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On Tuesday, 21 December 2021, Dr. Tahir Shamsi passed away at Aga Khan Hospital. He had been admitted there after suffering from brain hemorrhage. The whole country is grieving his death.
DR. Tahir Shamsi was born on 18 Feb 1962. He did MBBS from Dow Medical College, Karachi and later did fellowship from Pakistan and UK. He was a hematologist by specialty.
Dr. Tahir Shamsi achieved much in a short life span of less than 60 years. His contributions are extraordinary. He is the pioneer of Bone Marrow Transplant – BMT in Pakistan. Prior to his work, the patients had to go to India for BMT. You might be remembering late Edhi sahib collecting funds on the roads for some BMT patient along with the family of the patient. You would also realize that you have not seen it happening for a long time now.
Bone Marrow Transplant is the final remedy for patients suffering from certain types of blood cancer. Dr. Shamsi established National Institute of Blood Diseases – NIBD at Karachi for the treatment of, and training and research on various types of blood diseases.
Rather than running an upscale private clinic, and amassing wealth, Dr. Shamsi supervised thirteen students for qualifying in their fellowship – FCPS. He therefore trained a whole team which will carry his mission onwards.
A summary of his phenomenal work will show the range and quantum of his effort.
- Establishment of National Institute of Blood Diseases – Pioneer and Center of Excellence for research on blood diseases
- Services for the College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan – as examiner, as reviewer of their journal, as paper setter, as assessor, and as convener
- Supervision and Training of Postgraduate students
- Workshops on various subjects of hematology in collaboration with foreign institutes
- Editorial Responsibilities – Editor-in-Chief, National Journal of Health Sciences; Member Editorial Board, and Reviewer for several national and international journals.
- Large number of publications – 111 articles in peer-reviewed journals, 81 abstracts, 22 book chapters, 4 books editing, one book authored, and 169 invited lectures
- In 2016, he was honored with the lifetime achievement award by Dow Graduates Association of North America.
Dr. Tahir Shamsi was among those who are larger than life. Pakistan is fortunate to have people like him. He not only pioneered Bone Marrow Transplant in Pakistan, but he also performed over 650 procedures in his career.
Dr. Shamsi was known all over the country and aboard, but he remained a private person. Little is publicly known about his family, children, or his other interests if he had any. He was so busy with work; it would hardly leave him time to do much else. Colleagues, contemporaries, juniors, students, trainees, and public is mourning his death. There is no doubt that his passing away creates a vacuum which will not be filled easily.
How should we pay tribute to people like Dr. Tahir Shamsi? Paying oodles of praises, bringing bouquets, publishing celebrity/VIPs messages written by private secretaries, twitter trends and so on sound good, and feel good, but something more than this should be done. I believe some more concrete steps should be taken to ensure that his legacy is carried forward with the same spirit. If I may suggest:
- NIBD is a private institute, rendering great public services. Dr. Shamsi created it, and ran it with a vision, which may be difficult to emulate by rest of the team. A Board of Governors comprising of senior consultants may be formed to support the working of NIBD.
- Government grant may be considered at least for a year to support its functioning.
- Scholarship in the name of Dr. Shamsi may be initiated for students doing research in hematology.
- Dr. Shamsi be decorated posthumously for his great contribution
- Government may take up the model of NIBD and form at least one such institute in other provinces.
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