Vol. 5 Num 498 Wed. October 19, 2005  

In Memoriam
Dr Zohra Begum Kazi
The Florence Nightingale of Dhaka

The first Bengali Muslim female doctor of the then undivided Bengal, Professor Dr Zohra Begum Kazi, was born on October 15, 1912, at Ranjangaon, Madhya Pradesh, India. Her father, late Dr. Kazi Abdus Sattar was also a renowned physician and a political personality of the sub-continent who hailed from the famous Kazi family of Gopalpur village under Kalkini upazila of Madaripur district. He was a close associate of Mahatma Gandhi, Maulana Abul KalamAzad, Maulana Shawkat Ali, Jawharlal Nehru, Ballav Bhai Patel, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haq, and many other personalities of that time.

Prof Dr Zohra Begum Kazi was married to late Razuddin Bhuiyan (MLC) (MP), the only son of the zamindar of Hiatirdia under Raipur Upazilla of Narsingdhi district. He was also a dedicated social worker and renowned politician.

Her eldest brother late Prof. Kazi Ashraf Mahmud was a famous Hindi poet and a close associate of Comrade Muzaffar Ahmed, Ramdas Gandhi (son of Mahatma Gandhi), and our national poet KaziNazrul Islam. He was a founder member of All India Communist Party. He retired as Professor of Botany Department, Dhaka University.

Her only youngest sister late Dr. Shirin Kazi was also a renowned physician, poet, and columnist. She was the first Bengali Muslim female doctor to obtain DRCOG degree from London in 1951.

Prof Dr Zohra Begum Kazi had her early education from different places of the then undivided India. She matriculated with distinction from Muslim Girls Collegiate High School, Aligarh in 1928. After passing intermediate with distinction from Aligarh Muslim University and College in 1930, she obtained MBBS degree in 1935 from Lady Harding Medical College for Women, Delhi. She stood First Class First and was awarded the Viceroy's Medal for her meritorious achievement in MBBS final Examination.

Prof Dr. Zohra Begum Kazi served in different hospitals of British India as assistant surgeon for thirteen years. After partition in 1947 she came back to her ancestral home and joined Dhaka Medical College and Hospital in 1948 as resident surgeon and settled in Dhaka. She was a cyclist, table tennis, and badminton player. Other then her mother tongue, she could also read, write, and speak Hindi, Urdu, Arabic and English fluently.

Prof Dr Zohra Begum Kazi was a brilliant student. She received stipends and full scholarships throughout her educational career up to post graduate studies in the UK starting right from primary school. She was awarded scholarship in 1955 and successfully obtained DRCOG degree from London and completed her FCPS. Prof Dr Zohra Begum Kazi also successfully obtained FRCOG and MRCOG degrees from London and joined Dhaka Medical College and Hospital as professor and Head of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. During her long and illustrious career she served, among other things, as senior consultant of Holy Family Red Crescent Hospital, CMH, and Dhaka Cantonment (with the rank of honorary colonel), and as honorary professor, Bangladesh Medical College.

During her long service in Dhaka Medical College and Hospital, Prof Dr Zohra Begum Kazi was shocked and disturbed at the plight and sufferings of female patients who were ignorant of modern allopathic medicine and treatment. They were usually very shy and not accustomed to seeking outdoor medical assistance in male dominated hospitals. The mortality rate amongst female patients was extremely high during that time. To mitigate their sufferings, she often used to visit door to door of female patients and motivated them to leave behind age old rites, beliefs, and superstitions, and encouraged them to come out of their house to seek medical treatment and assistance, to save both mother and child, which eventually yielded positive response from the long neglected women folk of the then backward society. She was a pioneer in women's education and emancipation who played a pivotal role in imparting education to women in medical science, which substantially increased the number of enrollment of girl students in MBBS course.

Prof. Dr.Zohra Begum Kazi was a dedicated physician who attained the highest degree of professional excellence. She was honest, sincere, and devoted to her sacred duties, and was punctual in her noble profession like the rhythm of a clock. Her philosophy was "humane behaviour, benevolent approach, patience, friendly caring, devotion and dedicated service to mankind" which she professed, taught, and maintained throughout her long professional life. She was awarded Taghma-e-Pakistan in 1964. She was also awarded the Begum Rokeya Padak in 2002 by the Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia.

A social reformer like Prof Dr Zohra Begum Kazi may not come often. She came like a ray of light to enlighten the backward Bengali nation in those dark days. By dint of her selfless devotion and dedicated and relentless effort she reached the pinnacle of her profession. She never ran after wealth, name, and fame. She used to say to her medical pupils, "Don't run after money -- money will run after you -- and be sincere to your noble profession." She will be remembered by the nation for her unforgettable contribution. For her selfless and dedicated service to humanity she ought to have been called the Florence Nightingale of Bangladesh. May Almighty Allah grant her long life.