Book Review: Accidental Psychiatrist-
The Healing Power of Compassion

Reviewed by Dr. Panchajanya Paul, MD

Author: Bob Kamath, MD
Paperback: 274 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Date Published: (December 20, 2016)
Language: English

United States attract thousands of doctors from India and around the world every year. Many Indian doctors after completing their MBBS degree come to US for higher studies and pursue the American dream. One of them was Dr. Prabhakar Kamath who came to US in July 1970 and joined the Elmhurst General Hospital as a rotating intern. His plan was to train in Internal medicine and eventually become a cardiologist, and then go back to India. But, 20 years later, he became the most successful private psychiatrist in the city of Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The book Accidental Psychiatrist which is partly autobiographical, and partly self-help narrates the story of his life. "In this book I hope to reveal to readers the healing power of compassion, while giving them a glimpse into my life as a psychiatrist in America. Over the past few decades, the medical profession has gradually changed from noble profession that healed people into a business that treated disorders. I hope to give evidence to the fact that compassion is an essential part of healing people and it is time the medical profession integrates compassion in treating sick people "Dr. Kamath writes.
K.P.S. "Bob" Kamath practiced psychiatry for 39 years before retiring in 2010. He has treated thousands of patients during that time. After completing one year of internship at Elmhurst General Hospital in New York (1970-71), he trained in psychiatry at Connecticut Valley Hospital/Yale University program (1971-74). After working as a staff psychiatrist at Arden Hill Hospital, Goshen New York for three years (1974-77), he worked as the Medical Director of St. Francis Mental Health Center in Cape Girardeau, Missouri (1977-80), and then as Chief of Medical Staff at Farmington State Hospital, Farmington, MO (81-82). In 1982, he established a private practice in Cape Girardeau, MO. He retired in 2010.

Accidental psychiatrist recounts Dr. Kamath's experiences as a physician in America from 1970 till his retirement in 2010. This is continuation of his earlier book - "Is your balloon about to pop - Owner's manual for the Stressed Mind" published in 2007 for the benefit of his private clients. This book is autobiographical. It provides for the first time a candid insight into the personal life of Dr. Kamath. He narrates his personal struggles which he had to overcome, and how they shaped his life. It begins when he was six years of age, living in a four story apartment in Mumbai with parents. He was regularly bullied by bigger boys will not let him enter his home and stand at the gate. He had no one for help, and he vowed never to be helpless again. He joined the local gym and became strong. He promised never to let anyone bully him again. He learned early that the only way to deal with a bully is to fight back. He got into numerous fights with older and stronger boys in high school and college, but stayed true to his mantra "Zero tolerance for bullies" at all costs. This theme emerged repeatedly in his life. Whenever faced with injustice, unfairness and abuse, he fought back the person, the system, and organization - no matter how big it was. Even as a trainee in his early carrier, he spoke out against the poor standards of teaching and treatment at numerous instances. He worked hard to bring the changes in the two hospitals where he worked. Even in his private practice- when the Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO), Medicare, other companies tried to bully him in dictating their terms- he stopped accepting all insurances. He lost over half of his income in the process but he maintained his freedom to give the best treatment to his patients.

The book narrates all the trials and tribulations in his personal life as well as his professional life. "In this book I hope to reveal to the readers the healing power of compassion, while giving them a glimpse into my life as a psychiatrist in America. Writing this book has been a difficult endeavor as I had to relieve some painful emotions related to long forgotten traumatic events," he writes. He shares the struggles in his personal life, and how he overcomes them, and what he learned in the process. He also speaks out against the over medicalization of the American health care system. He explains how as an intern in Elmhurst hospital in 1970, he was shocked by the lack of empathy and compassion in the American health care. He personally became victim of the impersonal medicine when his newborn son developed birth complications because of wrong treatment. He realized his personality and temperament does not suit internal medicine. Despite getting good job offers, he switched his specialty and enrolled in psychiatry. Psychiatry as a specialty satisfied his desire to form deep and meaningful connection with his patients, and treat them with compassion.

