Asian doctors who dedicated their lives to serving the NHS - EasternEye

Asian doctors who dedicated their lives to serving the NHS

(Photo: GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images).
(Photo: GIL COHEN-MAGEN/AFP via Getty Images).

Dr Anton Sebastianpillai, Kingston Hospital
Dr Anton Sebastianpillai was a “hugely respected” NHS geriatrician and author in his 70s, who died on April 4 at Kingston Hospital, where he served as a consultant.

President of the British Geriat­rics Society, Professor Tash Mas­ud, said Sebastianpillai’s death was “heartbreaking”, adding that he was a doctor who had devoted 40 years of his professional life caring for older people.

The Royal College of Physi­cians also paid tribute, describ­ing him as a “valued member of the RCP family”.

Sebastianpillai was a “distin­guished alumnus” of the Perad­eniya Medical School in Sri Lan­ka, and an expert on the island nation’s history and culture.

“In addition to his illustrious career in medicine, Sebastianpil­lai had been an avid collector of rare and antique religious bronz­es, figurines, books, stamps and coins personally researched with passion and expertise acquired through decades of collector’s ex­perience,” said Dr Krish T Rad­hakrishnan, president of the medical school’s alumni associa­tion is the UK.

He noted that Sebastianpillai had authored quite a few notable books such as A Dictionary of the History of Medicine, The Illustrat­ed History of Sri Lanka, and Dates in Medicine.

Acting leader of Liberal Demo­crats, Sir Ed Davey, who repre­sents Kingston and Surbiton in Parliament, said he was “privi­leged” to meet Sebastianpillai and discuss subjects such as the NHS and Tamil history.

“Anton is hugely respected as a consultant & author: his The Il­lustrated History of Sri Lanka is world class,” Davey tweeted, of­fering condolences to his wife and son.

Dr Thusiyan Nandakumar, from Kingston College London, said: “Dr Sebastianpillai put him­self at risk to help save others.

“A remarkably courageous and selfless role model.”

Dr Jitendra Rathod, University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff
Dr Jitendra Rathod, 62, was a “very highly regarded” cardio-thoracic surgeon at the Universi­ty Hospital of Wales in Cardiff.

The father of two was described as a “leading light” in his speciality.

“He was an incredibly dedi­cated surgeon who cared deeply for his patients,” said the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, after his death on April 6. “He was well liked and greatly respected by one and all. He was a very compassionate and a won­derful human being.”

It also noted that the Indian surgeon’s “commitment” to his work was “exemplary”.

Dr David Hepburn, from the Royal Gwent Hospital in New­port, described his former col­league as a “talented, skilled and kind clinician”.

Dr Rathod’s death, he added, was a “massive loss” that left him “absolutely gutted”.

Wales and Lions star Jamie Roberts, who is also a doctor by qualification, said that Dr Rathod was a “very compassionate and a wonderful human being” who was highly dedicated to his profession.

Lord Simon Woolley, chair of the UK’s Race Disparity Unit Ad­visory Group, said the region in which Dr Rathod practised had “a disproportionate number of BAME doctors, particularly Asian” since “English graduate doctors had little desire to prac­tise in the small town and villages in Wales”.

“So Asian doctors were en­couraged to fill these gaps, which they did, taking their young fami­lies and building a life serving communities as if they were their own,” he added.

“So, thank you to all those doc­tors, but, in particular, thank you to Jitendra Rathod known has ‘Ji­tu’ to his friends. Your lifelong contribution serving the Welsh communities… will not be forgot­ten,” he said.

Dr Syed Zishan Haider, Barking and Dagenham
Dr Syed Zishan Haider was a “selfless and compassionate” doctor who worked at Barking and Dagenham Clinical Commission­ing Group for over three decades.

Dr Haider, who died aged 79 at Queen’s Hospital on April 6, had arrived in the UK in the late 1960s, after completing studies at the Khyber Medical College, Pe­shawar, Pakistan.

He began as an NHS house of­ficer and served in several hospi­tals in and around Greater Lon­don before specialising in the primary health care sector as a general practitioner.

His daughter, Samina Haider, said: “As a practising GP, he was committed to serving his com­munity in Barking and Dagen­ham, where he was a senior part­ner at Valence Medical Centre.

