A Physiologist at UCMS New Delhi, Dr. Satendra Singh is a crusader for the rights of the people with disabilities. He claims his locomotor disability caused by polio to be one of the factors that define his characteristic traits of perseverance and resilience. He spoke about the stigma attached to various communicable diseases like leprosy and non-communicable ones like mental illnesses. He raised questions about a range of topics including job opportunities, socio-economic support system and persecution of the judiciary with regard to people suffering from this stigma.
He strongly condemned legislation that has created grounds for discrimination of people with disabilities and prevents them from maximizing their potential. He pointed out many social systems where oppression has been accepted as normalcy and partially blamed the medical management of all disease and disorders without an empathetic humanitarian approach to this situation. He vividly spoke of the achievements and capabilities of people with disabilities and stressed on recognizing and accepting them as equals. His simple solution to the many questions that the audience asked him was ‘Don’t identify a person based on his disability. Just talk to them respect them as human beings. Here is a short interview of his just before the session, regarding a student’s role in social activism:
What are the goals you’ve set up to achieve in near future? And how can we as students help you in this?
My goals are mainly short term and pretty simple, ‘respect all and respect equally’. As healthcare professionals of the future, you have the potential and the responsibility to champion the cause of the oppressed. See the person beyond his clinical symptoms and disabilities. Be the agents of change who tell those stories to the whole world.
Activism is quite a stranger to the medical field. How does being a Social activist enrich one’s learning and life?
I have learned the lesson the other way around. We aren’t born activists. Only in the face of a discrimination or any kind of other hindrances we fight. But as professionals, this kind of an attitude reflects social neglect. We are responsible for the health of this society and that means fighting for women’s rights at workplace and LGBTQ rights and so many others. There are a lot of electives one can choose regarding these topics and learn in depth. It is necessary for a person to develop these ideals in order to be a good health care professional.
How has the support been from the medical community for your work?
It has been fairly supportive. Although I’ve had minor setback I’d like to concentrate and bring to light only the motivating positives.
As students do you feel it must be integral of our lives to strive to bring about change? If so how?
Our education system needs to be more dynamic and include new age concepts like the social model of disability, the social responsibility of health care institutes and prepare medical students to be competitive world citizens and leaders. These subjects, in my opinion, must be mandatory in the curriculum.
Interviewer- Vinay Reddy, Charan Madhav