September 11, 2014

Permanente physician’s productive visit to India

Dr. James Flett at Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek, circa 1963.

Kaiser Permanente’s “Dispatches From” blog showcases the commitment of our physicians and staff to serving disadvantaged populations overseas, allowing caregivers to share their thoughts and observations with those back home. Basketball court building in Peru, surgery in Vietnam, gynecology in Kenya – all highlight the passion and compassion that defines the health care community.

But those roots run deep, and service abroad is not just a recent phenomenon. One example was Dr. James Flett, a KP Walnut Creek pediatrician. Imagine a time machine churning out this article from the staff newsletter KP Reporter from October, 1963 as a “Dispatches From”:

“India Borrows Doctor”

Dr. James Flett has gone to India.

For the next two years the former chief of pediatrics at Walnut Creek will be teaching men and women at the University of Bombay School of Medicine the arts of protecting children's health.

For some years the World Health Organization has been helping medical schools to develop, or improve, special departments for pediatrics. As Visiting Professor of Social Pediatrics, Dr. Flett's objective will be to train young physicians in a preventive approach to child health.

The social pediatrician does not, for instance, hospitalize a child for severe protein malnutrition and simply discharge him when he is in good condition. He inquires also into the home situation, teaches the parents something about nutrition, and attempts to prevent a return of the child's disease.

Part of Dr. Flett's Indian assignment will be to direct outpatient treatment centers, where medical students will have an opportunity to see patients with moderate illness, since those hospitalized are usually very extreme cases.

But, like all good stories, it didn’t end there.

Tragically, Dr. Flett was killed in a car accident in 1966, and his widow gave an endowment in his name to the Indian Academy of Pediatrics for the best research paper on Social and Preventive Pediatrics presented during their annual conference. The Indian medical community deeply appreciated Dr. Flett; in 2005 Dr. Bharat R. Agarwal, Hon. Secretary General of the IAP, noted that “[Dr. Flett] helped to upgrade pediatrics in Bombay by increasing collaboration between the three [major] medical colleges.”