Vol. 4 Num 38 Fri. July 04, 2003  

Lest we forget
Major General MR Choudhury
An extraordinary health personality

An eminent medical scientist and physician of Bangladesh, Major General Mahmudur Rahman Choudhury was born on June 1, 1928 in Sylhet. He had to his credit a brilliant academic and professional career. All through his school and college life he receiving stipend. He passed Matric in 1944 in first division with letters and stood first in ISc among Muslims under Calcutta University in 1946, and got the full scholarship for studying in Calcutta Medical College. He graduated from there in 1951 and obtained D. Bact. with distinction from the University of London in 1959.

He was commissioned in the Pakistan Army Medical Corps in 1952. For his professional excellence as a junior major, he received a letter of commendation from the Commander in Chief and also was honoured with the civil award Tamgha-e-Quaide Azam.

Dr. M.R. Choudhury was posted at Islamabad as the Executive Director of National Health Laboratories in 1970.

His dynamic command and superb organisational capabilities contributed largely to the establishment of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and Transfusion in 1976 and he became the Founder Commandant.

His contributions earned him the recognition of the Government of Bangladesh and as such the Independence Day Award (in Medical Science) was conferred on him in 1977. The institution he built up, the AFIP&T also received the same award as a centre of excellence later in 1987. He had the distinction of being awarded MRCPath without examination. To have MRCPath and subsequently FRCPath is unique in this region and speaks of recognition of his academic distinction by the Royal college of Pathologists of London. He was again honoured by the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences with the highest scientific award in 'Biological Sciences' in 1995.

He was also awarded fellowships by the Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons (FCPS), the International Biographical Association, Cambridge (FIBA), American Biographical Institute, (FABI). Even after his death he has been posthumously honoured with an award by the Society of Medical Microbiologists in 2002.

General M.R. Choudhury went on superannuation in 1992 after 40 years of successful career in the Army -- a record till unsurpassed by any one. Since then, he devoted his time in conducting research, teaching Microbiology and Laboratory Medicine in different institutions.

He was one of the outstanding microbiologists of his generation. He organised the Bangladesh Society for Microbiologists in 1976 and was its founder president. Under his able leadership, BSM over a short period of time succeeded in creating awareness about the importance of Microbiology in Bangladesh amongst those who matter. As a result, the University of Dhaka created a full-fledged Department of Microbiology. He passed away on June 24, 1999. WHO, mentioned in their obituary message: "The AIDS and human rights community in Bangladesh has lost its founder and a great leader. General was a great soldier in this battle and fought until the very end, as a soldier should do." The World Bank authorities paid rich tribute in the following words: "With his untimely death Bangladesh has lost a visionary leader, who had the right combination of scholarship, substance, integrity, team spirit and passion for doing something for the people. ..."

He was able to set an extraordinary example of an administrator, a scientist, an educationist, in one.

Dr Stefano Lazarri is Coordinator, NCS, WHO, Geneva.