Lives of the fellows

Refai Mohamed Kamel Refai

b.16 January 1914 d.30 September 1990
MB BCh Cairo(1936) MRCP(1948)FRCP

Refai Mohamed Kamel Refai was born in Ras El Tin, Alexandria, into a family which originated from Upper Egypt. The family roots date back to a notable thinker, Refaa Rafei El Tahtawi, who had early called for the implementation of scientific discoveries on a par with that of western civilization. Refai was educated at the Royal Secondary School, Cairo, and obtained his School Certificate at the age of 15, when his father wanted him to join the Military Academy but eventually conceded to Refai’s desire to study medicine.

Refai entered the faculty of medicine at Cairo University and one year before he graduated the Egyptian Army opened its senior ranks to qualified Egyptian physicians for the first tune. In 1938, after a year as demonstrator in pharmacology, he was appointed a doctor to the Army among the second batch of Egyptian doctors to be admitted - 25 in all.

During a brief sojourn in England, he obtained his membership of the College in 1948, followed by a postgraduate certificate from the Institute of Cardiology, National Heart Hospital, London, in January 1949. He often boasted to his family and friends that he had studied under Paul Wood [Munk’s Roll. Vol.V, p.456] whom, along with so many of his other pupils, Refai considered one of the greatest cardiologists in the world.

During his stay in England, Refai made many friends among the medical profession, including Walter Somerville and Wallace Brigden. Back home, he would talk about them, correspond with them regularly and invite them to Cairo.

In 1950 he was awarded a scholarship to study aviation medicine in the US Air Force School of Aviation Medicine - he passed the course, being first among 21 students.

During his early service in the Armed Forces, Refai met the former President Abdel Naser, who was then a student at the Military Academy. They established a close friendship afterwards, in the Sudan in 1939, when they served together in the Egyptian Battalion. Later Refai became Naser’s personal physician and was summoned to treat him during his final fatal illness; being the first to sign the death certificate.

He was very proud of his service in the Egyptian Armed Forces during the 1973 October war since he was in charge of the medical services in the three branches of the Army before, during and after military operations, until late March 1974 - when he asked to be relieved from his post for medical reasons as an angina pectoris struck him for the second time. After retiring from military service he devoted himself to his private clinic and his religion. He was both loved and esteemed by his patients, friends and all who knew him.

He married Fardose, daughter of Mustafa Terzaki, in 1945 and they had two sons. One son - the writer - is a surgeon and professor of ear, nose and throat surgery at Cairo University.

M Rifai

(Volume IX, page 443)

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