“He also worked as a senior homeopathic physician at the Royal London Hospital for integrated medicine for over 30 years.

“His dedication to help people everywhere, be it professionally or personally, was unwavering. He wasn’t just a GP to his patients and colleagues – he was a true friend and mentor. Someone that anyone could turn to, whenever they needed support and advice.

“He was a loving, cheerful and dedicated husband, father and grandfather. We are left with a void that can never be filled.”

His son, Dr Kumail Haider, said the family had received many messages on how his father was “a selfless man driven by his passion for his profession”.

“Even while in hospital breath­ing his last, he was urging doctors and nurses to pay attention to other patients rather than him,” he was quoted as saying. “Many at his age would have retired yet his dedication to his profession was immeasurable.”

Dr Hamza Peecheri, Birmingham
Dr Hamza Peecheri, 80, was a re­tired NHS doctor who had gradu­ated in medicine from Kerala. He had been living in the UK for over 40 years.

Dr Karamat Mirza, GP, Essex
Dr Karamat Ullah Mirza, 84, one of the oldest doctors who died in the Covid-19 pandemic, was a GP since 1974 and a senior partner since the mid-1980s.

He was treating patients up until two weeks prior to his pass­ing at the Old Road Medical Prac­tice at Clacton-on-Sea, where he had run the surgery for 40 years.

He grew up in Pakistan in a family of doctors before arriving in England in 1966. Dr Mirza completed two medical degrees as his first wasn’t initially recog­nised in the UK. He was also fa­ther to a son and daughter from two previous marriages.

Dr Mirza was one of the first Asian doctors to work in Clacton. He was also a clinical assistant in anaesthesia at Colchester Hospi­tal for 20 years, as well as a clini­cal assistant in obstetrics in Clac­ton Hospital for 20 years.

“He was superhuman. Some­one, who came from a complete­ly different culture, but embraced the English culture wholly, I’ve never met anyone to equal this man,” his wife Estelle was quoted as saying.

“He was taking the precautions and he was being careful, but he would say, “I can’t leave my pa­tients at this time, I need to be there for them.”

Dr Ed Garratt, chief executive for NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk, NHS West Suffolk and NHS North East Essex CCGs, said that Dr Mirza was a “respected and much-oved GP”.

Dr Poornima Nair, Station View Medical Centre, Bishop Auckland
Dr Poornima Nair, 56, a GP at the Station View medical centre in Bishop Auckland, County Dur­ham, was reportedly the first fe­male doctor in the UK to die from Covid-19. She was born in New Delhi in November 1963 to Sarala Nair and PK Nair, who were origi­nally from Kannur, a coastal city in Kerala.

Dr Nair completed her medical education from the University of Delhi and started practising as a general practitioner after arriving in the UK in 1993. She devoted the last 26 years of her life work­ing for the NHS.

Her husband, Shlokarth Balu­puri, a consultant surgeon at Sunderland Royal Hospital, said that the couple met in 1981, when she was in her first year and he was her senior by a year at Uni­versity College of Medical Sci­ences in Delhi.

“We had been together for 40 years.”

Their son, Varun Nair Balupu­ri, 26, a data scientist, said: “My mother was kind, caring and lov­ing to her family, friends and pa­tients, as evidenced by the hun­dreds of tributes and memorials to her. She had an unflinching determination and dedication to everything she did in life and in­spired those around her, living each day to its maximum.”

Dr Tariq Shafi, Darent Valley Hospital, Dartford
Dr Tariq Shafi, 61, was the lead consultant for haematology for 13 years at Darent Valley Hospital in Dartford, Kent. His colleagues and friends remember the British Pakistani as a “greatly respected and loved” doctor.

He was specialised in anaemia, blood-related cancers and bleed­ing disorders. Dr Shafi had more than 15 years of experience, do­ing his haematology training in Leeds and at King’s College Hos­pital, London. In addition to this, he spent time at one of the largest teaching and tertiary referral cen­tres in the Middle East in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. There he trained at their leading bone marrow trans­plant unit.

