Cardiologist Dr BK Goyal’s greatest gift was that he gave his patients a calming reassurance their doctor truly cared for them, says family friend Gitanjali Gurbaxani.
Dr B K Goyal was a man of absolute integrity, as much as he was a man of science and of character, and an amazing visionary who could see where the field of cardiology was heading towards.
He was the dean and head of cardiology department at the BombayHospital for several decades. Heart failure was the favourite subject of the distinguished cardiologist and, sadly, it was also the cause of his death at 82. He was a visiting professor of cardiology at the University of Alabama, USA, and a visiting cardiologist at the Oschner Heart Institute, New Orleans. Over a decade ago, the Maharashtra government appointing him as professor emeritus of cardiology at the GrantMedicalCollege.
Having observed his routine from close quarters when he was propagating the ‘Mello’ table spread, for which I was the brand ambassador for two years, I would say he was eternally optimistic in all aspects of his life. He brought a positive attitude to everything he did and didn’t worry about the small stuff, which helped him accomplish great things.
During a career spanning almost six decades, Dr Bal Krishna Goyal made some of the most significant contributions in the prevention and treatment of sudden cardiac death, that got him several honours including the Padma Vibhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour.
A quality I admired in him was that he understood the importance of listening, building trust and working together to bring about change. I’m glad he lived in an era of humanistic medicine as his skilful hands, sharp intellect and winning smile melted the hearts of millions of his patients and soothed their fears. When he spoke, he showed a lot of compassion towards his patients.
His greatest gift was that he gave his patients a calming reassurance their doctor truly cared for them and did what no other doctor would do. He was a man of sincerity, which complemented his modesty. He was always attired in a black suit with a bow tie that added an old world charm to his pleasant personality.
His colleague of four decades, Dr Dolly Gurbaxani, recollects: “He was a kind and gentle man who always spoke softly. It was a pleasure to work with him as he was a well-regarded cardiologist and was highly thought of by his patients and fellow colleagues. Always caring and meticulous, his observations on the natural history of disease and the risks and benefits of intervention were welcomed by his colleagues when he spoke at medical conferences and at ‘heart talk’ at the Birla Matoshree auditorium in Mumbai on some Sunday mornings.”
I recollect accompanying a family friend, Ahmed Kazim, who visited Mumbai to undergo a check-up with Dr Goyal and was admitted to the BombayHospital. Dr Goyal would visit him twice a day during his three-day stay on the premises. On his discharge, Ahmed said, “He made you feel good, because he would guide you through a difficult set of tests, and help you get back on your feet, so you felt good, that you had done that and then he would point out where there were gaps that needed to be treated under medication in the longevity.”
With his personal touch, Dr Goyal inspired great confidence in his patients and strove to ensure that they received an early date for their appointment and had all their investigations done during a single visit.
Dr Goyal wrote a foreword for my cookbook The Heart of the matter -- Eating Healthy Indian Vegetarian Food, a best-seller with the Times Group Books in 2012. At my book reading he shared anecdotes of how he enjoyed the culinary journey before writing the foreword for me and emphasised that the main reason for today’s cardiac ailments are hurry, curry and worry. Curry, because the diet is full of fat and needs to be modified.
While keeping us engrossed with his subtle sense of humour, he said, “Heart ailments are more rampant in people who eat non-vegetarian food as the higher percentage of fats in the food increases the cholesterol in the blood.”
Rest in peace, Doc. You are grieved by an army of grateful patients, many friends, and a formidable force of consultant cardiologists who you trained in the best possible way. The Bombay hospital will wear a sad look without your ever-glowing smile.
Gitanjali Gurbaxani is a Mumbai-based author and food consultant.