Professor Feroze Shah

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Professor Feroze Shah, Prof Dr Muhammad Hafizullah
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (

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Professor Feroze Shah

Prof Dr Muhammad Hafizullah

Publishing Date: Friday, September 16 2005

Though the weather has taken a turn for cooler nights, the days are still hot. The funeral of one of the pioneers of surgery in NWFP, Khyber Teaching hospital and Khyber Medical College and a very revered doctor and colleague was organised for 11 am. An hour before clouds appear from nowhere and the ambience became cooler and pleasant. As the friends of the past and the students of today got together to bid him adieu, all appeared depressed. Every one had some thing to say about him.

His quotations were being quoted and they were enough to spread smiles all over. His old cronies Prof Raza, Prof Nasir and Prof Nawaz appeared somber on losing a friend who would adorn their lips with smiles. Prof Shafiq, Prof Ashfaq, Prof Qazi Mohyuddin, and Prof Inayatur Rehman were there for a final goodbye. And then there were scores of his students and trainees who owed their career to him and gathered to pay their homage.

'Prof Feroz Shah was an institution in his own right', every one agrees to that. A great surgeon with complete command on his subject and meticulous technique! An intellectual in his own class with tremendous sense of humour! A wonderful and sensitive human being whose heart ached for the unprivileged! A man of great vision and farsightedness being one of the pioneers of surgery in NWFP! An avid teacher, whose only passion was reading and teaching. A man so witty that his quotes still echo in medical community both in staff and students! A self-styled and tastefully dressed gentleman who enjoyed what ever he did! A kind hearted person with unlimited love for the poor!

It was always difficult to keep pace with him! His ward round used to be a great source of learning for all of us. As his house staff we learnt a lot more about life than just 'surgery'. Almost in every room he used to narrate an Ayat from Holy Quran, crack a joke and narrate an anecdote. People used to love him for his 'wisdom' and 'quotes'. Patients used to wait for him because they had tremendous faith in him.

Quite frequently while doing a round he would ask, "Which is the thirteenth Para?" More often than not the answer used to be 'silence and blank looks'. If some one answered correctly the next question would be, "Ok, recite the first few Ayat!" Again most of the people would fail to answer. If some hafiz Quran did answer correctly, his next question would be, "What is the meaning and what is the message?" No body could pass this test as his invariable answer would be, "That's where you got it wrong! The real essence is. Most of us had learnt to answer the very question in negative to avoid the 'detailed examination'. 

He was a great philosopher and has many quotable quotes which have become a part of our medical heritage. One of his favourite questions would be, 'Who is happy in this country?" And after a meaningful pause he would say, "Either children or those who have gone mad."

"Which are the two places worth seeing in this world?" he would ask and then reply in the same breath, "Either Makkah to see His grandeur or America to see His practical demonstration!" If a poor person would approach him and try to bribe him by saying, "I will pray for you," his impromptu reply would be, "No, I am going to pray for you, may be you deserve more prayers!"

I did my house job with him in 1980. His unit consisted of gems which all shone in different capacities. At that time Prof Haider Bukhari was Associate Professor who later on became the Principal of Khyber Medical College. Prof Omar Ali Khan was his Assistant Professor who is the current Principal of Khyber Medical College and Prof Changez Khan was his senior registrar who is the Chief Executive of Khyber Teaching Hospital. With these gentlemen around, working in Surgical 'A' ward used to be great fun. We had ample opportunities to learn from the 'legends' of surgery.

"He was a man with four eyes (implying great vision)," commented Prof Haider Bukhari, retired Principal of Khyber Medical College, who worked with him for twelve years. He was all full of praises for him. He was most appreciative of his surgical skills and undertaking complicated surgeries with well thought out plans. He was convinced of his extraordinary abilities as a person, teacher, doctor and colleague.

He had his own style in every thing. His out patient department was a big bazaar but only he knew what he was doing. He had one of the busiest clinics at his own time. People used to throng his clinic for all medical and surgical illnesses. He used to write notes which contained comprehensive information but only he could discern it. It took us a long time to understand his writing, his notes and his hidden messages!

I saw him for the first time in our dissection hall in 1974. He entered the dissection hall with his perennial smile and started asking us questions - medical and non medical! Most of us had mouths opened and blank looks and watched him with surprise! He was a magician- he knew how to grasp the attention and then he would play with words and keep the audience mesmerised. He went into the details of anatomical ramifications and of course most of us had never read or heard those things neither before nor after! We were all very impressed with his personality and he remained the 'talk of the dissection hall' for the next few weeks!

He was a meticulous surgeon who had very good understanding of anatomy- knowledge of structures. As house staff we had to brush up our anatomy - as he would ask us questions during operations. His main strength was attention to details.

He was very good in putting things in the right perspective. He was the master of applying common sense to complex medical problems and appear as a 'victor' most of the times. He would keep his calm during surgery and was well-known for his persistence and perseverance. He was famous for his innovative techniques which still are being practised in the operation theatres every where. He was quite willing to take on neurosurgical and thoracic cases when the expertise was quite non existent in our province at that time.

He had an extremely friendly nature and the atmosphere in the ward used to be quite affable. Even as a house officer (the junior most in medical hierarchy!) we had a free entrance to his office and his home. His wife, head of Anaesthesia, Professor Mussarat Shah, used to be most kind and looked after us. There was a time, a couple of decades ago, when the bond between a teacher and student used to be very strong and sturdy. I am proud that I always enjoyed his love and attention till the end based on that bond. When I asked for my testimonial from him he said, "You have to wait!" Later I discovered that he was trying to heap up all the superlatives and thread them in one sentence.

He was a born teacher and would be teaching us all the time! His lectures used to be impromptu and he would drift from topic to topic because he had so much to teach. His bedside teaching used to be excellent and goal orientated.

His bedside mannerism was impeccable. He was a great believer in the sanctity of human life and dignity of human being. We had a 'running commentary' during his operations and one could learn all the steps of surgery while assisting him.

"Kia Kia suratain this jo khak mai pinhan ho gai" commented eminent surgeon Prof Qazi Khadim Mohyuddin, his long time associate. "How many great people we have lost to the dust!"

Prof Feroze Shah was one person one thought death would not snatch from us! We always thought that once bitten by his smile the angel of death will go empty handed! But alas the icy hands of death have taken him away from us and no body can fill that vacuum. But I am sure his smile would stay around in the corridors of medicine and there will be many like me who would derive great pride in being his student!

(The writer is head of Cardiology Department, Postgraduate Medical Institute, Lady Reading Hospital, Peshawar)


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Professor Feroze Shah, Prof Dr Muhammad Hafizullah
Published in Khyber.ORG on Friday, September 16 2005 (