Dr Shafi was actively involved in research, working as the prin­cipal investigator in several clini­cal trials. He had published nu­merous peer-reviewed articles and regularly lectures in the UK and abroad. He loved teaching, providing training for GPs, medi­cal students and young doctors working towards the MRCP and MRCPath qualifications. Dr Shafi was an expert in lymphomas, multiple myeloma, leukaemia, myelodysplastic syndrome, anae­mia and bleeding disorders.

Dartford and Gravesham NHS Trust said: “Dr Shafi built an amazing team of dedicated clini­cians and support workers, plac­ing them and his patients at the heart of everything he did.”

“He was a very soft-spoken and humble man. We’ve lost one of our best,” said Dr Riyaz Shah, a friend and colleague of Dr Shafi.

Dr Nasir Khan, Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust
British Pakistani Dr Nasir Khan, 46, from Bolton, Greater Man­chester, was a locum doctor working for Mid Yorkshire Hospi­tals NHS Trust. He joined the trust in November 2019 and had been working at Dewsbury and District Hospital.

Born in Karachi, the father of three was respected among Brit­ish health practitioners.

He was conferred as a member of Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in December 2019.

Dr Khan and a number of his family worked in the Irish health care system. His first job in Ire­land was as a senior House Offic­er in Sligo. He also worked in the Regional Hospital in Mullingar as a registrar.

His son, Mahad Ali Khan, said his father would “look for the slightest of excuses to help those in needs”.

“He dedicated his life to his family and profession. He was incredibly strong and we always turned to him for support as he was a shining light of guidance. He always put his family and friends before himself and was extremely giving.”

Martin Barkley, chief executive of Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said that Dr Khan was “a very well-liked and valued member of the team” with many colleagues having “spoken of his incredibly positive nature and kindness”.

Manjeet Singh Riyat
A&E consultant, University Hos­pitals of Derby and Burton NHS Foundation Trust

Manjeet Singh Riyat, 52, from the University Hospitals of Derby and Burton, was the first Acci­dent and Emergency (A&E) con­sultant from the Sikh community in the UK. He played a key role in building the Emergency Medi­cine Service in Derbyshire in the past two decades.

Dr Riyat qualified from the University of Leicester in 1992 and trained in emergency medi­cine at Leicester Royal Infirmary and Lincoln County Hospital.

During this time, and before the introduction of paramedics in the region, he acted as team lead­er for the Accident Flying Squads at both hospitals. Dr Riyat was also one of the first Clinical Re­search Fellows in the UK and contributed to the birth of aca­demic emergency medicine.

In 2003, he became one of four consultants in emergency medi­cine at the Derbyshire Royal In­firmary and was the first person from the Sikh community to be appointed as an Emergency Medicine Consultant in the UK.

Dr Riyat became head of the service for the Emergency De­partment in 2006 and made con­tributions to clinical governance and patient safety.

As Derby College Tutor for Emergency Medicine, he oversaw the training of junior doctors from multiple specialities in the Emergency Department.

He also spent 17 years serving as an educational supervisor to dozens of regional Emergency Medicine trainees and took pride in his work supporting trainees in difficulty for the Deanery.

Dr Riyat was an active Ad­vanced Life Support (ALS), Ad­vanced Paediatric Life Support and Advanced Trauma Life Sup­port instructor and was instru­mental in setting up ALS courses in Derby as Course Director. The Royal College of Emergency Medicine appointed him as a col­lege examiner in 2007.

Dr Furqan Ali Siddiqui, Manchester Royal Infirmary
Dr Furqan Ali Siddiqui, 50, was a plastic surgeon and had started working on the frontline treating patients with coronavirus.

He was a clinical fellow in the Burns and Plastics Department at Wythenshawe Hospital.

He joined Manchester Univer­sity NHS Foundation Trust (MFT) in October 2019 and worked at the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, which is also part of the trust.

He was known for his charita­ble work. He paid for and looked after children at an orphanage back home in Karachi, Pakistan.

He was a father to six children, who live in Pakistan, with his wife Dr Fazia Siddiqui, a doctor at a medical college in Karachi.

“Furqan was a valued and much-respected member of the team at MFT and will be sadly missed by all those who knew him and worked with him,” said Dr Mohammed Dosani, a close friend.

“He was loving and charitable.”

