple were much health­ier then, be­cause we ate fresh veg­eta­bles, fruits and fish. If my mother ever asked “should he eat?” his re­sponse would be “if he can eat, let him.”


There were only a few doc­tors available in our area. Dr. De­nis and his brother Dr. Hu­bert were the well-known ones. They both were known to be well-learned, ex­pe­ri­enced med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers. They were al­ways available. If needed, they both made home vis­its, es­pe­cially for the el­derly. Home vis­its are very rare th­ese days. Most young doc­tors would not even con­sider the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing a home visit. But Dr. Aloy­sius brothers saw it as part of their service to the com­mu­nity.

I must say that Dr. De­nis Aloy­sius was in­com­pa­ra­ble. His man­ner­isms were gen­tle and in­tegrity was un­matched. He was service-ori­ented and was so com­mit­ted to his pro­fes­sion. I am sure that the doc­tors of yes­ter­year took their hip­po­cratic oath very, very, se­ri­ously. He cer­tainly did not drive a flashy car. At one time, he was the Pres­i­dent of the Sri Lanka Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion. I have seen him and his brother at many a sports event where he was seen to be giv­ing med­i­cal ad­vice to the play­ers, es­pe­cially in the field of rugby. He did not have to show off his knowl­edge or wealth to stand out in so­ci­ety. He was hum­ble and kind. Th­ese were his qual­i­ties that made him stand out and not just his qual­i­fi­ca­tions.


Over the years, I have met Dr. Aloy­sius many times. Each time I saw him, I used to ask my­self what has gone wrong in the med­i­cal pro­fes­sion in the present day. Why is Dr. Aloy­sius so dif­fer­ent? The dif­fer­ence be­tween a doctor and an ex­cel­lent med­i­cal prac­ti­tioner lies in the attitude. The key in­deed was the healthy attitude he had. He was eth­i­cally very sound. To him, his ‘cus­tomers’ be­ing healthy was more im­por­tant than the num­ber of pa­tients he would treat. He al­ways wanted to help. He cer­tainly adorned the ti­tle ‘doctor.’ In ad­di­tion to his good ed­u­ca­tion and fam­ily back­ground, he was also a good sports­man. His physique was an ex­am­ple for us to fol­low. His personalit­y taught us how to be healthy.

What we need to gather from the life of Dr. De­nis Aloy­sius is that be­ing healthy is NOT go­ing to hos­pi­tal. A healthy nation is not a nation which has so many hos­pi­tals and lab­o­ra­to­ries but one where by and large peo­ple stay away from hos­pi­tal.


The Buddha said so clearly that health was in­deed wealth. Dr. De­nis cer­tainly be­lieved in this. Our vis­its to his dis­pen­sary were few and far be­tween be­cause he wanted to pre­serve our health. He did not ex­ploit the pa­tients to amass wealth for him­self. Has eco­nomic gain be­come the pri­or­ity for a ma­jor­ity of prac­ti­tion­ers? Pri­vate prac­tice, phar­ma­cies, di­ag­nos­tics and lab­o­ra­to­ries are the main pri­or­i­ties in the field of health today. Ev­ery city, town and even the re­motest vil­lages are full of th­ese. Come rain or shine we see that th­ese cen­tres are open. Ill-health of peo­ple is the wealth of doc­tors, it ap­pears today. Doc­tors pre­scribe a host of tests to be done, with­out which they seem un­able to come to a proper diagnosis. In the case of Dr. De­nis, tests were pre­scribed only if nec­es­sary. And that ne­ces­sity was very rare in­deed.

To Dr. De­nis, I was a young boy who came with his mother to get medicine. There was no spe­cial treat­ment but he treated ev­ery per­son as spe­cial by giv­ing qual­ity time very gen­uinely. Prob­a­bly that is why he is etched in my memory and I think that proves he was an ex­em­plary man. He had a healthy mind, body and soul. He lit­er­ally and metaphor­i­cally touched the lives of ev­ery­one who sought his as­sis­tance.

I wish him absolute peace in his af­ter­life. S.V.D. KESARRALAL



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