Lives of the fellows

Syed Mohibur Rab

b.5 January 1931 d.15 September 2014
MB BS Dhaka(1952) MRCP(1957) MRCP Edin(1957) FRCP FRCP Edin FCPS FACC FACP

Syed Mohibur Rab was head of the department of medicine at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, Karachi, Pakistan, and a co-founder and former president of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan. He was born in Gaya, Bihar, India, the son of Syed Mojibur Rab and Maimoona Khatoon. He lost his mother soon after his birth and he was brought up by his maternal grandmother and his father. Having done well in school, he decided to pursue a career in engineering, however the partition of India changed the course of his life. His father had already migrated to East Pakistan, so in 1947 he enrolled as a student at the newly established Dhaka Medical College.

After qualifying he went to the UK on a British Council scholarship. He gained his MRCP in 1957 from both the Royal Colleges of Physicians of London and of Edinburgh, training in cardiology under the legendary Paul Wood [Munk’s Roll, Vol.V, p.456], Sir John McMichael [Munk’s Roll, Vol.IX, p.341] and John Goodwin [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XI, p.226] at Hammersmith Hospital in London. Following this training, he was a registrar at the Royal Infirmary in Edinburgh.

He returned to Dhaka and joined the Dhaka Medical College as an assistant professor in medicine, rising quickly to professor of medicine. In 1958, he was one of only eight specialists in medicine in Pakistan. After the break up of Pakistan in 1971, he moved to Karachi in 1972. He joined Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre as professor and head of the department of medicine. A year later the Centre expanded to include Sindh Medical College. He continued teaching even after his retirement. In the year 2000, he was appointed as the provincial health minister in Sindh, for the caretaker government.

Rab was one of the founding fathers of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan and its second president. He was a member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council, dean of the faculty of medical sciences at the University of Karachi and a trustee of Aga Khan University Medical College. He was also an overseas adviser to the Royal Colleges of Physicians of Edinburgh and of London and an examiner for the Edinburgh College.

A truly international physician and perhaps the most well-recognised and longest serving physician in Pakistan, his reach extended to the World Health Organization in promoting medical care and medical schools in developing countries. He was recognised in the United States by Paul Dudley White [Munk’s Roll, Vol.VI, p.457], considered the father of American cardiology, who nominated him to the fellowship of the American College of Cardiology and by John Willis Hurst, who nominated him to the fellowship of the American College of Physicians. He was recognised at the peak of his career with the award of master of the American College of Physicians in 2008.

A superb clinician, he was said to be the last word in medicine. In his country, patients travelled far and wide for his ability as an excellent diagnostician. Until his final illness he was still in active practice for long hours each day and was deemed the longest-serving physician in Pakistan.

A teacher of teachers, Rab had the vision to train medical students and specialists and build the medical profession in Pakistan. Be it his teaching at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Sindh Medical College or his mentorship at the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan, Rab was considered a dedicated tutor among the thousands of medical students and doctors who had the fortune of working with him. He served the profession with exemplary dedication, punctuality, intellectual honesty and clinical brilliance. His legacy remains in the thousands of medical students and specialists trained or examined by him in Pakistan. He was a brilliant orator and a true patriot, often telling his trainees to give back to the country’s institutions. Known for his diagnostic skills easy manners and quick repartee he was a popular and highly respected physician. For his great contributions to the field of medicine he was awarded the ‘Sitara-e-Imtiaz’ by the government of Pakistan in 1981.

Outside medicine, he had a great passion for cricket and would follow any of the world cricket teams. He could mesmerise audiences by his storytelling.

He was survived by his wife of nearly 60 years, Masuma, their son Tanveer and two daughters, Samina and Shahina.

Samina Hussain
Tanveer Rab

[BMJ 2014 349 5999 – accessed 16 February 2015; The Express Tribune 16 September 2014 – accessed 16 February 2015]

(Volume XII, page web)

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