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Year : 2020  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 123-124

Remembering Dr. Iqbal Ahmed; A skilled cancer surgeon, great teacher and perfect gentleman

Department of Surgical Oncology, RCC, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, India

Date of Submission13-Aug-2020
Date of Decision16-Aug-2020
Date of Acceptance14-Oct-2020
Date of Web Publication07-Nov-2020

Correspondence Address:
K Chandramohan
Department of Surgical Oncology, RCC, Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/ksj.ksj_31_20

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How to cite this article:
Chandramohan K. Remembering Dr. Iqbal Ahmed; A skilled cancer surgeon, great teacher and perfect gentleman. Kerala Surg J 2020;26:123-4

How to cite this URL:
Chandramohan K. Remembering Dr. Iqbal Ahmed; A skilled cancer surgeon, great teacher and perfect gentleman. Kerala Surg J [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jun 26];26:123-4. Available from: http://www.keralasurgj.com/text.asp?2020/26/2/123/300250

When I was posted in cancer surgery department of regional cancer centre Trivandrum during my 2nd year rotation of general surgery residency in 1997, I met for the first time Dr. Iqbal Ahamed, the head of the department at that time. During the first meeting itself, I noticed his dynamic personality. In fact, I never imagined that it was the beginning of a long standing relationship between us which lasted for more than two decades until his untimely demise. in cancer surgery unit, things I remember that the surgeons in RCC often operated silently. One day, I decided to end this silent drama and dared to throw a sudden question at Dr. Iqbal, 'Sir, what are the different types of radical neck dissections.' Hearing this unexpected question, sir looked at me with a surprise, but he slowly smiled and started answering my question in detail, taking a long time before we scrubbed for the case. After that incident, I suddenly lost all inhibitions and started asking a lot of questions and getting a lot of good answers from him, which were sufficient to quench my thirst for knowledge and also it generated a great interest in me towards the subject of cancer surgery, which forced me to take the same speciality and join the same institute under him at a later time.

Dr. Iqbal Ahmed joined the Department of Surgical Oncology, RCC, in 1986; then, the department was headed by Dr. Thomas Cherian, The co-workers in oncology remember the newly joined young slim surgical oncologist with a very impressive character with sweet, unassuming and friendly approach to patients and colleagues. Few of them also vividly remember him arriving at the hospital in his brand new diesel fiat car with number 786. The good attributes and characters that the young onco-surgeon possessed then were preserved till his death and this made him very popular among his co-workers and patients.

Worldwide, most of the advances in cancer surgery we see now have developed after that time. thanks to the contribution and leadership of Dr. Iqbal Ahamed along with his contemporary, Dr. Paul Sebastian, the former Director of RCC, the cancer surgery department in RCC grew in the next two decades into one of the country's best cancer surgery treating and training facility, treating >4000 cases annually and training many students for MCh degree.

DR. Iqbal Ahmed was Head of the Department of Surgical Oncology, Regional Cancer Centre, from 2008 to 2016. During his tenure as HOD, he has contributed significantly toward the establishment of patient care and workforce training in the department. He was an accomplished surgeon and teacher. In fact, he used to teach not only his students but was also the main mentor for his juniors in the department. His surgical skills and leadership qualities helped the Department of Surgical Oncology in RCC to develop to one of the best cancer surgery training programs in the country. His main interest was in Oesophageal and Lung Cancer Surgeries, which were at its infancy when he started his career. It was an irony that Dr. Iqbal Ahamed also succumbed to esophageal cancer, a cancer which was he was fighting for his patients during his entire life period and training his juniors to treat.

