Lives of the fellows

Izzaldin Abbas Shikara

b.1 July 1929 d.15 September 2013
MB ChB Baghdad(1953) DTM&H(1960) MRCP Glasg(1963) MRCP Edin MRCP(1978) FRCP(1983) FRCP Edin FRCP Glasg

Izzaldin Shikara was professor of neurology and general medicine at Baghdad and Mosul universities, Iraq. He was born into a highly respected family in Baghdad. His father, Abbas Shikara, was a judge and the rest of the family was all well-educated – some were doctors, others lawyers and teachers. He went to school in Baghdad and then joined the Medical College of Baghdad, graduating after six years in 1953.

He worked at al-Rashid Military Hospital for a year and then served as a house officer in Baghdad Teaching Hospital for two years. He later worked in junior posts in different hospitals across Baghdad in all branches of medicine.

In 1959 Shikara went to the UK for postgraduate study. He trained at the London School of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene. He also worked at the Whittington Hospital, London, and at 15 other hospitals across the UK. After five years in the UK, Shikara was awarded a diploma of tropical medicine and hygiene, and gained his membership of the Glasgow and Edinburgh Royal Colleges.

In 1964 he returned to Iraq and joined the newly opened Medical College of Mosul as the first Iraqi on the teaching staff and the only Iraqi doctor specialising in neurology. As well as giving lectures on neurology, he also had to lecture on all other branches of medicine, including medical ethics. From 1969 to 1978 he was head of the medical unit. He then transferred to the Baghdad College of Medicine.

Shikara started many important initiatives at the University of Mosul Medical College, including an EEG unit, a cardiac care unit, a centre for kidney dialysis and a committee to improve medical ethics in Iraq. He designed a questionnaire to be given to medical students after they had graduated, asking for feedback on the teaching, lectures and training in order to improve the medical school curriculum. Even after he had reached retirement age he continued to give lectures to advanced students.

Shikara wrote a chapter on neurology in Medicine in the tropics (Edinburgh, Churchill Livingstone), edited by A W Woodruff [Munk’s Roll Vol.IX, p.602], and wrote a book in Arabic on neurological diseases at the request of the University of Mosul.

At the Royal College of Physicians he was an international adviser. He was also asked by the RCP to examine Iraqi candidates who had passed the first part of their MRCP examination in Iraq, but were not allowed to leave the country to take the second part of the examination. Only one of the 31 candidates did not pass the exam, showing his skill as a professor and mentor.

Shikara was the first Iraqi physician to be awarded the MRCP for the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh, Glasgow and London. He was awarded many honours during his lifetime. He was the first lecturer to be chosen as a member of the University Council in Iraq (without being a dean, which he refused, saying that being a dean would keep him away from scientific activities) and had a lecture hall at Mosul University named after him. He was given the Mosul University award for his scientific activities outside his official duties.

Shikara was passionate about photography and would use an old-fashioned camera with great ability. His family has a huge number of albums full of photographs, recording the lives of the children, from birth to performances in school, hobbies and so on. But beyond personal memories, he also used photographs to record clinical findings, which he shared with colleagues in England, France, Spain, Egypt, Kuwait and many other countries.

His other major interest was books. A personal library of hundreds, if not thousands, of books ranging from literature to medical and history texts illustrates his passion for reading. He was particularly interested in the history of Iraq and of other countries. He paid attention to international politics and followed current events on the radio.

He had very good relations with his students. He would be very strict with them in the lecture hall and at the hospital, but would act as a father figure when it came to advice on other aspects of their lives. When he died, many of his former students sent touching letters of condolence, expressing their sorrow and pride at having had the chance to learn from him.

Shikara had a very strong personality. He was interested in people, liked learning about their lives and treated everyone with respect. He was a very honest, straightforward, religious man, but not with a narrow perspective; he paid attention to and respected other religions as well as his own. His heart was full of love and care for his parents, brothers, sisters, other relatives, and of course, his wife and children, neighbours and friends.

Shikara was survived by his wife, Anisa, an Iraqi doctor he had married in 1960, and their five children, Zaineb, Amina, Ali, Akeel and Aliaa (three of whom are doctors) and nine grandchildren.

Anisa Shikara

(Volume XII, page web)

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