Indian Journal of Medical Sciences
Medknow Publications on behalf of Indian Journal of Medical Sciences Trust
ISSN: 0019-5359
Vol. 58, Num. 4, 2004, pp. 176-178

Indian Journal of Medical Science Vol. 58 No. 4, April 2004 , pp. 176-178

Obituary - Dr F P Antia

H G Desai Code Number: ms04032

Dr F P Antia was born in Mumbai on August 10.1916, in a religious Parsee family; his father was a priest. He obtained his B.Sc. degree in 1938, MBLS in 1941, MD in 1944 (Seth G S Medical College, Mumbai), MRCP (London) in 1946, and MS (Illinois, USA) in 1949. He was awarded the FRCP (London) in 1969 and FAMS (India) in 1978.

He had the most enviable, ex­tensive experience in the field of gastroenterology, with stalwarts in the UK and USA, and hence was one of the most well trained gas­troenterologists in the world. He worked as Clinical Assistant to Sir Francis Avery-Jones at Central Middlesex Hospital, Lon­don (1946), did a course in endoscopy at Harvard Medi­cal College, Boston (1947), worked at Postgraduate School, University of Pennsylvania under Dr H L Bockus (1948), and as United States Government Research Fellow with Dr A C Ivy at the University of Illinois (1949). Later, be attended a course in radioisotope techniques at the Uni­versity of Columbia (1958) and on fiberoptic colonoscopy at Jefferson Medical College, USA in 1974.

Dr Antia was a founder-member of the International Association for Study of Liver (ISAL; 1958), Bockus International Society of Gastroenterology (1958), Indian Society of Gastroenterology (ISG; 1959), Indian Association for Study of the Liver (INASL; 1980), and Society of Gastrointestinal Endosccpy of India (SGEI; 1980). He was also a member of the British Medical Association (1960), American Gastroenterological Association (1972), Association of Physicians of India (API; 1953), Nutrition Society of India (1966), Society of Nuclear Medicine (1967), and ICMR Expert Committee for Gastroenterology (1974). He was President of the ISG (1966), INASL (1980), and SGEI (1980), and Counsellor for Asia, IASL (1958). He was responsible for the induction of well-qualified hepatologists from India as members of the IASL.

Dr Antia was Editor of the Indian Journal of Gas­troenterology almost from the start of publication (1983) for a critical growth period of 5 years. On taking over the Journal, Framroz and his wife Pilloo - a formidable combination for hospitality - arranged a sumptuous lunch at their residence for the proprietor of the printing press for the Journal, and gave him an attractive present. What followed as quality printing for the Journal is now his­tory! Because of the Journal's high standard and regu­lar publication schedule, it was soon indexed in Excerpta Medica, Index Medicus and Medline. Further continu­ous progress of the Journal was largely due to the high standard established by Dr Antia.

He also published a book "Clini­cal Dietetics and Nutrition" (Oxford University Press) in 1966; subsequent editions were published in 1973, 1989 and 1997. I quote some of the reviews it received: "a real contribution to world medicine" (F Avery-Jones, 1966), "it deserves high praise" (British Medical Journal), "This excellent book" (The Lancet). This book provides innumerable facts in simple language, with brevity and clarity. The author's personality - fearlessly expressing his views, which may be contrary to those held by the majority - is evident in the book. He also wrote a chapter on Amebiasis in Conn's Current Therapy (1971, 1981) and on Gastrointestinal Emergencies in a book written by Vakil and Udwadia (Oxford University Press; 1972, 1975, 1989). He was the Sectional Editor (Gastroenterology) for the API Text Book of Medicine (1969, 1972, 1979, 1986, 1992). He had about 150 publi - cations to his credit; the earliest ones were on gastric secretion, with Ivy (1949) and M I Grossman (1951).

