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Remembering the Father of Integrative Medicine

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OOctober 19 marks the first birthday of one of the pioneering medical oncologists of our time – Professor Dr CP Mathew, who died in a harness, at the ripe old age of 92. One of India’s pioneer oncologists, it was he who started the oncology program in the state of Kerala and served as a professor of oncology in all three medical colleges in the state. But what makes him a world figure is the fact that he was perhaps the first physician/oncologist in the world to practice integrative medicine seriously, and with great success. Integrative medicine can be defined as health care that uses all appropriate therapeutic approaches, conventional and unconventional, within a framework that focuses on health, the therapeutic relationship, and the whole person. Professor Dr CP Mathew has done just that for over four decades and eminently qualifies to be declared the father of integrative medicine.

For forty-four years, from his retirement from public service until his death in 2021, Professor Dr CP Mathew has practiced integrative oncology combining the best of modern medicine, from the Siddha system of medicine and Ayurveda, to the great benefit of patients. Most of the patients who approached him were terminal cancer patients who had been sent home from renowned cancer centers because they had nothing left to offer curatively. At the request of countless patients who still live today, thanks to such an integrative approach, an event to commemorate and celebrate the life of Professor Dr. CP Mathew and to urge the medical fraternity to continue his good work, was held at Cheriyan Ashram, Kottayam, where he practiced Integrative Medicine so successfully.

The Siddha Medical Association of India took the initiative and a national seminar on integrative oncology was organized a few days ago where Dr. Sabu Thomas, Vice Chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University of Kerala spoke about the essential holistic approach practiced by Dr. CP Mathew whom he greatly admired. In fact, MG University is going to institute a chair in holistic medicine in memory of Dr. CP Mathew. Professor of Radiology, Dr Sudheer, now with Lakeshore Hospitals, who had direct experience of the period work of Dr CP Mathew shared his insights and urged his modern medical colleagues to study the protocols followed by Dr. CP Mathew like so many of the doomed patients had survived to tell their story. Hearing the testimonies of terminal cancer patients who had not only survived but literally thrived thanks to integrative medicine was an eye opener for many of the approximately 150 people in attendance; the proof of the pudding is, after all, in the eating. The Minister, AYUSH, Satbananda Sonowal in his message urged oncologists of all streams, modern and traditional, to study and research the legacy of 4000 bizarre detailed case studies left by Dr. CP Mathew.

The last 44 years of Dr CP Mathew’s life after retirement are a fascinating story of scientific curiosity, willingness to think outside the box, courage to take the road less traveled in the face of opposition and ridicule, a humble perseverance and resultant in-depth study in the development of integrative oncology protocols that have breathed new life into terminal cancer patients everyone had given up on.

How did it all happen? It could make for an Oscar-winning movie! When he was head of oncology at Kottayam Medical College, he heard that a terminally ill patient, whom he had discharged so that he could spend his last days at home and have a peaceful end, was not only alive but well months later! Dr. CP Mathew, instead of dismissing it as “impossible” as modern doctors do, found out the patient’s address and went to see him. He was amazed to find that the patient he had sent home to die was now healthy! He was told that the miraculous turnaround happened thanks to a ‘Siddha drug’ dispensed by a wandering ‘Lada Vaidyan’ – a wandering charlatan with modern, unremarkable medical eyes.

But Dr. CP Mathew was different. He was curious to learn the truth; and decided to somehow trace the ‘Lada Vaidyan, and find him – when two months later, around midnight, a phone call came that the Vaidyan was making a house call at the home of ‘ another patient. Dr. CP Mathew jumped into his car and drove to the address given. The Vaidyan was rather reserved and discreet and was not ready to come to the Medical College to allow research on Siddha medicine. In fact, he was leaving the next day for Tamil Nadu. Dr. CP Mathew, senior professor of oncology in the state and deputy director of Kottayam Medical College at the time, humbly asked the Vaidyan to accept him as an understudy. He quickly arranged to leave and soon ‘Chela’ and the ‘Guru’ were on their way on the Siddha track.

