An amazing health persona | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 25, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 25, 2008

Lest We Forget

An amazing health persona

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AN eminent medical scientist and physician of Bangladesh, Major General Mahmudur Rahman Choudhury was born on June 1, 1928 in Sylhet. He had to his credit a brilliant academic and professional career. All through his school and college life he received stipends.
He passed Matric in 1944 in first division with letters, stood first in ISc among Muslims under Calcutta University in 1946, and received the full scholarship for studying in Calcutta Medical College. He graduated from there in 1951; and again stood first for receiving the scholarship from the then Pakistan government and obtained D. Bact. with highest distinction from the University of London in 1959.
He was commissioned in the Pakistan Army Medical Corps in 1952. For his professional excellence as a junior major, he received a letter of commendation from the Commander in Chief and was also honoured with the civil award Tamgha-e-Quaide Azam.
Dr. M.R. Choudhury was posted at Islamabad as Executive Director of National Health Laboratories in 1970.
His dynamic command and superb organisational capabilities contributed largely to the establishment of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and Transfusion in 1976, and he became the Founder Commandant.
His contributions earned him the recognition of the Government of Bangladesh and as such the Independence Day Award (in Medical Science) was conferred on him in 1977. The institution he built up, the AFIP&T also received the same award as a centre of excellence later in 1987. He had the distinction of being awarded MRCPath without examination.
To have MRCPath and subsequently FRCPath is unique in this region and speaks of recognition of his academic distinction by the Royal college of Pathologists of London. He was again honoured by the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences with the highest scientific award in Biological Sciences in 1995. In 1999, he was honoured with the Ibn Sina Award, and is a recipient of a number of other awards from national bodies of various types.
He was also awarded fellowships by the Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons (FCPS), the Royal college of Physicians and of Edinburgh (FRCP), the International Biographical Association, Cambridge (FIBA), American Biographical Institute, (FABI), and the Fellow of the American College of Surgeons (FACS). Even after his death the Society of Medical Microbiologists has posthumously honoured him with an award in 2002, and by Bangladesh Society of Microbiologists in 2006.
General M.R. Choudhury went on superannuation in 1992 after 40 years of a successful career in the army -- a record still unsurpassed by any one. Since then, he devoted his time in conducting research, and teaching Microbiology and Laboratory Medicine in different institutions.
He was one of the outstanding microbiologists of his generation. He organised the Bangladesh Society for Microbiologists in 1976 and was its founder president. Under his able leadership, BSM, over a short period of time, succeeded in creating awareness about the importance of Microbiology in Bangladesh amongst those who matter. As a result, the University of Dhaka created a full-fledged Department of Microbiology.
He passed away on June 24, 1999. Dr. Rita R. Colwell, Director, National Science Foundation, Washington D.C., USA, and Professor of Microbiology, University of Maryland said: "Major General Choudhury was truly a fine scholar and an exceptional gentleman. He was gentle in spirit and kind to all, without exception.
Major General Choudhury made this world a better place through his contributions to science, society, and the spiritual well-being of humankind. He will truly be missed, but the memory of his good deeds will linger to inspire us."
WHO said in its obituary message: "The AIDS and human rights community in Bangladesh has lost its founder and a great leader. General Choudhury was a great soldier in this battle and fought until the very end, as a soldier should do." The World Bank authorities paid rich tribute in the following words: "With his untimely death Bangladesh has lost a visionary leader, who had the right combination of scholarship, substance, integrity, team spirit and passion for doing something for the people. Personally, he was a great conversationalist endowed with keen sense of humour."
He was able to set an extraordinary example of an administrator, a scientist, an educationist, all in one.

Dr Stefano Lazarri is Coordinator, NCS, WHO, Geneva.

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