Lives of the fellows

Muhammad (Mohamed) Ahmed Ibrahim

b.c.1899 d.c.1981
MB Cairo(1921) MRCP(1930) MD(1931) FRCP(1951)

For the best part of a century Egyptian medicine was administered by Europeans - the British and the French. Muhammad Ibrahim belonged to the generation of Egyptian physicians who helped found the new national administration when the independent Arab Republic of Egypt was born in 1922. He was the son of a mayor of Sherif Pasha, a village in middle Egypt, and was born at a time when education was generally limited to instruction in the Koran. Ibrahim was the first person in his own village to receive a modern education on present day lines; at first in his home town and then in Cairo at Khedival Secondary School. In 1921 he graduated in medicine from Kasr-El-Aini School of Medicine, which later became the medical faculty of the University of Cairo.

After graduation Ibrahim joined government service and worked in provincial hospitals for a few years. His ability was very soon recognized and the Egyptian government sent him to England to sit for the MRCP examination. This he passed successfully, becoming the third Egyptian physician to obtain this distinction. On returning to Egypt, where the University of Cairo had just inaugurated an MD degree, he obtained his doctorate in 1931, having the honour to be the first physician to be awarded this degree.

From 1931 to 1956 he was successively tutor at the University; assistant professor to A G Biggam (later Sir Alexander) who was at that time serving as lieutenant general in HM Forces [Munk's Roll, Vol.V, p.37] and who later became dean of postgraduate medicine at the University of Edinburgh; then professor of medicine at his alma mater and subsequently dean of the faculty. After his retirement he continued to be very active as emeritus professor until his death, and was a much sought after external examiner in practically all Egyptian schools of medicine.

Muhammad Ibrahim instituted many innovations in Egyptian medicine, among them the creation of laboratories attached to clinical departments, blood tests and test meals, electrocardiography, bronchoscopy (for which he had been trained in Vienna), intrathecal and intratracheal lipiodol injections, and therapeutic pneumothorax.

In 1932 he founded the Kasr-El-Aini Clinical Society and was instrumental in launching its first journal, which is still very much alive today. He also founded the Egyptian Cardiological Society in 1951, and at the time of his death he was president of the Egyptian Medical Association.

Ibrahim’s reputation as a clinical cardiologist extended throughout the Middle East. He became firmly established when, at the beginning of his career, he correctly diagnosed the cardiac infarction of the Crown Prince - much to the surprise and derision of senior consultants who had never heard of such a diagnosis in their day. It was the first ever such diagnosis to be made in Egypt and was confirmed by Sir John Parkinson [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VII, p.443] who had been called in as a consultant. Muhammad Ibrahim went on to show that this condition was fairly common in the Middle East but that it usually went undiagnosed.

His many publications covered all aspects of cardiology, including statistical studies of cardiovascular disease. He also wrote papers on the diagnosis of spinal and pulmonary tumours. He received many honours, among them: Bey First Class under the monarchy; the Republican Order of Merit First Class, and the National Gold Medal of Science. He was a member of the board of the International Cardiological Society and of the Institut d’Egypte, and was elected a Fellow of the College in 1950.

In his dealings with his superiors, Ibrahim was courteous and cooperative but also firm and decisive. With his colleagues and juniors, he was always fair and understanding. In the generations of students -and their students - many of whom head the medical departments of Egyptian universities, Ibrahim left a lasting legacy to his country and a personal testimonial.

Muhammad Ibrahim had four children: two sons and two daughters. One son followed his father into the medical profession and also became a professor of medicine.

P Ghalioungui
Sir Gordon Wolstenholme
V Luniewska

(Volume VIII, page 241)

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