Padma Shri for Dr. Bhimsen Singhal

By Chandrashekhar Meshram

Chandrashekhar Meshram

The Padma Awards are the highest civilian honors of India announced annually on the eve of Republic Day. They are conferred by the president of India at an investiture ceremony in New Delhi. The award recognizes public service and significant achievements across a variety of disciplines such as art, engineering, medicine, social work, literature, education, sports, and others.

This year, Dr. Bhimsen Singhal has been selected for the Padma Shri award. Dr. Singhal is one of the most respected and eminent neurologists who has contributed significantly to the growth of neurology in India over the last 60 years. Born in Mount Abu in 1933, he received his training in neurology under Prof. Noshir Wadia at Grant Medical College in Mumbai. He is currently director of neurosciences at the Bombay Hospital Institute of Medical Sciences and previously served as professor and head of the department of neurology at Grant Medical College and Sir. J. J. Group of Hospitals in Mumbai. He has trained over 200 neurologists who provide care in urban and rural areas across India.

Dr. Bhimsen Singha

Dr. Singhal is renowned for his clinical skills and compassionate care. He has conducted clinical research, authoring several book chapters and scientific articles. He is recognized for his special expertise in multiple sclerosis, myasthenia gravis, and Parkinson’s disease. He described the entity of megalencephalic leukodystrophy, especially prevalent in the Agarwal community and with international collaboration, identified its gene defect.  He has been associated with the WHO Working Groups for Parkinson’s Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. Dr. Singhal has served as regional director of the World Federation of Neurology (WFN) and has been on its various committees. He continues to be active, seeing patients daily, attending conferences, and spending much of his time on philanthropic activities.

Dr. Singhal has received several prestigious national awards, such as the Dr. BC Roy National Award, the RD Birla National Award, the Priyadarshini Academy Award, the Wockhardt Award for Medical Excellence, and the Dhanvantari Award. He has been honored with named lectureships at the WFN and the Indian Academy of Neurology conferences. The Padma Shri award is particularly special. It recognizes his clinical and academic contributions as well as public service through his non-profit national foundations, highlighted in this article.

In 1998, Dr. Singhal established the Neurology Foundation with its mission of “knowledge and care.” Assistance is provided to patients with neurological disorders through its various programs like Sahay (financial assistance for medical treatment), Upchar (rehabilitation therapies for children and adults from low socio-economic areas), Aanchal (community outreach) and Parvarish (support for professional organizations such as the Multiple Sclerosis Society of India and the Indian Epilepsy Association).  Since 1998, its highly popular biennial Neurology Update conferences have been attracting neurologists and physicians from all over India. World-renowned neurologists are specially invited to these meetings to interact and update the knowledge of the audience.

President of India conferring Padma Shri on Dr. B.S. Singhal.

In 2001, Dr. Singhal also founded the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorder Society (PDMDS)—a nonprofit charitable organization supporting and rehabilitating persons with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers. Over the years, the PDMDS has impacted the lives of thousands of persons with Parkinson’s disease. They regularly attend free sessions in 65 “support centers” spread across India. The majority of them continue to receive support throughout their lives. This PDMDS model has been acclaimed internationally as an effective model of care for developing countries.

In all these activities, Dr. Singhal has been well-supported by his family, colleagues, and grateful patients. His wife, Dr. Asha Singhal, an obstetrician and gynecologist, has devoted her life to the care of underprivileged people. His son, Dr. Aneesh Singhal, is a stroke neurologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, and his daughter Dr. Seema Singhal is a hemato-oncologist (multiple myeloma) at Northwestern University Hospital in Chicago.

Dr. Singhal richly deserves this Padma Shri award. It will undoubtedly inspire future generations of neurologists and promote the growth of neurology in India and other parts of the world. •

Chandrashekhar Meshram is a co-opted trustee of the WFN.