THE STARTING AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE PROFESSION
The name of late Mrs Kamala V Nimbker is synonymus (1900-1979) with Occupational Therapy in India, because she not only established and started the first occupational therapy center in India but also the 1st trainning center for occupational therapy in the whole of Asia at the KEM Hospital in Mumbai in 1950.
Late Mrs Nimbker whose maiden name was Miss Elizabeth Lundy was an American lady who married Shri Vishnu Nimbkar an Indian Engineer and she settled in India. She was involved with a lot of social work at Mahatma Gandhi's Sabarmati Ashram, at Ahmedabad. During her work she saw a lot of physically disabled people who could benefit from work as therapeutics for their Rahabilitation. This got her interested to go back to USA at the age of forty-five years and study occupational therapy so that she could contribute to the people of her adopted country the people of India. She came back to start the first occupational therapy center, the school of occupational therapy and then the professional establishment in India. In 1972 she was the recipient of the famous “Lasker” Award, the highest International award in the field of Rehabilitation.
Ancient records show that the pioneers of occupational therapy believed that health of individuals was influenced by use of muscle and mind together in games, exercise, handicrafts as well as in “work”.
In 2600 BC. The Chinese used physical training for the promotion of health, and used what they called medical gymnastics.
In 1000 BC. The Persians used physical training to keep their army physically fit.
In 400 BC to 347 BC. The ancient Greeks, Socrates and Plato and even Aristotle (in 340 BC) understood the relationship between physical states of mental health and felt that “Education of body must proceed that of the intellect.”
In 359 BC. Hippocrates- the father of medicine recommended that their patients exercise in the gymnasium as a means to recovering from illness.
In 100 BC. The Romans used massage, therapeutic bath and exercise for improving diseased condition.
Ancient history in our country the shastras and the vedas also record that work, i.e. “Shram:,” arts and crafts and “Yoga” exercises were recommended to maintain health and to slowly recover from the after effect of prolonged illness.
Mainly during and after the great World War II (1941-1947) to meet the demands of manpower and to help the wounded soldiers short courses in occupational therapy and rehabilitation medicine was started. In the year 1950 - immediately after the Independence from British rule occupational therapy in India was founded by Kamala V. Nimbkar she started the occupational therapy school and center at K.E.M. Hospital Mumbai. She was the first founder president of the All India Occ. Therapist Association (AIOTA) which was registered under the Bombay Public Trust Act, Bombay – 1950, E1118. It was under her presidentship that Indian AIOTA become one of the founder council members of the World Federation of Occupational Therapist in 1952 (WFOT). Here it will be appropriate to mention also that while AIOTA is a founder council member of WFOT (World Federation of Occupation Therapists), WFOT is an NGO who has an official relationship with WHO. The federation has an advisory status with the WHO regional office. The regional office of WHO South-East Asia is situated in New Delhi, India. The members of this region i.e. SEARO are Burma (now Myanmar), Bangladesh, India, Mangolia, Nepal, Indonasia, Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand and the Maldives - ten countries in all. The regional committee meetings are held in New Delhi every other year. In the intervening years the meetings were held by turn in other countries. The WHO works with these countries through their representatives in the respective ministries of health. The NGO representatives e.g. here the WFOT regional representative was also expected to be present at these meetings. Mrs. Kamla Nimbkar was selected to represent WFOT to the WHO SEA region. She attended almost all these meetings till 1976-77, when due to health she could no longer travel freely. Then in consultation with and the AIOTA presidents approval a younger occupational therapist, Vijaylakshmi Bole, a graduate of Nagpur OT School and worked at Kalawati Saran Children's Hospital New Delhi, was selected to represent WFOT at the WHO meetings, which she continued to do till 1984-85. In 1986 AIOTA celebrated its silver jubilee conference in Mumbai. In 2002 AIOTA celebrated the golden jubilee and launched its website www.aiota.org.
1958—The Indian Journal of occupational therapy (IJOT) was registered under the press and registation of books act 1867 with ISS No. 1653/57155 no 0445-706.
Mrs Nimbkar became the Advisor in Rehabilitation for the Govt. of Maharastra. The 2nd Training center in OT was started in Nagpur Govt. Medical College, by the Govt of Maharastra. This was a Diploma of 2 yrs duration. Later on a need to have a bachelors degree was felt by the teachers as well as the students, so in the year 1963. A bachelor of science in occupational therapy (BSc OT) degree course was started in Nagpur University at the Govt. Medical College. The diploma was then discontinued.
1968 - BSc OT started in Bombay University affiliated to GS Medical College.
This was followed by degree courses at CMC Vellore, Tamil Nadu and also a BSc Hons Occ Therapy at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences New Delhi (was later discontinued). Thus by 1979 almost all diplomas were replaced by degree courses.
1965-1988 - diploma in OT at the Institute for the physically handicapped were also replaced by degree course under the Delhi University.
In the natural course of events, the success of bachelors degree couses at Mumbai, New Delhi, Nagpur Vellore gave a great impetus and demand for more Occ. Therapy colleges. Also the need for more occupational therapists saw the opening of many more OT colleges in various parts and states of the country, obviously no education can remain stagnent and for those aspiring for higher academic achievement postgraduate programmes were proposed and also started in Mumbai University, Nagpur University, and at Manipal University, also there are proposals for PhD Programmes in Occ. Therapy, which will no doubt be started in the near future. It is significant that all educational programmes of Bachelors and Masters Degree level are in Medical Colleges and are a part of faculty of Medicine of the University. In Nagpur however there is a separate “Board of studies in Modern Medicine Occupational Therapy and Physical therapy” which is a part of faculty of Medicine. These professional degrees are considered higher than those of Science or Arts and Commerce faculties.
In New Delhi, the first occupational therapy institute was started in the military barracks in Janpath and a combined trainning of occupational therapy and physiotherapy (Diploma) was given, from 1960-61–62-63. From 1964 onwards a separate diploma was started for occupational therapy. The OT institute was renamed as The Institute for the physically Handicapped, and from the year 1990 a three and a half years degree was started under the Delhi University. From the year 2000 onwards this degree was upgraded to 4 1/2 years duration affiliated to Delhi University.
In 1983 the All India Occupational Therapy Association (AIOTA) formulated the “Academic Council of Occupational Therapy” (ACOT) and instituted the Fellowship Awards (FACOT) it is the highest award by AIOTA to its members awarded for rendering outstanding service to the profession and academic achievement in occupational therapy.
In 1981 - The International year of the disabled India was a signitory to the Alma Atta declaration. With this the scenario for occupational therapy and rehabilitation changed for the better. Today we have the “persons with disabilities” (PWD) Act 1995. Also known as PWD Act 1995, which when analytically studied open up many avenues for the occupational therapy professional to contribute.
Fig. 1.1: From left to right - Mrs VS Bole, Mrs Shelly Chow, Mr SV Bole at a WHO conference in New Delhi
Fig. 1.2: From left to right - Mrs VS Bole, Dr Forence Clark, Mr SV Bole at Asia Pacific Occupational Therapy and Rehabilitation conference in Tokyo, Japan, 1988
A profession grows only when it fulfills the goals and demands of the society, country, and nation at large. Todays need in India and indeed the world is to help in prevention and early detection of disabilities and to identify the “At Risk” population; integrated education, and the need of equal opportunies for education and employment (Figs. 1.1 and 1.2).
One must remember that while maintaining higher educational standards, higher professional and international standard, we must endeavour to meet the national needs and contribute to the scientific approach in the rehabilitation of the differently abled population.