|Year : 2005 | Volume
| Issue : 1 | Page : 66
Dr. Sharat C. Desai (11.06.1917 – 19.08.2004)
New Delhi, India
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Kubba R. Dr. Sharat C. Desai (11.06.1917 – 19.08.2004). Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol 2005;71:66
Dr. Sharat C. Desai (11.06.1917 – 19.08.2004) [Figure - 1]
On August 19 this year, Indian dermatology lost a pioneer, Dr. Rekha Sheth her father, and I my mentor. The day is well marked in my diary.
Dr. Sharat Chotubhai Desai was born in Valsad district of Gujarat. He lost his mother while still a child and was raised by his elder brother who happened to be the Commissioner of Railway Safety. Young Sharat often accompanied his elder brother as the latter crisscrossed the country on official tours. The first from the family to take up medicine, Sharat Desai graduated from Seth G. S. Medical College, Mumbai and post-graduated in General Medicine from the associated (and famous) King Edward Memorial Hospital. He was quick to realize that skin diseases were not only common but also very different and merited a specialty of their own. Dermatology, although an established discipline in the West at that time, did not exist in India. There were no mechanisms for training dermatologists and no separate departments. He proceeded to train himself and with legendary entrepreneurship unearthed unutilized funds (a gift of a steward at the Bombay Race Course to the K.E.M. Research Society) to establish perhaps the first Department of Dermatology in India at his alma mater. A department that created the first residency program in dermatology, it produced such eminent dermatologists as Dr. V. R. Mehta, Dr. Rui Fernandez, Dr. Chetan Oberai, and Dr. Bharat Shah, and ranks amongst the top five departments in the country today. Dr. Desai's best academic contributions were in dermatologic mycology, and in initiating and fostering dermatopathology.
Besides being an agent of change, Dr. Sharat Desai was, for a long time, the international face of Indian Dermatology. He organized the first ever International Conference of Dermatology in India, in Mumbai, in 1961. He was (and remains) the only Indian to be honored with a membership of the elite ADA (American Dermatological Association). He brought prestige to dermatology both at home and abroad.
Dr. Desai was a fascinating man, endowed with sharp intellect, a questioning mind, great curiosity, and boundless energy. Ever ready to pooh-pooh dogma and apathy, he was relentless in pursuit of his objectives, appearing at times to be obsessive and compulsive. He was a visionary and a great leader. He gave me a memorable discourse on Alfonso mangoes when I visited him in Pune (where he had retired in 1991 because of his wife Kusumben's illness). "Itchy Farm" was the name of his mango garden in Valsad. His favorite homily was "the greatest obstacle to the new idea is the old idea". Once I asked him how he determined how much to tip? His answer: "just double what you feel like giving!" And as I have done so from that point on, I have understood the meaning of it and I have silently connected with him each time.
When I look at the mosaic of my personality I can easily see what parts came from Dr. Sharat Desai. He lives on through his daughters Rekha and Rashmi, his grandchildren, through me, and through many others like me, whose lives he touched and shaped in a short span.
Hari Om Sharatbhai, we shall miss you.
[Figure - 1]