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Table of Contents
Year : 2021  |  Volume : 4  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 238-240

Spirituality for neurosciences

Department of Neurosurgery, Seth G S Medical College and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital Parel, Mumbai - 400 012, India

Date of Web Publication02-Nov-2021

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Dattatraya Muzumdar
Department of Neurosurgery, Seth G S Medical College and King Edward VII Memorial Hospital Parel, Mumbai - 400 012
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/IJNO.IJNO_434_21

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How to cite this article:
Muzumdar D. Spirituality for neurosciences. Int J Neurooncol 2021;4, Suppl S1:238-40

How to cite this URL:
Muzumdar D. Spirituality for neurosciences. Int J Neurooncol [serial online] 2021 [cited 2022 May 22];4, Suppl S1:238-40. Available from: https://www.Internationaljneurooncology.com/text.asp?2021/4/3/238/329828

Doctors are well respected in the community and are deemed spiritual. They are given a status only next to God. This fact is exemplified by the fact that during the older times, the doctors were privileged to be the only community that was given a burial place next to the King's, as a mark of respect towards their profession. Doctors are probably the only professionals acknowledged with respect, being a catalyst in the alleviation of physical suffering and in helping to impart a new life to their patients. Being a doctor is a calling and never a means to erect a financial empire. Wealth is a byproduct of selfless service. Most educated families would want their children to pursue medicine not for a financial gain but for its intrinsically noble pursuits.

Neurologists and neurosurgeons, as medical sub-specialists, are unique in many ways. They are responsible for maintaining the health of the most advanced organ in the body. They need special skills and temperament to withstand the complexities involved in the management of brain and spine disorders. The comprehensive care of neuroscience patients involves long working hours and stressful moments. The margin of error is narrow and a slightest deviation can lead to a potential debilitating morbidity, or even mortality. Medical fraternity acknowledges this fact and treats this subspecialty with tremendous respect.

Over the years, medical diagnostics and treatment have become inexorably coupled with the technological revolution prevalent in this field, that has helped in enhancing the quality of life of a significant number of patients. Unfortunately, the medical profession has become a victim of its own circumstances in the bargain. The rapid pace of technological evolution in medicine and the incorporation of technology in medical diagnostics and treatment has transformed the medical practitioner in general, and the neuroscience clinical practitioner in particular, to being a dispassionate doctor, having a purely mechanistic approach to delivering health care. The treatment of a patient has been reduced to a 'performance-enhancing' exercise (where the prestige of the doctor takes precedence over the care of the patient) rather than a 'problem-solving' experience (where each interaction is an opportunity to learn about patient care and improve upon the previously existing knowledge). The trustworthiness and ethical principles of a doctor have been conveniently violated with financial gratification transforming into greed. Thus, in the last couple of decades, it appears that medical practice has gradually declined in terms of its ethical behaviour, integrity, and the interpersonal relationships prevalent among the medical fraternity.

Doctors themselves have been the biggest enemies of their fraternity. The interpersonal relationships have seen an ebb over the last few years. The gruelling issues amongst doctors, which are of a serious concern, have been jealousy, ego, no respect for seniors, no compassion for juniors, no unity, a false sense of assurance that one's diagnosis is always the best, finding fault in others' management, a false sensation of feeling great when some patient praises the doctor, a lack of communication with patients, a reluctance to request for cross-consultations and others' expert opinions, a tendency to self-advertise, taking a cut-back on referrals and investigations, indulging in sadistic enjoyment when colleagues are punished, facilitating the public filing of complaints against fellow doctors, and encouraging officials to act against other doctors. As career advancement occurs over a period of years, they become self-consumed in their ambitiousness, administrative power, financial gains, honours, awards, disrespect for fellow colleagues, diplomacy and hypocrisy. This has been amplified by the blatant abuse of social media and its platforms for overt self appreciation and gratification. One more aspect which has become more bothersome is the reluctance of a senior doctor to retire or superannuate from public service or career. As the longevity and quality of life amongst the elderly is increasing steadily, so are the aspirations and ambitions of these doctors. This has resulted in a trend to reappoint or reemploy senior faculty members post-retirement to avail of their experience and skills in certain academic centres. However, this should be cautiously implemented in hospitals where there is a genuine need for their skills or service and not as a matter of routine. The reappointment should not be a source of disappointment to the existing faculty. There needs to be a mutual agreement between the existing young faculty and retired teachers for their continued association. All these events have tended to abolish the medical humanistic spirit.