Dr Kamlesh Kumar Masson, GP, Essex
British Indian Dr Kamlesh Kumar Masson, 78, spent more than 30 years as a GP in Thurrock.

Dr Masson arrived in the UK in 1973, after medical training in India and working as a doctor in east Africa.

He practised across the UK, including in Ashby De La Zouch, Leicestershire, and Kings Lynn,Norfolk, before settling in South Essex in 1975.

Dr Masson founded Grays’ Milton Road Surgery a decade later and worked there until 2017. He spent the subsequent three years as a locum in the Thurrock and Basildon areas, completing his last day on March 12, and also worked at Muree Medical Prac­tice in Basildon.

Paying tribute, his family said: ‘He was an excellent clinician whose drive to constantly im­prove his clinical skills and knowledge with passion and en­thusiasm will remain with us all as a reminder to always try to be the best. He was recognised in the locality by patients, col­leagues and peers as a dedicated, determined, positive individual who would always do his utmost to help in all endeavours.”

GP Dr Anil Kallil, chair of NHS Thurrock CCG, said: “Dr Masson was a well-respected and liked GP in Thurrock, with a significant contribution over the last 30 years in the borough caring for patients and providing support.”

Dr Rajesh Kalraiya, Isle of Wight
Paediatrician Dr Rajesh Kalraiya, 69, has been working in the UK for the past 40 years.

He completed his studies in medicine from GMCH Nagpur, India, in 1968-69.

Dr Kalraiya used to travel up and down the UK, visiting various hospitals to treat children.

Dr Ramesh Mehta, president of British Association of Physi­cians of Indian Origin (BAPIO), who is also from Nagpur, said, “Rajesh was dear to his close col­leagues. Medicine was his life.” He said the passing of Dr Kalraiya was “really traumatic”.

He was a bachelor and had no immediate family in England.

His cousin Yuvaraj Gadhval said, “He was the eldest cousin for us. Service to patients was his passion. Even if he was nearly 70 years old, he chose to serve pa­tients during coronavirus emer­gency in England. Sadly, none of us could attend to him during his last days.”

Dr Abdul Mabud Chowdhury, Homerton University Hospital
The name Abdul Mabud Chowd­hury will remain etched in British medical history as the doctor who pleaded with the UK government to ensure “PPE for each and every NHS health worker”, just days be­fore he succumbed to Covid-19.

In an open letter to prime minis­ter Boris Johnson, he wrote: “Re­member, we may be doctor/nurse/HCA/allied health workers who are in direct contact with patients, but we are also human being to practice human right like others to live in this world disease-free with our family and children.”

A “caring and compassionate” urological surgeon at Homerton University Hospital in East London, Chowdhury died at the age of 53 on April 8 at Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

After graduating from the Chit­tagong Medical College Bangla­desh in 1992, and later specialis­ing in surgery in Zimbabwe, he moved to England in 2001.

His colleague Dr Jhumur Pati said Dr Chowdhury would be “remembered for his generous spirit, uncompromising integrity and his dedication to his patients and family”.

“His main passion and achieve­ment, however, was building the charitable BKN Memorial Hospi­tal & Research Centre in Bangla­desh in 2010, in memory of his fa­ther-in-law Basher, his mother-in-law Kohinoor and his sister-in-law Nasim, who tragically died in a car accident on the Chittagong high­way,” she wrote in a tribute. “The hospital provides free clinics, di­agnostics and medical care to the local rural community.”

Another colleague, Dr Golam Rahat Khan, recalled Dr Chowd­hury as a “caring, life-loving per­son” who enjoyed singing, and loved Bengali culture as well as English heritage.

Dr Yusuf Patel, Woodgrange Medical Practice, Forest Gate
Dr Yusuf Patel is remembered as a “wonderful and gentle human be­ing and an excellent GP” who had “dedicated his life to look after the patients in the East End”.

The founder of Woodgrange Medical Practice, in Forest Gate, where he worked since 1997, died on April 20 at Queen’s Hospital in Romford.

The practice recalled Patel as “a simple, humble, honest man with no extravagances in life”.

“He was the life and soul of any party and great fun to be with,” said colleagues.

“Yet he set an example for all of us with his drive and enthusiasm to achieve the highest standards.

