21-Jul-2018
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Indian mental health expert heads British Medical Association

LONDON July 13: Dr Dinesh Bhugra, Emeritus Professor of Mental Health and Cultural Diversity at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at the London based King’s College began his Presidency of the British Medical Association (BMA) on June 27, 2018.
 
As a migrant to the UK, he is aware of the stresses that migrants face and has persuaded BMA to look at migrant health especially that of migrant doctors.
 
He has campaigned for a fair deal for mentally ill people and has led a survey of the legal systems of 193 countries looking at rights of people with mental illness.
 
Focusing on right to vote, right to marry, right to make a will or inherit property and right to employment and recognising that only about 40% of the countries allow all of these rights, he has advocated funding for mental health and campaign for social and health justice.
 
Chairman of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historic Abuse in State Care and former Governor General Sir Anand Satyanand described Dr Bhugra as “a man of wide interests and an engaging conversationalist on many aspects of current events and trends, aside from medical issues.”
 
“He is a recognised expert in cultural diversity and relational issues. In a busy prior professional life as a doctor, psychiatric specialist, teacher and author, he has travelled to many parts of the world, including New Zealand, and I am pleased to have come to regard him as a friend.
 
He is a man of wide interests and an engaging conversationalist on many aspects of current events and trends, aside from medical issues,” he said.
 
Sir Anand said that Dr Bhugra went to the United Kingdom from India with a first degree in Medicine and began a pathway involving study, practice, teaching and authorship of a number of books and articles.
 
“His BMA role has been preceded by a term as President of the World Psychiatry Association and a leading role in Careif, a public mental health charity in the UK. I first met him in relation to Careif, with which I developed a connection when serving with the Commonwealth Foundation, which is the civil society counterpart of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
 
In my term of four years there were a number of opportunities to connect with Careif over issues of mutual interest and related conference activities like attending the 2016 Commonwealth Medical Conference in Colombo, Sri Lanka,” Sir Anand said.
 
Auckland based Health TRX Chief Executive Anil Thapliyal, who works closely with Dr Bhugra, said that as BMA President, he will investigate further the reasons for increasing number of medical students and doctors at all levels reporting high rates of burnout, depression and suicidality.
 
“The goals for his tenure would include exploring what the public want from doctors and what doctors need in return, and improving health outcomes for some of the most vulnerable in society,” he said.
 
Dr Bhugra said that BMA represents over 160,000 doctors of all specialities in the UK.
 
“BMA is the professional organisation for all doctors and has very thriving committees for medical students and junior doctors. The role of the President although ceremonial allows various initiatives,” he said.
 
“My areas of interest emerging from my previous roles as President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists (2008-2011) and of the World Psychiatric Association (2014-2017) and as Chair of the board of Trustees of Mental Health Foundation have helped me develop ideas for delivery during my term of office.
 
First of these is Medicine’s Social contract. The implicit contract looks at mutual expectations between the society and the doctors.
 
Society expects services of healer, objective advice and healthcare and in return doctors expect a well-funded service to deliver healthcare and also financial and social rewards. We need to keep this under review,” he said.