Prof N. N. Wig……..the “Living Legend” of Indian Psychiatry…. passes away
Chandigarh, July 13, 2018: Professor NN Wig was, in the true sense of the word a “living legend” of Indian Psychiatry. The Department of Psychiatry at the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh owes its existence to him and his vision continues to guide the staff and students. He single-handedly brought the Department into being in 1963 and he continued to be intimately associated with the Department and the PGIMER as one of its Emeritus Professors till 12th July 2018, when he passed away after a brief illness at PGIMER, Chandigarh. He was born on 1st October 1930 in the West Punjab district of Gujranwala.
Professor Wig completed his MBBS from KG Medical College, Lucknow in 1953 and MD Medicine from Lucknow University in 1957. He pursued his interest in psychiatry by training at the All India Institute of Mental Health (now NIMHANS), Bangalore. On his return, he joined the Medical College at Lucknow as a lecturer in neuropsychiatry. It is here that he started the first general hospital psychiatry unit in India. For two years (1961-62) he was on a Rockefeller Foundation Fellowship and received training at the Maudsley Hospital, Institute of Psychiatry, London and the Western Psychiatric Institute, Pittsburgh, U.S.A. He completed the Diploma in Psychological Medicine both from England and Scotland during this period.
Dr. Wig joined the PGIMER in 1963 and headed the Department till 1980. Following this he was the Head of the Department of Psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. From 1984 till 1990 he was the Regional Advisor for Mental Health at the Regional office of the Eastern Mediterranean (EMRO) of the World Health Organisation at Alexandria, Egypt. In this capacity, he contributed to the development of mental health programmes of 22 countries in the region.
Under his able leadership the Department of Psychiatry, PGIMER established itself as one of the leading training and research centres in the country. Its reputation was enhanced in 1976 when the WHO designated it as a “WHO Collaborating Centre for Mental Health,” the first such centre in Asia to be accorded this honour. A number of multi-centric WHO research projects followed, the most notable among them being the “Strategies for Extending Mental Health Services to Developing Countries” and the “Determinants of Outcome of Severe
Mental Disorder (DOSMed)”. The community mental health programme started in Raipur Rani, District Ambala, Haryana, as a part of these projects eventually provided the model for the National Mental Health Programme in India and inspired similar programmes in other developing countries.
Prof. Wig’s research has been pioneering in a number of ways. Firstly, he was the first Psychiatrist to focus on the understanding of course of mental disorders in India. Secondly, he led a number of multidisciplinary studies in consultation liaison psychiatry with the Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Nephrology, Paediatrics, Neurology etc. Thirdly, he contributed to the classification of psychiatric disorders in India and at the International level. The continuing leadership of the Department in the above areas is a reflection of his futuristic approach to the research work.
Beyond the ambit of the department Dr Wig contributed immensely to the development of psychiatry in India. He was the Hon. General Secretary of the Indian Psychiatric Society from 1968-1973. He made seminal contributions to research in the area of nosology, culture bound syndromes, course and outcome of psychoses, psychotherapy and psychology.
His contributions to international psychiatry have been remarkable. Apart from his role as a Regional Advisor for Mental Health of the EMRO-WHO, he had been a member of the WHO Advisory Panel on Mental Health and a member of the Steering Committee of the World Psychiatric Association’s International Programme to reduce stigma and discrimination due to mental illness.
Professor Wig had many honours to his name, which are too numerous to count though two of them particularly stand out. One was the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, a rare honour indeed, and the other was naming of a unit after his name at the Fountain House Psychiatric Centre at Lahore.
Finally, above and beyond his distinguished career what is noteworthy is the great reverence, respect and love that he evokes in all those who knew him, including his well known students. His students have headed or heading many departments of psychiatry in the different parts of India and abroad, and national and international health organizations and professional societies.
This, more than anything else, is what made him a true “Living Legend”.