He set up a health-care centre at a remote village of Bangladesh in 1983 -- Kailakuri village in Tangail -- where he served the poorest people with his treatment for more than three decades.
There was always a large smile on his face. He was affectionately called “Daktar Bhai” throughout Tangail. Edric Baker was born into an affluent family of New Zealand in 1941. He obtained his MBBS degree from Otego Medical College at Dunedin in 1965. He could have lived there and earned plenty of money.
But he didn’t do that. He was a life-long bachelor and decided to spend his whole life treating down-trodden people and patients in the remote villages of Bangladesh. And he did so with a great deal of care and love till his sudden death on September 1.
Expressing an honest, personal, sensitive, caring attitude in every patient-physician encounter, despite objective difficulties such as time constraints, is an essential part of medical care and healing. As a result, both patients and physicians gain immensely. Thus, empathic medical practices form an absolutely essential domain in current medical treatments.
So, existing deficiencies in the empathic aspects of care need urgent attention, and this most revered Daktar Bhai selflessly gave his most caring services to hundreds of thousands of poor patients almost free of cost.
In the words of Baker: “The people here are ‘really good,’ and they do not get health-care due to poverty. I’ve chosen this country in order to give them a little health support.” That was his simple assertion.
He collected the money from private donors, including some of his friends and well-wishers abroad, and spent it on the treatment and welfare of his patients. He lived in a hut made of earth, wore ordinary lungis, and used an ordinary bicycle to visit patients’ houses to offer his kind-hearted treatment to them.
He was a humanist doctor par excellence. He lived and led a very simple life, but at the same breath of pace, he was an extra-ordinary, kind-hearted human being. Where can we find another doctor who will serve the destitute in those remote areas of Tangail? Becoming a doctor, he fostered humane care-givers through his treatment, and made the patients feel well.
For more than 30 years, Daktar Bhai has been a beacon of humanism to the people and the patients there. Throughout his life, he has consistently and boldly stood up for dignity and respect for all.
He was a truly wonderful man. There are many people out there in the world, travelling and discovering and learning and loving and inspiring and doing what people thought was impossible. He did impossible things to make them possible.
Whether or not all those who benefitted from his care realise it, it cannot be denied that a foreigner physician has made a real difference. Not with super-powers, but with a first-aid kit, a stethoscope, and with some medicine.
This was a noble man, a kind-hearted human being, and a kind-hearted doctor who we should all remember as a great soul.
Sitting in his mud-built one-room home just behind the centre, he told one correspondent of a reputed daily once upon a time, that he wanted a successor. “Many students get MBBS degrees in the country every year. I’m waiting for one of them to come and take the responsibility to provide treatment to the poor in the area.” But he lamented that no one ever turned up.
As he was being laid to rest, scores of people coming to bid him farewell surrounded his house and extended all the way out to the road. Edric Baker was a truly selfless soul.
He considered treating patients a great privilege. Good doctors are humble doctors, willing to listen to their patients and gather the full array of resources -- medical, human, social, and spiritual -- that would contribute to their patients’ healing.
The English poet John Donne once said: “Death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.” Daktar Bhai’s death is a shock to me. May this great soul rest in peace in heaven.
The state should make the necessary arrangements to honour this noble soul.