Annals of Indian Academy of Neurology
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Table of Contents
Year : 2011  |  Volume : 14  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 228-229

Dr. Shyamal Kumar Sen

President IAN 2005-2006, India

Date of Web Publication11-Oct-2011

Correspondence Address:
Ambar Chakravarty
1E 1202 Avishikta, 11, Kolkata - 700 078
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How to cite this article:
Chakravarty A. Dr. Shyamal Kumar Sen. Ann Indian Acad Neurol 2011;14:228-9

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Chakravarty A. Dr. Shyamal Kumar Sen. Ann Indian Acad Neurol [serial online] 2011 [cited 2021 Sep 22];14:228-9. Available from:

A legend in the field of Neurology in India and the pioneer (in the true sense of the term) of neurology teaching, training and research in Eastern India, Dr. Shyamal Kumar Sen passed away on 19 June 2011. He was 89 years old at the time of his death. Born on 1 April 1922 in the district of Bankura in West Bengal, Dr. Sen graduated from Medical College Calcutta in 1945. He had a brilliant academic career and was much inspired by such giants in the field of medicine in Calcutta like Drs. M N De, J C Banerjea and Sailen Sen.

Dr. Sen started his teaching career as a tutor in physiology at his alma mater and later shifted to the Department of Pathology. He was so engrossed in studying human pathology that at one stage he even contemplated taking up pathology as a career and started working for a PhD under the supervision of the then departmental head Dr. B P Trivedi. Soon, however, a change prevailed and he shifted to the Department of Medicine to work for his MD thesis on Pulmonary Eosinophilia. He passed his MD examination at the University of Calcutta in 1960 and joined as a Resident Physician in the hospital - a very responsible and prestigious post in those days . It was the late Dr. J C Banerjea who inspired him to specialize in neurology, and he sailed for the UK. He passed the MRCP (Edinburg) examination with a special paper in neurology. Dr. Anupam Dasgupta, a still practicing very senior neurologist of Calcutta, was working with Dr. John Simpson at that time in Edinburg. Dr. Sen joined the National Hospital, Queen Square, London, as a clinical clerk and as he used to often ruminate, he was first shown round the Institute by Dr. B S Singhal who was working then as a House Officer. At the National, he received training under such luminaries like Drs. Purdon Martin, John Marshall, Gordon Holmes, Roger Gilliat and Mcdonald Critchley. From the National, Dr. Sen moved to the Maida Velle (a hospital non-existent now) and London Hospital to work with the great Lord Russel Brain. Dr. N H Wadia left for India a little earlier after working with Lord Brain. It was here that he truly received his neurology mentorship, although Lord Brain's physical appearance was at variance with Dr. Sen's conceived dream of a really knowledgeable British teacher (as he often used to say jokingly to his close circle of students)! He received training in Clinical Neurophysiology and often used to talk about his association with the late Dr. K S Mani at that stage. Later, Dr. Sen, moved to Birmingham to work with Edwin Bickerstaff. He made arrangements to proceed to the USA to work with Dr. Denny Brown but could not do so as he was called back to India to join duty by the Government. Returning to Medical College Hospital, he soon established the Department of Neurology which in those earlier days worked as a Combined Department of Medicine and Neurology. For a long time, Dr. Sen was somewhat reluctant to leave dealings with general medical patients, although in his private practice, he only used to see patients with neurological illnesses. Later, he became the Professor and Head of both the departments. For a brief period in the late 1970s, he was directed by the government to take the charge of the Department of Neurology at the Institute of Post Graduate Medical Education and Research and Bangur Institute of Neurology, where he started active teaching and training of DM Neurology residents. Dr. Sen however faced differences with the Government regarding policy matters and left Governmental services. In 1979, he joined the Vivekananda Institute of Medical Sciences and established the Department of Neurology there. The present biographer joined him at VIMS on his return from UK in 1982. The department gradually flourished and the biographer fondly recollects Dr. Sen's meticulous planning ideas, when the department was shifted to a new block. In 1985, he was appointed the Dean of VIMS, a post he held till 1999. It was a time when his administrative skills were at the peak. It was astonishing how he coordinated teaching and training in over a dozen departments of the institute and continuously fought (literally!) with the university to have more post-graduate students posted in the Institute for training. Unfortunately, this colorful career came to a close (virtually) in 2003, when he had his first stroke and was left with marked expressive dysphasia. His zeal to interact with people and remain in touch with his students and with his subject could not be suppressed by his neurological disability. Until a few months prior to his death, he regularly used to attend most neurological meetings held in the city, of course driven in a wheel chair and being unable to communicate properly, but his comprehension was good.

Dr. Sen's legacy would last long as a superb bedside teacher and clinician. Generations of students would cherish his image standing at the patients' bedside, dressed in his immaculate white suit and shiny patent leather shoes, attentively listening to the patients' story and analyzing the symptoms with differential diagnoses at every step and then his legendary examination techniques, which are still copied by many of his pupils. It was truly British practice of bedside neurology, as the present author later found out during his own training days in the UK. Still ringing in the ears are some of Dr. Sen's famous quotes - "if you are unable to make a clinical diagnosis by the time you have put your pen down, you would never be able to make it even after a full examination" - or his warning - "never parade your ignorance before an examiner."

He was extremely caring and serious about his patients and would visit the hospital anytime during the day or night if he was unhappy with any patient's condition.

No doubt he had been tough and a task master as a supervisor, but his genuine love and caring attitude toward his residents had always been evident. Residents used to always be on their toes and somewhat apprehensive but, at the same time, enjoyed his company and respected him. He had been a master administrator, which was much evident while he had been the Dean of VIMS, and this had already been mentioned.

Beyond all these, he had a very different facet in his life. He was a deeply religious man, baptized at an early age by Swami Avedananda (a direct disciple of Sri Sri Ramakrishna) and had extensive knowledge of ancient Hindu scriptures and the Vedantic philosophy. At the same time, his depth of knowledge in music and literature was immense. He could quote lines after lines from the Gita or Upanishad or even Tagore or Shakespeare, totally in context of the subject he was talking about. He even had a diploma in Sanskrit while still a medical student. His organizational powers had been superb. He had been the key person to found the West Bengal Branch of Association of Physicians of India (API) and also the Association of Neuroscientists of Eastern India (ANEI). He was President of API in 1985 and President of NSI in 1988 - a rare feat indeed! Dr. Sen had been a lifelong bachelor. In his death, he left behind his mourning brothers and sisters and hundreds of beloved students who would always cherish the memories of being taught and trained by him.

May his soul rest in peace.


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