Dr. Iqbal Ahamed was born on 2nd October 1951 in the sleepy village of Kaniyapuram, in the outskirts of Trivandrum. His father was Adv Muhammed Ibrahim, former Joint Sales Tax Commissioner and his mother was Sulekha Beevi. His schooling was done at Kaniyapuram Muslim School. He completed the 10th standard in 1966. Then, he went on with Pre-matriculation (St. Xavier's College; 1968), Degree (University College; 1971). He did his medical training during 1971–1975 at GMC Trivandrum. He did his MS in General Surgery at BHU Varanasi during 1982–1984. He started his long surgical career at AKG Hospital, Tellichery at 1984. He was trained under the legendary Dr. PKR Warrier, an eminent cardiothoracic surgeon and social activist. Dr. Warrier's mentorship not only made him acquire world-class skills in thoracic surgery but also shaped him into a surgeon with excellent social outlook. Then, he joined RCC Trivandrum in 1986 and worked in various capacities in the surgical oncology department and finally as Head of the Department. He also got an international exposure while he worked in University Hospital Cardiff UK (1989–1991). In 2000, he left RCC and joined the newly established Malabar Cancer Centre (MCC) as Director on deputation. He worked there till 2008. During this time, he was literally building the MCC from brick to brick and trying to initiate its various clinical services, based on the experiences he had acquired from RCC, Trivandrum. He returned to RCC and continued as HOD of Surgical Oncology from 2008 till his retirement on 31st October 2016. After his retirement, he worked in KIMS hospital, Trivandrum and as CEO of MVR Cancer Centre Kozhikode from 2017 until his untimely demise on 4th October 2019. His inputs to the development of MVR Cancer Centre, made it to reach the top among modern private cancer care centers in India.

He was married to Mariam Beevi, daughter of Thangal Kunju Musaliar. He leaves behind a son Firoz Ahamed and a daughter Farzana Ahamed. He will always be loved and remembered by his colleagues not only because he was leading them and had contributed to the establishment and growth of the Department of Surgical Oncology in RCC, but also because of the mentoring he gave to his junior colleagues. He let his juniors take the credits of all success and whenever something went wrong, he took up the responsibility. This is a quality which is very unique of Dr. Iqbal Ahmed. His surgical practice was also a great example of good medical ethics. In fact, many trainees from all over India who joined RCC to get trained in Surgical Oncology, also learned lots of human values and ethics in surgical practice, thanks to a great teacher like him.

Dr. Iqbal Ahmed was instrumental in the commencement and activation of many NGOs who were working in and around RCC; NGOs like CH Muhammed Koya Centre, Abhayakendram, Swasthi Foundation and relied on him heavily for administrative and professional guidance for contributing significantly to the welfare of cancer patients and their families.

On a personal front, Dr. Iqbal always believed in leading a simple life and he was always content and happy. He was the son of Deputy Sales Tax Commissioner-Kerala, who came from an illustrious family. He had an equally illustrious maternal grandfather, who was Principal Secretary in the Administration of the Deewan of Tranvancore. But when he talked about his childhood, what he referred to always was his upbringing and schooling at Pallipuram, a quiet village on the outskirts of Trivandrum. In the simplicity of it all, he used to truly wonder at how far he had come in life from that. He always believed that everything he achieved and received in his life (degrees, accolades, respect of others and friendships) were gifts and gave back to others his undying gratitude and friendship.

Another great quality in him was appreciating the sweetness life gave him and not complaining about the bitterness that often came along with it. The best example was he used to be really proud of the fact that he could undergo surgical training in BHU, one of the most famous and ancient universities in India. However, he never complained about the hurdles he faced there, being an outsider.

Dr. Iqbal never differentiated between anyone. Irrespective of the fact that someone is his friend, colleague, relative, patients or staff, all received his quiet attention, understanding and support, at every point of need. He may have disagreed with them in principle or values and might have told it to them so firmly and quietly, but he never berated them for their opinions or stance.

On a personal note, I always remember the kind of support he offered for commencing Kerala association of Surgical Oncologists. He was the founder President. The Association was launched in 2015. He was also the organising president of the national meeting of the Indian Association of Surgical Oncologists, which was conducted in Trivandrum in 2018.

In short, Dr. Iqbal Ahamed was a great human being, a dexterous surgeon, a shrewd administrator, kind leader, astute teacher and loving father and husband. His untimely demise is a great loss for us.


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