By Muhammad Abdul Mazid
29 Sep, 2011
National Professor Mohammad Ibrahim was a great and successful physician, a gifted teacher, a talented organiser and a reformer. His contribution in the field of medicine in general and diabetes in particular has been nothing less than phenomenal. He spent the major part of his life in the government health services in different key positions after getting the MB degree in 1938 and becoming MRCP in 1949. He was made an FCCP in 1950.
In recognition of his contributions, the government of Bangladesh honoured him by appointing him the first National Professor from among physicians in 1984. He was awarded Swadhinata Padak (1979); Gold Medal by Begum Zebunnesa and Kazi Mahbubullah Trust (1981); Gold Medal by Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial Trust (1985); Gold Medal by Comilla Foundation, Comilla (1986); Gold Medal by Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah Memorial Trust, Ahsania Mission, Dhaka (1989); Gold Medal by Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (1989).
Dr. Mohammed Ibrahim was the founder of the Diabetic Association in Dhaka (1956) and in Karachi and Lahore, West Pakistan (1964). He first thought of diabetic care in the country. He realised that not only doctors but also patients should be involved in the process of diabetic care. He called it socio-medical care. Although the real extent of the problem of diabetes was not evident in our part of the world, he could foresee the present picture at that time and organised a group of social workers, philanthropists and professionals. With their help he established Diabetic Association of Pakistan on February 28, 1956. Diabetic care was started in a tin-shed building at Segun Bagicha with only 23 patients.
Dr, Ibrahim's motto was: "No diabetic patient should die untreated, unfed or unemployed, even if she/he is poor." So, he committed himself to give primary care to the diabetic patients free of cost, irrespective of socio-economic, racial or religious status. Even rich patients were not allowed to pay for the primary diabetic care, but they could donate money to the association. The funds were raised through motivation programmes. As there were no indoor facilities initially at Segun Bagicha, patients in need of hospitalisation were sent to other hospitals. In the beginning of the '70s, a few short-stay beds were established to take care of the serious patients.
He succeeded in establishing the diabetes health-care and research institute complex, named the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM) at Shahbag, Dhaka, in 1980, where the out-patients centre of the Bangladesh Diabetic Association was shifted. The institute is housed in two large buildings, named the Ibrahim Memorial Diabetes Centre, after his death in 1989.
To develop trained and specialised manpower, he also established an Academy in BIRDEM for postgraduate education in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolism (DEM). BIRDEM has been acclaimed as a model for South East Asia. In recognition of its innovative, extensive and high quality services BIRDEM was designated in 1982 as a "WHO-Collaborating Centre for Developing Community-oriented Programmes for Prevention and Control of Diabetes." It was the first such centre in Asia.
Dr. Ibrahim was very much aware about the quality of the service provided to the patients. He used to tell the patients: "We are grateful to you for giving us the opportunity to serve." His humility was legendary and most genuine. Deep empathy and compassion were characteristics of his dealing with his patients, especially those who were poor and in pain. He also motivated other doctors to serve the patients with empathy. He included social welfare, health education, nutritional education and rehabilitation in the diabetes healthcare delivery system.
He always believed that an institution achieved its goal and excellence not by machines but by their its resources, and he spent all his life in developing talented human resources. For over three decades, Mohammad Ibrahim succeeded in generating awareness about diabetes through free-of-cost quality services, health education, and motivation. He also established the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Training for Applied Nutrition (BIRTAN) and Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre (RVTC) to develop low-cost nutrition and give vocational training to poor and unemployed diabetics. He also set up a family planning section at BIRDEM for motivational work.
He took keen interest in family planning. His involvement began as a founder member of the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh, which first started its programme in the mid-fifties. He made his real impact as an adviser to the resident, with the rank of minister, in-charge of the Ministry of Health and Population Control, in the mid-1970's. He was instrumental in formulating the population control policy of the government for the first time, and introduced the National Population Council.
Under the luminosity of the guidance and philosophy of its founder the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh upheld its vision that no diabetic should die untreated, unemployed or unfed even if poor, and all people shall be provided with affordable health care service.
The Association has set some targets and objectives as its mission, which include, inter alia, providing total healthcare including rehabilitation for all diabetics irrespective of gender, economic and social status through different institutions of the Association; expanding these services to provide affordable BADAS healthcare through self-sustaining centres of excellence; developing human resources to create requisite specialised quality manpower (physicians, technicians, nurses, etc.) of high ethical standards; developing leadership in healthcare through dedicated and transparent management system and setting up industries for manufacturing diabetic and other health foods and medicines.
Diabetes care centres have been established all over the country with local entrepreneurs, and now there are 59 branches in 59 district headquarters and 2 sub affiliated centres in Satkania and Bheramara.
Dr. Mohammad Ibrahim died on September 6, 1989. His death anniversary is observed as Diabetic Service Day (Sheba Divash) to endorse and honour his great contribution to socio-medicare services.
The writer is Chief Coordinator, Diabetic Association of Bangladesh.
Source: The Daily Star, Dhaka