Lives of the fellows

El Daw Mukhtar Ahmed Mukhtar

b.1 January 1941 d.28 April 2007
MB BS Khartoum(1965) MRCP(1969) MD(1980) FRCP(1981)

El Daw Mukhtar was the first Sudanese physician to be trained to the highest standards in modern endocrinology, and the first to establish the teaching and practice of endocrinology in Sudan. He was born in a village on the outskirts of Bara, a small town near El-Obeid, not far from the site of an important battle which paved the way for the creation of the Mahdi state in Sudan during the last years of the 19th century. His father was Mukhtar Ahmed Mukhtar, a soldier. El Daw was an exceptionally bright student at his secondary school and then at medical college in Khartoum, gaining, in 1965, the Lord Kitchener memorial prize as the best graduating student in the medical faculty.

In April 1967, he was sent on a scholarship to the UK, to Newcastle upon Tyne, initially to join George Smart [Munk’s Roll, Vol. XI, p.527]. He was then mentored by Reginald Hall [Munk’s Roll, Vol. X, p.185] in the endocrine unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary. He received training in general medicine, obtaining his MRCP in April 1969. Among his contemporaries at the time were Robert Wilkinson (later professor of medicine and nephrology at Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne) and Lionel Alexander (later consultant physician in endocrinology at North Staffordshire Hospital, Stoke-on-Trent). This was at a stage when endocrinology was witnessing a crucial leap forward, masterminded by Reginald Hall, and El Daw was an active participant in the group making these breakthroughs. After he went back to Khartoum, a paper appeared in The Lancet on ‘Thyroid function in acromegaly’ (Aug 7, 1971, Vol.298, No.7719, pp.279-283).

In 1970, El Daw returned to Khartoum, after spending the preceding year as Wellcome research fellow at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle. He was appointed as a lecturer in medicine and as a consultant physician at Khartoum Teaching Hospital. In 1974, he returned to Newcastle, on a WHO scholarship, as senior research associate to Reginald Hall. This period would witness a flurry of research and a plethora of publications. El Daw’s name appeared on several papers in leading journals, including The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, The British Medical Journal, The Lancet and Clinical Endocrinology.

He returned to Sudan in 1975, and began to teach endocrinology to his students and colleagues. In the early 1980s, he was joined by Abdel Azim Kaballo and then by El Mahdi Mohammed Ali. The latter had spent a spell with George Alberti in Newcastle. The ‘trio’ would do some early research into diabetes, and later focused on the thyroid, particularly after Mohamed Ali Eltoum joined them from Sweden.

El Daw was awarded a personal chair in 1980, following a period as a senior lecturer from 1975. He was also head of the department of medicine for several periods, and in 1996 he became dean of the medical school in Khartoum, a post he held for two successive periods.

Despite his huge commitments in Khartoum, he never forgot the newly developed medical school in his homeland, Kordofan. His continuous support and advice were vital to the success of the medical school. He also devoted much time to the medical school in Sana’a in Yemen, where he was a regular external examiner and helped design the course and the exams.

El Daw was also a past president of Sudan Association of Physicians (from 2000 to 2002). He was an international adviser to the Royal College of Physicians for many years, attending meetings regularly. He was to form a friendship with one of his patients, the Sudanese business tycoon, Taha El Roubi, and they jointly founded the Sudanese Diabetes Association in the 1980s.

El Daw was an excellent English speaker and a very good clinician. He would teach with wit and glamour, and was very much loved by his students and his colleagues. He was an easygoing fellow, who never got irritated or upset in stressful situations. His door was always open to students and the most junior staff, which gained him many long-lasting friendships. This easiness of manner was particularly helpful during his period as head of the department of medicine and later as dean of the medical school. The morning gathering in his office, to have the usual breakfast of broad beans, while discussing and solving various departmental issues, helped maintain a cohesive working environment and lubricated the minor frictions between staff. His style worked to everyone’s advantage.

His last few years were clouded by several tragic events. In 1985, his wife, Zainab, died during an asthma attack, and, shortly after the turn of the millennium, he was diagnosed with renal failure and had to undergo renal transplantation and coronary artery bypass graft surgery in Newcastle. His son Khalid, a medical student in Khartoum, then died in a car crash.

El Daw died suddenly, presumably from a heart attack, in Khartoum. He was survived by his eldest son, Ahmed, who was training in gastroenterology in Dublin, and by his two daughters, Selma and Sarah, who both graduated from the Ahfad College of Medicine for Women in Sudan.

Tarik A Elhadd

(Volume XII, page web)

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