They went by bus and train and on foot; often trekking in forest areas collecting herbs. Dr. CP Mathew found that patients ‘treated’ with the Vaidyan, some of whom he said had a clinical history of cancer, did well on the drug Siddha. The Vaidyan was not candid about the constituents of the “medicine”, but gave a sample to Dr Mathew. Carrying the precious sample, Dr. Mathew returned. He then researched and contacted Siddha doctors in Kerala and Tamil Nadu and discovered that the sample was indeed a Siddha preparation used to treat cancers. Dr. Mathew then began a serious lifelong study of the Siddha system of medicine as well as Ayurveda. In fact, he became so proficient in both systems that he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award by both the National Siddha Institute and the Rashtriya Ayurveda Vidya Peeth.

Unfortunately, in Dr. Mathew’s time, the modern medical university in his own state of Kerala refused to even look at the protocols followed and the significant results he published, with such an integrative approach to oncology; because of their “allergy” to traditional Indian medicine! The reason is the colonial hangover. Historically, when modern medical education began in India in 1820, it was integrative medicine that was taught, with Ayurveda, Sanskrit, Unani and Arabic also being taught, in addition to Western medicine. . But the wily Macaulay came in in 1835 and everything changed. His main aim was to create a rung of second-class Indians, who would admire all things British and despise their own heritage; literally, being brainwashed by the leaders’ minions. On the medical education front, it therefore prohibited the teaching of “native” systems of medicine and even “native” languages ​​and imprinted the idea that anything Indian was “inferior” and “unscientific”. and should be avoided. Macaulay definitely succeeded; even 75 years after independence, most modern medical universities in India have a colonized mindset!

Dr. CP Mathew was a physician far ahead of his time. Today, integrative medicine is the “In Thing” in the West; with even an American Boards certified course in integrative/integrated medicine. The world today has realized the value of traditional medicine systems and the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the benefits of traditional medicines. For example, clinical experience, as well as research, has proven that the Siddha Remedy, Kaba Sura Kudineer, can not only prevent but aid in successful treatment of COVID, as it has the ability to prevent/reduce the deadly storm of cytokines. The Tamil Nadu government has successfully used an integrative medical approach to contain the pandemic. Likewise, evidence is accumulating that Ayurvedic and siddha principles of antioxidant-rich diets and herbs prevent mitochondrial damage-mediated cancer processes. In Ayurveda, “Agni” (fire/thermal energy) is the term used to describe the mitochondria, which are in effect the powerhouses of the cell. Agastyar, the great Siddha physician, spoke millennia ago of Mimosa Pudica as being effective in the treatment of cancer; today, research shows that flavonoids from mimosa pudica are indeed the most cytotoxic to breast cancer cell lines. Dr. CP Mathew who studied the ancient texts used all this knowledge to the great benefit of his patients.

Two international conferences on the future of medical education (ICFME 2021 and 2022) had entire sections dedicated to the need to promote integrative medicine. Nothing stops an idea whose time has come. Despite the indifference and opposition of their peers during their lifetime, the next generation was open-minded; and the legacy of meticulous patient records left by Dr. CP Mathew is a treasure trove for any aspiring oncologist seeking a PhD. on. Around the last five years of his life, Dr. Mathew developed vision problems. So Mrs. Jasmine, the administrator of the Cherian Ashram holistic center where he treated patients, became his secretary. She followed him like a shadow, reading patient reports, writing prescriptions for him, and keeping meticulous records according to his instructions. She says her protocol was to use Siddha and Ayurveda to complement chemotherapy and radiotherapy. The advantage was that with such an approach, most patients could switch to maintenance treatment with Siddha and Ayurvedic drugs alone; and the side effect profile was much milder. He has also successfully used the discipline of food, pranayama, yoga, and meditation that traditional systems of medicine employ, in addition to drugs. Today, leading cancer treatment centers in the West, such as Sloan Kettering, Roswell Cancer Center and others, are following in Dr. CP Mathew’s footsteps.

It is hoped that the new generation of modern medical oncologists in India will rise to the challenge; for it is their privilege to carry forward the invaluable legacy of integrative oncology left by Professor Dr CP Mathew. Moreover, they can be proud of the fact that it is their Teacher of Teachers, who is rightly honored, as the Father of Integrative Medicine.

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