An eminent Indian origin woman physician has taken over as president of the British Medical Association (BMA).
Parveen Kumar, gastroenterologist and a practising physician, quoted from poet laureate Rabindranath Tagore's "Gitanjali", "Where the mind is without fear..." during the function to take over office.
Kumar, who was born in India, is also a professor at Barts, Royal London and the Homerton Hospitals and has a distinguished academic career. She worked in the National Health Service for nearly 40 years.
Kumar succeeds Dame Deirdre Hine as the BMA president.
Kumar has published widely on small bowel disorders, particularly celiac disease, and taught successive groups of medical student at Barts and The London, Queen Mary School of Medicine and Dentistry, University of London.
4Her ethos of accessible and fun learning has been passed on beyond her own classroom through her textbook, "Clinical Medicine", (co-authored with Michael Clarke), which has now become a standard source for medical students and doctors across the world.
In 2000, Kumar was awarded CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for services to medicine having become the first Asian Woman of the Year (Professional) in 1999.
On her appointment to the post at BMA's annual conference in Belfast last week, she said: "I am delighted and honoured to have been appointed president of the BMA for the coming year. I have a background of 40 uninterrupted years working for the NHS and I have loved every minute of it."
She dwelt on several key issues facing the medical profession in Britain, including education and training of junior doctors.
"(It) is predicted that next year, thousands of junior doctors will have no jobs - a huge waste of talent and also public money in training these young doctors. For the first time we are seeing unemployment in our medical profession and this may also get worse with more doctors coming from the European Union," she said.
Striking a personal note, Kumar said: "I came to this country with my family as an immigrant from a country without a free health service. I have been here now for the greater part of my life and have been most fortunate in having had the opportunity, the encouragement and the training, to serve the NHS.
"I have travelled much over the last few years - teaching, examining, advising, lecturing and, of course, learning. Every time I return, I am even more convinced that the NHS is a good model of care... I believe that the British health service is the best system in the world and the envy of many abroad."
Kumar concluded her presentation by dedicating Tagore's poem as a celebration to the courage of the people of Belfast, and also, "as a hope for all those in countries undergoing strife, wars and victimisation, where many of our profession are caring for the sick with great professionalism and absolute impartiality."
She said: "Please listen to these words - they are very powerful: 'Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high/Where knowledge is free/Where the world has not been broken up into fragments/ By narrow domestic walls/ Where words come out from the depth of truth/ Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection/ Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert of dead habit..../Into that heaven of freedom, my father, let my country awake'."