Lives of the fellows

Nehkant Hamermall Rathod

b.1 July 1919 d.5 June 2007
MB BS Bombay(1948) DPM(1956) MRCP(1963) MRCPsych(1971) FRCPsych(1973) FRCP(1978)

Nehkant Hamermall Rathod, known as ‘Raj’, was a consultant psychiatrist who had a powerful interest in the problems of dependency and addiction to alcohol and drugs, and devoted the greater part of his professional life to the study and research of this field, achieving recognition and distinction at an international level. His work was mainly carried out in various hospitals in West Sussex.

He was born and grew up in Poona, India, the son of Hamermall Rajmall Rathod, a merchant, and attended local schools. His medical training was at Bombay University, initially at the B J Medical School and later at the Grant Medical College. He opted for the shorter course, leading to a licentiate qualification, because of his very restricted financial situation. He later qualified MB BS.

In 1946 he obtained a two-year scholarship at the Grant Medical College in Bombay and carried out a research programme on disturbances of liver function in patients with chronic diarrhoea. He was very struck by the psychological disturbances evident in these patients and to expand his knowledge and understanding attended a psychotherapy clinic. His interest in psychological medicine deepened and it was suggested he should go to the UK and undergo formal training in psychiatry at the Maudsley Hospital in London.

With generous help from friends and colleagues, he went to London in 1953 and enrolled as an unpaid clinical assistant at the Maudsley Hospital. Realising he could only continue his training if he obtained a paid post, he discussed his anxieties with the dean, D L Davies [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.139], who was supportive and sympathetic. On his advice he applied for and obtained a registrar post and went on to complete his training.

Between 1958 and 1963 he was in charge of a unit at Warlingham Park Hospital for the treatment of alcoholism and that was the beginning of his fascination with the problems of substance abuse and where he wrote his first paper on the subject.

He was appointed as a consultant in 1963 at Graylingwell Hospital in Chichester. He continued his special interest in alcoholism and also established a psychiatric day hospital, St Christopher’s, in Horsham, one of the earliest in the country. Following a reorganisation in 1968, he was based at Roffey Park Hospital and later at Crawley and Horsham hospitals.

An interview with a patient in Brixton prison led to him discovering the existence of a group of heroin injectors in the town of Crawley, the first time such an epidemic had been identified outside London. This group was closely studied by Rathod (together with Richard de Alarcon and Ian Thompson in the early years). The studies suggested the pattern of abuse was transmitted from one person to another on the basis of friendships and social contacts, a process Rathod likened to contagion. These patients were offered treatment in the form of psychotherapy and support as out-patients; they were not offered substitution medication, something which Rathod strongly believed was wrong and illogical. He followed up this group for 33 years and last reported on them in 2005.

He published numerous papers not only relating to this group, but other issues in the field of addiction and substance abuse.

The World Health Organization appointed him to represent the UK on a special study group in Geneva in 1970 and 1971, and also to undertake a visit to India and to report on the matter of research into the use of cannabis in India. In later years he made numerous visits to various African countries to advise on the training of professional and voluntary groups.

In the late 1970s he was secretary of the Society for the Study of Addiction over a period of five years. One of his happiest recollections of that time was the acceptance of the presidency of the Society by D L Davies (previously the dean of the Institute of Psychiatry). Rathod had never forgotten the help given him by Davies at the beginning of his career.

After retiring from his hospital post, he worked with the Mental Health Review Tribunal for several years. He continued his writing until the last weeks of his life, latterly as co-author of a book with Mary Addenbrooke entitled Recovering from addiction (awaiting publication).

In his private life he took an active part in the social and charitable activities of his community and was a loyal and generous friend.

He married Usha Emma née Zimmerman in 1954 and they had two sons and a daughter, Pushpa.

A L Parker

[Psychiatric Bulletin (2008) 32:37]

(Volume XII, page web)

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