“He touched thousands of lives with his kindness, generosity and sincerity, serving the local com­munity in Newham.”

Community members recalled Dr Patel as a “trustworthy friend, and a brilliant mentor to so many”.

He was also part of the NHS Newham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), and vice chair of Newham Healthcare Collabora­tive. His death was “a tragic loss to our local GP community”, said Selina Douglas, managing direc­tor at NHS Newham CCG.

“Above all else, he was a selfless man who loved his patients and was popular and respected among his peers,” she added.

One of Dr Patel’s colleagues, Safi Ahmed, described his death as “desperately heartbreaking”.

“Patel had dedicated his life to look after the patients in the East End,” he said.

The dad-of-three left behind his wife, Nasim, and children Ru­maysa, Maariya and Ahmed – all pursuing medical careers.

“Our father was one of the most compassionate, loving and fun human beings you could ever know,” the devasted family said.

“To us, he was just dad – the best father we could have asked for. He enjoyed family holidays, passionately attended West Ham United matches with friends, was the life and soul of every celebra­tion, but equally loved a good snooze and book!”

Dr Krishan Arora, Croydon
Dr Krishan Arora, who “worked tirelessly to care for his patients” died of Covid-19 on April 15, at the age of 57.

Serving the community as a GP for 27 years, he was hailed as a “hero” of Croydon.

Dr Arora had graduated from Cambridge University in 1988 and worked as a full-time GP and sen­ior partner at a 11,500-patient practice in Croydon, where he had served for 26 years.

Tributes described Dr Arora as someone who “gave much of him­self to help others in the commu­nity and saw patients till the end”.

Patients said he “was more than just a GP; he was a human being who showed a lot of empathy and understanding”.

One of them, Chris van Hoorn, recalled how Dr Arora was “un­derstanding and tolerant of peo­ple’s frailties”, adding that an “ap­pointment with him was less a medical matter than a discussion about human nature”.

Another said the GP was “one of the most sincere and caring men”.

“So many suffer from mental health and he found the time to listen. He listened and he helped. He was a hero.”

A colleague, Dr Shifa Rahman, a GP at New Addington Group Practice, said: “Dear Dr Arora, I write this letter to you as you are smiling down from us in heaven.

“As a newly qualified GP in Croydon, I felt daunted entering a new world, but you made me feel most welcome.”

Dr Tumsilla Sethi of Bexley GP Federation said: “He was known for his care for his patients, his sense of humour, his dedication to the healthcare profession and making things better for people. While being a caring GP, he also had one of the warmest and kind­est personalities….”

Dr Vishna Rasiah, Birmingham Women’s and Children’s Hospital
He was an “amazing doctor” who was known to be “passionate about the care of babies”.

Dr Vishna Rasiah – known to friends as ‘Vish’ – was a “well-re­spected and much-loved” con­sultant neonatologist at the Bir­mingham Women’s and Chil­dren’s Hospital.

The 48-year-old Malaysian doctor was highly-regarded across the Midlands for his role as clinical lead for the regional neo­natal network.

The hospital’s chief executive, Sarah-Jane Marsh, called Rasiah’s untimely death on April 23 “cruel and unfair”.

“As our tears flow, we must al­ways remember the values that Vish stood for, and hold his vision, courage and compassion in our hearts,” she added.

Dr Fiona Reynolds, the hospi­tal’s medical director, said Rasi­ah’s departure was “heart-break­ing”, noting that the team had “lost someone as talented, dedicated and respected as Vish”.

“His loss will not only be felt by his friends and colleagues at our hospital, but by many across the Midlands who worked alongside him for so long,” she said.

“Vish touched the lives of many families during his time as a neo­natal consultant in Birmingham, and will be sadly missed.”

Dr Rasiah was a loving husband and doting father, too. His death left the family “devastated”, said his wife Liza.

“He was such a loving husband and father to our beautiful daugh­ter Katelyn, and much-loved son and brother to our family in Ma­laysia and Trinidad. His whole family meant the world to him, and he absolutely doted on Katelyn.

“Vish loved his work; to him it was so much more than a job and his colleagues are part of our family too. He treated every patient and family that he cared for as his own; I couldn’t have been prouder of him,” Liza said.

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