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Indian American plans to document ayurveda

Indian American S. Jayasankar, head of 200-year-old Boston Library feels he is destined to create a collection on the history of medicine including ayurveda.

india Updated: Jan 08, 2004 20:03 IST

S. Jayasankar, the new Indian American head of the 200-year-old Boston Medical Library, feels he is destined to create a collection on the history of medicine in India, especially ayurveda, in the institution.

"I believe it is my tryst with destiny, to borrow from prime minister (Jawaharlal) Nehru, to create a collection on the history of medicine in India," said Jayasankar, who as a student used the library for his own research.

"The library has a vast collection of historical medical artefacts. One of the few things missing in the library's collection is Eastern medicine and particularly ayurveda," he said, something he is going to remedy.

"The Boston Medical Library, rich as it is in the history of medicine in Boston, America and the Western world, has little on the history of one of the most ancient yet living systems of medicine and surgery, ayurveda."

The trustees of the famous library, home to one of the richest collections of rare and historic books, manuscripts and medical memorabilia and a Mecca for researchers across the globe, elected Jayasankar as president late last year.

"We are delighted to have him as president. He's only been in office for a short period of time and already he has the group thinking strategically," said Judith Messerle, director of Countway Library which along with the Boston Medical Library is part of the Harvard library system.

There are 27 board members of the library and they meet every other month, Messerle said adding that the library "is an amazing organisation and the contributions from it are quite incredible because the physicians who travelled extensively around the world donated materials to it."

The Boston Medical Library's collection of 700,000 volumes includes 250,000 rare books, most being pre-1920 imprints. The library also boasts of over 30,000 paintings and prints some of which are precious historical pieces.

"I have to arrange for a bicentennial celebration in 2005 during my three-year term," Jayasankar said.

One of the leading collections in the world on the history of health care and medicine was created when the Boston Medical Library and the Harvard Medical Library merged in 1960 to become the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

It houses one of the largest medical collections in the world under one roof as also the editorial offices of the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

The other two libraries connected to the Boston Medical Library are the Warrne Museum and the Countway Library.

"I was awed by and enamoured of the Countway Library when I first started using it as a resident in training in 1968, and 'living' there some times, but never dreamt of serving as a trustee, let alone heading the Boston Medical Library as its president," Jayasankar said.

"I am not sure when I will get over the disbelief of being honoured by the invitation to lead this great institution or overcome the trepidation at the thought of the responsibility and of the giants that have preceded me."

Jayasankar is chair of the American Medical Association's International Medical Graduates Section, which represents an estimated 180,000 IMG physicians in the US. He also represents the Massachusetts Medical Society at the association.

First Published: Jan 08, 2004 20:03 IST