A tribute to one of those unsung medics and researchers who risk their own health, prompted by news of the ebola epidemic

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Dr. Fr. E. Varghese, SVD, studied the medical practices of tribal people in and around Mumbai, South & Central India

fr dr varghese iic

In February ‘98 the writer met the late Fr Dr Varghese at the Indian Institute of Culture (IIC) in Andheri East (above, taken from newspaper) and following this he visited colleagues at the Centre for Holistic Studies.

fr dr vargheseThe first news of his work came in an article in the Times of India, 31.1.98, by Shahin Ashraf Ali. At that time Dr Varghese was co-ordinating a programme of ethnomedical research and its application. A wealth of knowledge was made available to ordinary people – simple tribal plant preparations to set fractures, heal wounds and cure diseases. These people in turn fed back information to consolidate the medical claims for these treatments and pass on the information to others, promoting the well-being of the community at large.

fr dr varghese black fever textOne example of this is a traditional remedy for Kala-azar, black or death fever, epidemics of which have been occurring in India. Dr Varghese pointed out that this inexpensive treatment is a blessing to slum dwellers, construction workers and others, who cannot afford the modern medical care given to the rich. He added that traditional systems of healing, which emphasise holistic health, helps those suffering from the detoxification due to a prolonged use of modern drugs.

In July he moved to Andhra Pradesh to help to set up a field research centre affiliated to IIC at the Jeevodaya Social Centre (JSC),  a centre for development, research and training in indigenous medicines, primary healthcare and rural development, located in the Janssen Academy.

fr varghese book coverOn August 15th 1999, the centre at Sadasivspet – a four room structure catering for the Village Reachout Programme including a dispensary, training centre for health workers and office – was formally inaugurated. In letters he recorded the meagre financial situation which limited work to seven villages (23-40kms away) and six government schools and a Dr Mridula Shastri grant which had been given to adopt a research project on treating asthma and anaemia with indigenous medicine, asthma cases responding particularly well.

In 2000 he published his third book (contents below) about the ethnomedical lore of the Paharias a hill tribe living in Bihar. In this book he acknowledged the contribution of many people, adding:

“The encouragement given by Winin Pereira (Centre for Holistic Studies) and Benson George (Centre for Human Ecology) has been sustaining our keen interest and eagerness to bring out this book at the earliest”.

fr varghese table bookSee: www.worldcat.org/title/ethnomedical-lore-of-the-paharias/oclc/45499602#relatedsubjects

In 2003, one of his colleagues wrote to say that he had passed away at the age of 43. The Rev.Dr.E. Varghese Memorial Trust was set up and has an endowment, the interest of which will be handed over every year for stipulated programmes at the English Department of Mar Thoma College, Tiruvalla which was established by one of the oldest Syrian Christian Churches founded by St.Thomas in India.

A life of service to others.

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