Eight Weeks of Study in an Indian Homeopathic Hospital
– Dr. Ian R. Luepker, N.D.
After Dr. Vijay Vaishnav’s inspiring Grand Rounds lecture on asthma and homeopathy in April 2001, seven students and two faculty from NCNM (National College of Naturopathic Medicine, Portland, USA) organized an eight-week rotation at Shree Mumbadevi Homeopathic Hospital in Mumbai, India. Despite the usual obstacles inherent in international travel and the prospect of being in India during the height of the monsoon rains, the program turned out to be one of the richest educational experiences imaginable, truly an immersion program in homeopathy!
We lived in the hospital, two floors above the outpatient clinic, and just down the hall from both the inpatient unit and maternity ward. We followed the progress of the hospitalized patients and observed several births. For naturopathic students without much exposure to “doing rounds” on an inpatient unit, we saw deeper and more acute pathology than we typically see at the NCNM clinics. We also observed multiple births on the maternity ward; an unexpected pleasure to hold infants just minutes young.
We saw a high volume of patients at the homeopathic outpatient clinic of the hospital, between 300-400 per day. We had six different clinic shifts during the six-day workweek, one per morning over an eight-week term. This system allowed us to see up to 50 patients per shift, and gave us the invaluable opportunity to observe several doctors with effective but vastly different styles of practicing homeopathy.
The intake rooms were small! Each contained a desk, five chairs (the largest for the doctor) and a small exam table that could be sectioned off for privacy with a hanging curtain. The walls and ceiling suffered the fate of tropical climes, and the more luxurious rooms had a fan. The fan was indeed a luxury, because when up to thirty students eagerly sardined themselves into the room, temperatures soared high. Two to three times a shift, the sounds of the monsoon rains permeated the interview, the rain’s sweet coolness bringing relief from the heat. Perhaps OSHA would disagree, but we all quickly resonated with the state of the intake rooms; it represented the efficiency and wonder of homeopathic health care that worked so very well in India.
The Indian homeopaths treat diseases that most homeopaths here in the states wouldn’t attempt to treat homeopathically, i.e., hydrocephalus, leprosy, and on one memorable occasion, a cobra bite complicated with cellulitis. The supervising doctor and students carefully weighed the risks and benefits of treating allopathically vs. homeopathically. For example, the decision to prescribe (or not) for a twelve-month old girl with hydrocephalus carried a high degree of risk. On the one hand, a failure to select the proper remedy would very likely have resulted in permanent brain damage. On the other, a surgical introduction of a shunt could easily have induced infection and certainly suppression of symptoms. The supervising physician, Dr. Devadiga, decided that we could give homeopathy a trial for six months before referring for surgery.
The clinical faculty of Shree Mumbadevi was extremely well versed in pathology and diagnosis. They emphasized understanding the common symptoms and the usual progression of disease states in order to distinguish characteristic symptoms. Because many of the outpatient cases required acute treatment, we frequently relied on a lesional/regional approach. Nonetheless, etiology, miasm, and mental/emotional symptoms, when available, also played a significant role in remedy selection. Case analysis and prescription often involved a miasmatic approach. Sometimes an anti-miasmatic remedy was given to treat the soil of chronic disease. As Dr. Devadiga, our primary Organon teacher, would say, “unless you’ve got a plant (characteristic symptoms) you’ve got to treat the miasm of soil so that such a plant can grow. Only then you can prescribe on the characteristic symptoms of the plant!” We also used miasmatic remedies as intercurrents. When a patient’s progress was waning on their simillimum, we were taught to prescribe the miasmatic remedy, and then later re-dose with their simillimum.
I think that there is a common misperception about Indian prescribing–that it is a keynote oriented and superficial approach. Indian homeopathy is by no means monolithic. In fact, although the term Bombay Group or Bombay School is usually heard in association with Rajan Sankaran’s group, he only adopted the term. Bombay School, coined during the 1950’s, was originally intended to distinguish the Calcutta School and their keynote approach from the Bombay School and their more comprehensive approach.
There are several groups and varying methodologies used by Mumbai homeopaths, and it was wonderful to be exposed to several of them, a homeopathy sampler of sorts.
