Lives of the fellows

Habib Ahmed Ghazi

b.23 September 1932 d.15 October 1997
MB BS Lond( 1960) MRCP(1968) FRCP(1981)

Habib Ahmed Ghazi, universally known as ‘Ben’, was a much loved and respected member of the tightknit Barnsley community which he served for twenty years. He died suddenly of a brain haemorrhage, five years into a happy and peaceful retirement spent between homes in Barnsley and the Lake District and largely devoted to nurturing his close and growing family.

Ben was born in Jullundur, India, the fifth of eight children born to Mohammed Qamar-ud-Din, a high school headmaster, and his wife, Mumtaz. At his cradleside Ben's aunt announced prophetically that he would be a physician. However, before coming to England to fulfil his vocation he was caught up in the turmoil of the 1947 India-Pakistan War. He and his Muslim family narrowly escaped with their lives after being hidden in a cellar tor a month by Hindu friends.

Ben came to England in 1953 after winning a scholarship to Kings College, London. An immediate Anglophile, he threw himself enthusiastically both into his studies and into discovering the delights of London’s theatres and cinemas. He worked as an undergraduate at St George’s Hospital, Tooting, and, after graduating, as a house physician in Chatham, Kent, and a medical registrar in Altrincham, Cheshire. In 1968 he moved to Sheffield where he spent four happy and highly productive years at the Royal Infirmary. He worked first in the haematology department under the renowned Edward Blackburn [q.v.] and then from August 1969 to February 1972 as a senior research registrar in the gastroenterology department. During this period he conducted research into B12 absorption in the gut, publishing the results in various medical journals. Never one to shirk responsibility for his experiments, on one occasion he swallowed a large gastrointestinal tube for 48 hours, travelling home on the bus with it wrapped around his ear to the mystification of fellow passengers.

In April 1972 Ben was appointed consultant physician with a special interest in gastroenterology at the Beckett Hospital, Barnsley (now Barnsley District General). During the next twenty years he served the South Yorkshire community with skill and dedication, setting up a first class gastroenterology unit in Barnsley. He also pioneered several initiatives which greatly improved patient care. The most notable was the introduction of one of the country’s first open access schemes for people with gastro-intestinal problems, under which patients were guaranteed to see a consultant within 24 hours of a GP referral. In his later years he took up the use of hypnotherapy as a method of controlling pain in sufferers of irritable bowel disease.

Ben was married twice. His first wife was Mary Gillian Snow, a fellow London medical student, with whom he had three children, Polly, Taahra and Javed. In his second wife, Rosemary Marsh, a sister at Altrincham General Hospital, whom he married in 1972, he found the perfect lifelong partner. They went on to have a son, Rafi, born in 1973.

First and foremost a family man, Ben was devoted to Rosemary with whom he shared a passion for good food, classical music, literature and, more latterly, gardening. She also shared his working life, acting as administrator to his home-based private practice. He was immensely proud of his children, all of whom settled in London, and of his first grandchild, Jessie Gill Thornton, born in March 1997. In 1992 he chose to retire early, at sixty, and slipped easily into life outside the health service. He spent many hours gardening, playing golf, walking in the Lake District, rediscovering the theatre, concerts and films and enjoying quality time with his family and many friends around the country. He was taken ill suddenly at home and died two weeks later in the Royal Hallamshire Hospital, Sheffield.

Polly Ghazi Thornton

(Volume X, page 163)

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