The neuroscience community in general has also become a victim of these circumstances that have surfaced to the extent that now, there is a greater visibility of all these issues and this phenomenon is no longer limited to the confines of board rooms or private meetings. If these problems are not addressed on an urgent basis, they can expand to monstrous proportions, leading to disastrous and chaotic situations. The problems inevitably have a deleterious effect on the service and care provided to the already suffering patient. There is an urgent need to exercise spirituality to combat this monster within ourselves before these events leave an irrevocable scar. The junior and senior neurosurgical faculty members are overwhelmed with personal ambitions and career advancement manoeuvres. [1,2]

  Spirituality for Neurosciences Top

The above mentioned issues need to be addressed at various strata, such as, individual, departmental, and higher administrative levels. The remedies suggested should be based on the principles of ethics and integrity. The dignity of stakeholders should be upheld at all costs. The neuroscience clinical specialists, senior as well as junior, are under tremendous stress and pressure to perform and deliver results, propelled by the sheer complexity involved in treating disorders of the brain and spine. In addition, they have to overcome administrative and logistic hurdles to ensure the smooth functioning of outpatient and inpatient services, operative surgeries and academic activities. The neuroscience departments should have a healthy and a conducive working environment. This has a positive influence on the working pattern and efficiency of the faculty and residents. Effective communication, mutual respect, good leadership, as well as knowledge and skill, impact both patient outcomes and the work environment. An interesting adage, popular in Southeast Asia, known as the Koi's law, states that just as a koi – a kind of carp (fish) – varies in size depending on the environment in which it is placed, so too, our ability to grow and evolve also depends on our own environment and experiences. In other words, if one confines oneself to a small space, physically and metaphorically, one will grow/evolve only as much as that space will permit oneself to grow or evolve. The more one widens the area of one's experience, and the more varied the interactions, learning and outlook, there is more likelihood of one becoming a better person possessed with a wider understanding, compassion and knowledge. There is a need to allow people's spirits to be nurtured; and, to change the workplace environment from merely being a place of passive learning to a platform that constantly encourages creativity.

A good and healthy atmosphere in interpersonal relationship is crucial for the smooth functioning of a department. There needs to be trust, loyalty and friendship amongst senior faculty members. The residents need to closely observe the training imparted in two allied fields, that is, the training imparted to the military personnel and the airline pilots. Military training inculcates a sense of absolute discipline in maintaining work schedules and assignments, as well as in promoting a feeling of sincere respect for seniors and the cadre. The airline pilots are trained to develop a sense of immense responsibility towards the well-being of their airplane and its passengers, and to develop skills in order to ensure their safety. The temperament of pilots is developed to make it suitable to manage adverse flying and ground conditions, and to ensure their strict adherence to check-lists for maintaining flight safety. These traits of the two professions that require a strict self-discipline, are worth emulating. The exposure of the neuroscience residents to these two allied disciplines should be made mandatory.

The only constant factor which is likely to provide a sustainable solution to the current problems is in invoking spirituality, which has now become a basic necessity and is not a luxury anymore. Evidence demonstrates that the medical profession largely neglects the spiritual dimension of well-being and illness. Doctors have to pause for a while to look deep within themselves to observe the deteriorating situation related to their work environment and prevent it from further plummeting. Spirituality within self (the doctrine of 'know thyself') needs to be awakened to resolve this conflict and re-establish order.