As we know, there is a wide spectrum of homeopathy being practiced worldwide, and Mumbai is no exception. From the scientific to the artistic, the proving-based factual to the imaginative, there are practitioners in Mumbai that are representative of each station along this continuum. Our primary contact, Dr. Vijay Vaishnav, guided us toward the scientific end of the spectrum. We were grateful for this. Without a firm foundation in the rock solid symptoms of the materia medica and time-tested rubrics, it’s easy to get lost amidst kingdoms, dreams, group provings and essences. Though it is clear that there is also room for the latter, they can be misleading places for a student to begin.
Clinics generally lasted three to four hours. In the afternoon, we attended tutorials: one instructor to the seven of us. The college is split into three departments: Organon/Philosophy, Repertory, and Materia Medica. There are 6-8 faculty members in each department who specialize in that subject. The tutorials mainly consisted of a teaching followed by discussion and often would begin with discussion of cases seen that morning. We covered a significant amount of ground: classification of disease, symptomatology, susceptibility, posology, second prescription and miasms; every subject firmly referenced back to the Organon. One of our primary texts was the Principles & Practice of Homeopathy by Dr. M.L. Dhawale; one of the clearest and simplest explanations of the underlying principles of homeopathy I’ve read, it would be a great text for an introductory course.
We also attended classes with Rajan Sankaran and analyzed cases with some of his senior students. Sankaran taught Kent’s repertory, rubric by rubric, starting with the mind section. He defined each rubric, explained why each remedy belonged to that rubric, and discussed cases in which he had employed the rubric. A dynamic lecturer, he tied in the humanities, contemporary film, politics, and culture into his lectures. During one class, after analyzing each character of a popular Bombay film, he implored us to bring our repertories (and a flashlight) to the movies! His emphasis on disease as delusion, awareness as cure, and his 10 miasms placed him in stark contrast with most faculty in the homeopathy department. Nonetheless, he maintains a clinical post at the hospital, seeing patients there one day per week.
Dr. Vijay Vaishnav, one of the two doctors who created Shree Mumbadevi hospital, was our primary contact during our rotation. He organized our clinic shifts and tutorials.
Anyone with an interest in homeopathy who wishes to establish an invaluable international tie would do well to contact this man. He repeatedly astounded us with his consummate skill as a clinical physician, a homeopath and an organizer. His humor and sensitivity toward his students and his patients easily earn him the respect and gratitude of all who work with him. Without him, we would never have had this extraordinary summer; we owe him much gratitude.
Hopefully, with the help of the HANP, interested students from all the naturopathic colleges will have the opportunity to study homeopathy in India for part of their clinical education. Many thanks to Drs. Kip Bajaj, Marlane Bassett and Kelly Fitzpatrick for their support, guidance and teaching! Also, I’d like to acknowledge Daniel Noam Smith’s colorful contribution to this article.
(Ian R. Luepker, N.D., DHANP is a homeopathic and naturopathic physician specialized in the pediatric treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders, including Asperger Syndrome, and of other behavioral, developmental, and learning issues. He is president of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians (HANP).)
This article was first published in the Simillimum (Volume XV Issue 2 Summer 2002)- The Journal of the Homeopathic Academy of Naturopathic Physicians. It was first reprinted on our web site www.drvaishnav.com by permission.
Dr. Vijay Vaishnav’s comments:
Dr. Ian Luepker’s article about the experiences of the students of NCNM in India is really balanced and gives a ‘wide-angle’ exposure as well as a close-up of the working of our hospital and the clinical training program that I had set up for them at Smt. C.M.P. Homeopathic Medical College and Shree Mumbadevi Homeopathic Hospital at Mumbai, India.
I wish to point out a factual error. Ian has written “Dr. Vijay Vaishnav, one of the two doctors who created Shree Mumbadevi hospital, …….”. I wish to set the record straight by stating that I have not created Shree Mumbadevi Hospital (though I have put my heart and soul into its existence). It existed as a teaching hospital, attached to our college, even when I joined the institution as a student. I was a Professor and head of the department of Materia Medica at the college and it was part of my job as a full-time teacher to attend to patients at the Out Patient Clinic and the Wards of the hospital.
If you wish to organize seminars on homeopathy by Vijay and Daxa Vaishnav for your school or study group, feel free to contact us. We run a website Homeopathic Healing that has a lot of information and interesting cases.