Lives of the fellows

Mazhar Muhammad Khan

b.3 August 1939 d.6 June 2016
MB BS Punjab(1962) MCPS(1971) MRCP(1976) FRCP(1989)

Mazhar Muhammad Khan, known to his colleagues as ‘Maz’, was an outstanding consultant cardiologist at the Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast. He went to Belfast in 1978 because he was fascinated by the pioneering work of James Francis Pantridge [Munk’s Roll, Vol.XII, web] on the delivery of immediate care outside hospital to patients stricken by acute myocardial infarction. He showed great courage in bringing his wife and family to Northern Ireland at a time when the province was experiencing great social upheaval.

Mazhar was born in Raygarh, India. His father, Mubarak Ali Khan, was principal of the Anjuman Higher Secondary School, Nagpur. His highly capable mother was Khadeja Begum. Rahmat Khan, his grandfather, graduated in 1920 in law from Allahabad University, India. Mazhar travelled to Pakistan to receive his initial training at King Edward Medical College, Lahore, followed by periods in Vienna, Birmingham, Liverpool and Saudi Arabia.

He quickly adapted to life in Belfast and was appointed as a consultant in 1982. Mazhar became the leading interventional cardiologist in Northern Ireland at a time when many new and exciting forms of treatment were in their infancy. In October 1982, he was one of the first to carry out coronary angioplasty in the province and was later among the first to perform balloon valvuloplasty in the United Kingdom. In 1990, he implanted the first automatic cardiac defibrillator in Northern Ireland. Later, he took up the challenge of primary coronary angioplasty when this was considered a high-risk procedure. Not surprisingly, he was a founder member of the British Cardiovascular Intervention Society.

Problems were things to be solved by steadfast determination and ingenuity, and he often designed his own catheters to overcome difficult situations. His work rate was immense. He always ended his demanding sessions in the catheterisation unit with a well brewed cup of tea. Laughter and a sense of humour accompanied him wherever he went. He was a superb teacher and trained a whole generation of cardiac interventionalists. He loved teaching medical students and they greatly appreciated his relaxed style and sense of fun.

With a strong sense of duty and total devotion to the wellbeing of his patients, he had a prodigious memory, recalling details and procedures carried out many years previously. So many patients and relatives still talk warmly about ‘Dr Khan’, remembering his attention, compassion and the expert medical care he gave them, giving them hope and encouragement – in doing so he helped save many lives. Amidst all of this, he was a humble man with a quiet, reassuring manner and he had a natural way of putting people at ease and calming their worries. If ever he saw a patient or acquaintance in the hospital corridor, he would never walk by, but would stop and ask them how they and their families were.

Mazhar was a strong believer in the transfer of knowledge and skills to where it was most needed, and he spent considerable time and effort to achieve this; for almost two decades, continuing into retirement, he travelled frequently to hospitals in Pakistan, including Civil Hospital, Karachi, a teaching hospital of Dow University of Health Sciences, Tabba Heart Institute, Karachi, the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, Rawalpindi, the Indus Hospital, Karachi, and Baqai Medical University, Karachi, where he provided hands-on training for hundreds of practitioners and treated innumerable complicated cases on a voluntary basis. Fareed Uddin Baqai, chancellor of Baqai Medical University, remembers the distinguished cardiologist as ‘kindness personified’ and that he ‘was rightly considered the people’s doctor’.

As a special tribute to honour his life and career, and to inspire and encourage aspiring young doctors, Mazhar’s family have instituted a medal to be awarded each year to the most outstanding foundation year two trainee (equivalent to the old senior house officer/junior registrar) in the cardiology department at Royal Victoria Hospital. Reflecting Mazhar’s approach to difficult clinical scenarios, the medal will have the inscription ‘Dum spiro spero’ (While I breathe, I hope).

The welfare of the Muslim community in Northern Ireland was always of concern to both Mazhar and his gifted wife Amtul Salam. They did much to introduce Muslim students to life in Northern Ireland, and Mazhar served as president of the Belfast Islamic Centre and remained a trustee until his death.

Mazhar was a man of highly refined tastes in life, possessing profound and varied knowledge, ranging from literature, poetry, science, arts, languages, religion and music (he was especially partial to operas and performances by the Ulster Orchestra and showed great insight and appreciation of these). It never mattered to him whether someone was young or old, rich or poor; he could easily relate to all and did so with impeccable manners and courtesy.

Mazhar was a keen walker, an accomplished hockey player and a keen rifle shooter. Always an avid cricket fan, he demonstrated his skill as a fast bowler during the annual cricket match against his colleagues at the Belfast City Hospital. Local Ulster idioms were a particular favourite of his and he took great delight in using them whenever possible. He was universally respected and admired, and he enriched the lives of all who met him.

His first wife, Bilques died in 1984. He was survived by his wife, Amtul Salam, his three sons from his first marriage, Ashar, Badar and Mubashir, and ten grandchildren who brought him much joy. As a testament to his open and loving personality, several of his younger grandchildren profess ambitions to become doctors, even a cardiologist, and one of his stethoscopes is a much-cherished gift.

Samuel W Webb

[Information from the Khan family, Noreen Curry, Jaweed Wali and Masood H Khan]

(Volume XII, page web)

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