In Sanskrit, spirituality is known as Adhyātma. It is derived from two words Adhi and Ātman (Ātmanahā). Adhi means 'pertaining to the topic' and Ātmā refers to the soul. The soul is the 'God principle' within each of us and is our true nature. Its characteristics are Absolute Truth (Sat), Absolute Consciousness (Chit) and Bliss (Ānand). It is a complex amalgamation of feelings, thoughts, and behaviours.[3-5] Spirituality, experienced individually, impacts one's well-being, medical decision-making and medical care outcomes. It enhances our conscious efforts and helps us make a positive contribution towards society. It simultaneously helps us attain peace with our inner self, thoughts, emotions, beliefs and desires. Doctors, both senior and junior, are governed by similar laws of nature and the karmic cycle. There is only a limited time period difference between the senior and junior doctor, which differentiates the two in terms of knowledge, experience and skill. In today's era that is filled with hatred and insensitivity, perhaps a little dose of understanding about our own spiritual dimension is necessary. Harmony can be established through introspection and meditation. This helps in raising the spiritual quotient of the individual.

Introspection is primarily required to comprehend deep-rooted problems. We need to act like the 'human' being' that we are. The mind-body balance needs to be maintained to uphold the highest principles of morals, ethics and integrity. The 'self' needs to be awakened and made aware through meditation, which will focus attention on an object, word, phrase, or breathing, to help find comfort and meaning. It will rewire the brain to help increase the positive outlook, calmness and relaxation, and also enhance self-awareness. The cortical networks, including the prefrontal and cingulate cortex, temporal and parietal areas, and subcortical regions, are stimulated by introspecting and meditating.[3] The more we meditate, and work upon ourselves with compassion, the more our personal impurities, both conscious and unconscious, gradually recede, to be replaced by the growing energies of real love and understanding.

The spiritual quotient in every individual needs to be enhanced. It helps to awaken the self within, and helps the individual explore a world far beyond his/her cognitive and emotional skills. The task is steeped in utmost humility. A robust understanding of the spiritual quotient increases the spiritual hunger and motivates us to balance work commitments, time with family and inner growth. It helps us to interconnect our personal vision with the larger good of humanity. To a great extent, it reduces our selfish intentions. It stops us from getting swayed by our power, status and money. It makes us become more responsible and helps us overcome the problems encountered in the society, and with workplace peers and subordinates.

Humanism is a true work tool and not a cultural appendage. Every neuroscience discipline is a subject where knowledge is imparted by apprenticeship. Thus, the values of humanism can be taught and the behavioural pattern associated with humanism can be learned. A humanistic neuroscience specialist demonstrates the following attributes: Integrity, clinical excellence, compassion, collaboration, altruism, respect, resilience, empathy and service to her/his patients. A conscious effort towards humanism coupled with a balanced scientific attitude is necessary for success in today's world. Therefore, the function of training institutions should be to expand the curriculum to include these humanistic concepts, thus opening newer horizons and prospects for their trainees.

Lastly, no one can make one 'spiritual', unless one desires to be in that state. This fact is aptly stated by Swami Vivekananda, the Indian spiritual yogi. He mentions “You have to grow from the inside out. None can teach you, none can make you spiritual. There is no other teacher but your own soul.”

  References Top

Association of American Medical Colleges. Report III: Contemporary Issues in Medicine: Communication in Medicine, Medical School Objectives Project. Washington, DC: Association of American Medical Colleges; 1999: 25–26.  Back to cited text no. 1
Al-Ghanem R. Medical humanism in Nneurosurgery. [February 3rd 2021) [Online First], IntechOpen, DOI: 10.5772/intechopen. 95750. (from: https://www.intechopen.com/online-first/74987.  Back to cited text no. 2
Urgesi C, Aglioti SM, Skrap M, Fabbro F. The spiritual brain: Selective cortical lesions modulate human self-transcendence. Neuron 2010;65: 309-319.  Back to cited text no. 3
James WW. The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature. Forgotten Books, Charleston, SC 2008.  Back to cited text no. 4
Paloutzian R, Park C. Handbook of the psychology of religion and spirituality. The Guilford Press, New York 2005.  Back to cited text no. 5


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