He completed his psychiatric training, and worked in successfully in two hospitals. He had a handsome salary, a house and was living the American dream. But after two years, Dr. Kamath felt an irresistible pull to return to India and fight the corruption. He was discouraged by his family and friends who thought it fool hearted. However, he could not ignore the call of his motherland. He prepared himself by reading Gandhi and the civil rights movement. His plans were to settle down in India and uproot corruption. He started a consumer movement in Udupi in 1980 based on Gandhian principles and methods. He trained other activists on the root causes of culture of corruption in the government, strategies and tactics to deal with corrupt government officials, and how to break the mental blocks of people. He taught people that all changes first begin within. Unless the activist tames his own inner weaknesses, he is not likely to succeed in tacking the weaknesses of the society. He has lived his life as per the Gandhian principles "Be the change you want to see in others". He wrote a book based on his experiences. The book called "Servants not Masters" was first published in 1987 by Consumers' Forum of Udupi. It was translated in Kannada. The book -'Servants, Not Masters' was critically acclaimed by various newspapers which hailed it as 'the Bible of consumer movement' by various newspapers. The second edition was published in 2006 by 'Rashtrakavi Govinda Pai Samshodhana Kendra, MGM College, Udupi.

The book is also a self-help book. The author describes the healing power of compassion. How he noticed that as he became genuinely interested in the sufferings of his patients, they opened up to him. He analyzed thousands of clients and came up with a novel model of stress management. The details of them were described in his book -"Is Your Balloon About To Pop? Owner's Manual for the Stressed Mind". In Accidental psychiatrist - there are four chapters which talks about the harmful effects of stress and how to manage them effectively. Dr.kamath sans all jargons and technicalities and uses a simple model of mind using the metaphor of a balloon and a soda pump to illustrate how stresses work. The book is an essential guide to all those who are looking for stress management coping skills. Accidental Psychiatrist is also must read for all budding psychiatrists and psychologists. It offers valuable insights on how to lead a medical facility as the author recounts his success in reviving a failing hospital as the medical director. It also provides practical wisdom on running a private practice, in a time when many private practitioners are feeling pressurized by the managed care health companies. It is an inspirational book by a man with an indomitable spirit and originality.

Following retirement, Dr. Kamath has remained active in the Cape Girardeau community in Missouri. He has, and continues to write for several websites and news magazines. He was a regular contributor to the Indian organization for the rationalists- Nirmukta. He had held numerous seminars on stress and stress related disorders to increase awareness on mental health. He has, and continues to write books with original ideas which are available in Amazon. His life motto, which is also hung on his wall, summarizes his life and work. It is a quote by William Penn: "I expect to pass through life but once. If therefore, there be any kindness I can show, or any good thing I can do to any fellow being, let me do it now, and not defer or neglect it, as I shall not pass this way again."

Links to all Books by Dr. Kamath:

1. Accidental Psychiatrist: The Healing Power of Compassion :
2. Servants, Not masters :
3. Is Your Balloon About To Pop?: Owner's Manual for the Stressed Mind :
4. Ashoka's Song In The Bhagavad Gita: The Untold Story of Ashoka's Edicts :
5. The Untold Story of the Bhagavad Gita: Revealing the True Intent and Spirit of The Bhagavad Gita in its Historical Context : Historical/dp/1481996355/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1496851807&sr=1-2


Dr. Panchajanya 'Panch' Paul, MD, ABIHM, ABPN, FAPA - is an American Board certified - Child, Adolescent, and Adult Psychiatrist. He is a diplomat of the American Board of Integrative and Holistic Medicine, and a Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He holds an adjunct faculty position at Emory University School of Medicine; University of Georgia, and University of Central Florida School of Medicine. Call 7704541252 or email to schedule an appointment with Dr.Paul at Georgia Behavioral Health Professionals. He is also the author of 2 books- Stress Rescue and Sleep Coaching available at Amazon.