In recognition of his extensive experience in the UK and USA, Dr Antia was offered posts in several departments of gastroenterology in the US; instead, he decided to return, to develop the specialty in India. This became leis life's mission. With a donation of Rs 5000 from the Pai family, obtained by a physician Dr S S Rao, he started the first separate Department or Gastroenterology at B Y L Nair Charitable Hospital in 1954. This department later received the Shakuntala Amirchand Prize (ICMR) in 1973 and the Pfizer Amirchand Trophv (ISG) in 1978, for outstanding research work. It was recognized for the DM (Gastroenterology) and DNB degrees in 1986. Till the end, he took as much interest in the growth of this department, as he took in the well being of his daughter Leaela and son Minoo, a psychiatrist. He bequeathed Rs 300,000 to the department in his will.

Detailed history-taking, meticulous record-keeping, follow up for years, self-education with personal criti­cism, high-quality medical care with compassion, and a spirit of inquiry to do significant research are the hall­marks of this department. Patients were extensively in­vestigated but important decision-making was always based on clinical assessment. He always emphasized that a physician, a surgeon, a radiologist, a pathologist may be wrong, but the patient is always right. He was a clinician par excellence, and nothing else but the interests of his patient guided his decision-making. It was always a pleasure to watch him perform perito­neoscopy under local (and vocal) anesthesia (1955) or do a colonic polypectomy, with the most primitive in­struments.

He was a great teacher who believed that his duties ended only when his student has learnt. He would call "lazy" students on Sundays from 8 a.m. to 12 noon, and would visit them at 8 a.m. and 12 noon to ensure that they were there for the full four hours. This was the intensity with which he took the responsibility of teaching.

He was Hon. Gastroenterologist and Head of the Department at T N Medical College and B Y L Nair Charitable Hospital for 20 years, and at Tata Memorial Hospital and Parsee General Hospital for about 30 years. He was a Consulting Physician at the Radiation Medi­cine Center, Bhabha Atomic Research Center since its inception. On his retirement, no farewell function was held at any institute, as he would never agree to it.

The philosophy of his life was extreme hard work to achieve excellence in any field of activity. His record­keeping was most meticulous and a copy of any letter written 20 years back can be traced within 5 minutes in his office, ably manned by his roost loyal, limited staff (Mr Marian D'Souza and Mrs Meena Gajjar).

His other main character was the help he would extend to any deserving individual or cause, without expecting anything in return. This aspect was amply visible when any colleague was ill - he would invariably visit him daily. One incident that took place in 1963, when I was his non-resident registrar, needs to be mentioned. A pyelography was to be performed on me by one of his radiologist friends, at 6.00 a.m. The radi­ologist and I reached at 6.00 a.m., but Dr Antia had reached there 5 minutes earlier. In contrast, when Dr Antia was admitted to the hospital, he insisted on total secrecy, to ensure that no one was troubled to visit him. His quality of frankness, to say even the most unpleas­ant thing to his colleagues, was obvious even during his terminal illness. Anyone who visited him was re­quested not to come again to enquire about his illness.

He was a strict disciplinarian with a serious exte­rior, but was a large-hearted human with an abundant subtle sense of humor. According to him, one of the greatest scientists in the US, M I Grossman, was such a great doubter that he named him "Am I Grossman?". He often quoted a Gujarati proverb that said that the best profession is farming, the next is service and, if you are not fit for anything, become a doctor! One of the most hilarious writings I have seen, titled "Why Worry?", is hung in the patients' waiting room in his office.

Dr Antia's determination to develop the specialty of gastroenterology on returning to India, his far-sighted vision to start the first separate Department of Gastro­enterology in Mumbai, his development of subspecialties such as hepatology and endoscopy, his contribution in training young gastroenterologists, his research activi­ties, the editorship of the Journal, and publishing his book on dietetics, provide ample proof of his unparallel contribution to the specialty of gastroenterology.

Though Dr Antia is no more with us, this era did not end on October 19, 2003. Several gastroenterolo­gists from India, who have come in contact with this great gastroenterologist and fine, though unconven­tional, human being, will continue to follow the path shown by him. Dr Antia's rich legacy of hard work, honesty, humor, helping others, and hating hypocrisy will remain amongst us for a long, long time.

Good-bye, my respected guru.

H G Desai

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