National Professor M.R. Khan: Mission of a visionary | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 03, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:52 PM, August 02, 2013

Bitter Truth

National Professor M.R. Khan: Mission of a visionary

The Institute of Child Health (ICH) and Shishu Hospital set up by National Professor M.R. Khan under the aegis of Shishu Sasthya Foundation Bangladesh (SSFB) is an example of his concern for children.
A visionary in child health sector, Prof. M.R. Khan is working on alleviating the distress and suffering of the poor children. He is pleasant and amiable, and has enormous appetite for hard work and the ability to tackle difficult issues. The areas he has chosen for his work have begun to change, perceptibly. SSFB contributes significantly at national level to eliminate malnutrition, and offers treatment to suffering children and women of reproductive age through preventive and curative programmes.
At 85 (on August 1 this year), Prof. M.R. Khan is agile and indefatigable. His involvement with life and society is total and he still retains the enthusiasm of youth as he pursues his dreams. He is a tireless worker. A visit to the Shishu Sasthya Foundation or Central Hospital or Nibedita Children Hospital, or the Women's Medical College and Hospital reveals the man, the architect behind all these mammoth projects for helping ailing people and children.
SSFB, founded in January 1983, with National Professor M.R. Khan as its chairman and guiding spirit, has been working for almost 0.5 million target population of mothers and children. It has opened health, nutrition, education, environmental pollution control, and even micro-credit facilities through its 12 programme areas in Tangail, Jessore and Satkhira. The programme includes a myriad of activities aimed at reduction of morbidity and mortality of mothers and children.
Prof. M.R. Khan committed himself to the difficult task of ensuring physical and mental wellbeing of this most vulnerable group of the society through the aegis of SSFB, with its programme of activities gradually expanding over the whole country. Through these centres, non-formal education is provided to the under-privileged and disadvantaged children in the evening hours without hampering their economic contribution to the family.
The Foundation that started its mission in January 1983 as a nursery of infant care with 26 staff members now has 250 staff members including 75 doctors, a good number of trained nurses and administrative staff caring for about 200 indoor patients and 600 out-patients daily at the Mirpur complex. The Institute of Child Health (Shishu Hospital) and SSFB, now housed in two complexes -- one 6-storied and another 7-storied -- have provisions for diagnostic treatment of children's diseases, apart from teaching, training and research.
The Institute of Child Health -- set up by the Foundation at Tangail, Jessore, Satkhira, and Alamdanga (Jessore) -- is a unique national level training and treatment centre for health and nutrition of children and mothers. For setting up Shishu Hospital and Rasulpur Secondary School in his birthplace (Satkhira), Prof. Khan donated the paternal land he owned as well as the pension and gratuity money he got after retirement from service.
The Institute at Mirpur has launched a Diploma in Child Health (DCH) course for MBBS doctors. Anwara Trust Fund instituted with his pension and gratuity fund offers assistance to schools, mosques and destitute women and children. This Trust Fund awards gold medals to individuals in recognition of their outstanding contribution to social and economic development of the country. Notable recipients are Nobel Laureate Dr. Muhammad Yunus and Sir Abed of Brac Foundation.
Prompted by sheer urge to come to the aid of sick children, Professor M.R. Khan moves from one hospital to another from morning to evening in Dhaka city looking after patients, teaching students, and providing training to graduate doctors. He made strenuous efforts in setting up Uttara Women's Medical College and Hospital, Central Hospital and Nivedita Hospital for Children. As honourary visiting professor, Prof. M.R. Khan is associated with Uttara Women's Medical College and Hospital, ICDDRB and Shishu Hospital.
The death of his wife Anwara Khan last year, who stood by him through thick and thin in his arduous journey to fame and eminence, has caused him enormous pain in his twilight hours, but he still continues his battle to serve the distressed humanity with passionate zeal.
Here is a doctor and a social worker who has won numerous laurels, including 15 gold medals, and numerous awards including the prestigious Ekushey Padak. Even in the mellow years of his life, he is an agile and tireless worker, and he still thinks he has miles to go. For his outstanding contribution in the field of child health, his biography has been included in the International “Who's Who” of intellectuals by IBC, Cambridge, UK since 1987.
Because of the vast mass linkage he developed in just two years of his medical practice at Satkhira as the lone MBBS doctor, he won the hearts of the people. He could not ignore public pressure and contested for the post of Chairman in the Pouroshava election in 1955. Despite the fact that Prof. Khan won the election, the ballot box was burnt immediately after counting of votes and his opponent candidate was declared winner. Deeply aggrieved, Dr. Khan filed a case with the election tribunal at Khulna challenging the election verdict. The tribunal headed by the District Magistrate, Khulna, asked S.D.O., Satkhira, to produce the ballot box along with ballots.
The S.D.O. approached Dr. Khan's father, a very respectable and influential person at Satkhira at that time, to persuade his son to withdraw the case. His father, maybe, for fear of counter-offensive from the administration, asked his son to withdraw the case, which Prof. Khan complied with. But this noble gesture did not keep him out of the woods. With 92-ka rule imposed after the fall of Abu Hossain Sarkar cabinet, he was arrested on false charges of being the president of a certain political party in Satkhira. Immediately after his arrest, he was transferred to Khulna district jail.
He remained behind bars for one month without bail. He was released on bail with the help of a potential political leader in Khulna at that time. Completely broken and mentally devastated, Prof. Khan decided to quit Satkhira for good. Although he was in dire financial straits after all these tumultuous incidents, but still with determination to make a fresh start, he went to Khulna with his wife and daughter, rented a house and started medical practice there. It is from Khulna that he availed a scholarship in1957 for DTM & H course in England and subsequently earned DCH and MRCP degree from London and Edinburgh. He returned to Dhaka in 1963.

The writer is a columnist of The Daily Star. E-mail: aukhandk@gmail.com

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