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Prof. Mehdi Hasan
He deserves a Bharat Ratna and a King Faisal Award
By Obaid Nasir

‘The spring of talent has not dried up in the present line. AMU still has an Irfan Habib, a historian, a Mohammad Shafi, a geographer, and a Mehdi Hasan, an anatomist.’ His father wanted him to be a doctor. He himself wanted to be a teacher. Finally he became both, and a sportsman too in the bargain. He is Dr. Mehdi Hasan who is today an internationally-acclaimed anatomist, teacher and physician. He has taught over seven thousand students who are serving the ailing humanity in many parts of the world. His passion for teaching did not dip even after retirement. His pupils fondly remember his dedication as a teacher. He could take classes anywhere - even in corridors when there were no available classrooms. In one instance at AMU, a student asked him for time to come to seek some clarifications. Then and there on the street, using a bicycle seat as support for pen and paper, he spent over two and a half hours explaining the matter to the student. He is currently professor emeritus in his alma mater, the King George Medical College of Lucknow and the founder principal of the newly established Era Medical College in the same city.

Dr Hasan is a renowned innovative teacher, an internationally recognized scholar and a reputed national expert of medical management. His work on age-pigmentation has won international laurels for him, his country and no doubt for his community too. Both the nation and community are proud of him. Though his contributions in the field of medicine have been nationally and internationally recognized, unfortunately his name has yet not been considered for our highest civilian award (Bharat Ratna) or the King Faisal prize, both of which he rightly deserves.

Born in a Sadat family of Akbarpur of Faizabad district in U.P. in 1936, he lost his father at the early age of four. He was brought up by his elder brother late Bakhshish Husain, a police officer, and Syed Ghulam Husain, an IAS officer. Since his father wanted one of his sons to be a doctor his elder brothers persuaded him to fulfill the desire of their late father which he religiously did. He was always a first-ranker not only in his studies but also in the field of sports. After obtaining his MBBS degree from King George Medical College, Lucknow, he was persuaded by his teacher Prof. BN Sinha, a former president of the Medical Council of India, to start medical practice as an orthopaedician, but he expressed to his teacher his passion for teaching. Prof Sinha then advised to opt for anatomy which, being a dull subject, very few students opt. Young Mehdi Hasan joined MS in anatomy and did it with honours and thus happens to be the only Indian anatomist to obtain this honour and that too at the age of 26, i.e,. in 1962. From AMU he obtained PhD and DSc. That too is a rare of the rarest cases.

He started his teaching career in King George Medical College, Lucknow, in 1958. Later in 1963 he was persuaded by Badruddin Tayabji, the then VC of AMU, to join the newly established Jawahar Lal Nehru Medical College. Thus at the age of 36 he joined this college as a reader [associate professor]. He soon became professor and dean, a post he held till retirement.

He has been a visiting professor at numerous foreign universities and medical colleges including Goettingen (Germany), Benghazi (Libya), University of Medical Science, Iran and Women’s Medical College, Dubai (UAE). He has delivered guest lectures in world's leading medical colleges including New York, NCTR Jefferson, Hawaii, Chicago, Naples, Trieste and many medical institutes of Germany, Italy, Iran, Arab countries.

He also won a number of major national and international awards which include BC Roy award, Dr. Dharam Narayan Gold Medal, Dr. SS Mishra Medal, Hari Om Ashram Alembic Research Award, and Ati Vishisht Chikitsa Seva Medal. He holds the fellowship of Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, Royal Micrtoscopical Society England, International College of Surgeons, International Brain Research Organization, Task Force of World Health Organization Geneva, Collegium International of Higher Nervous Activity, Czechoslovakia, International Advisory Board of Neurotoxicology, USA. He is also an advisor to WHO.

Dr Mehdi Hasan has been rightly described as a living legend. It is very rare that a person becomes the hero of a novel in his life time or an award is instituted in one’s name during his life time. But for Doctor saheb both these honours have come during his life time. His academic and social contributions comprise the main theme of a Malayalam short story Jeevacchavangal (living cadaver) written by P. Kunj Abdullah in 1972. This story received an award in Kerala and is prescribed in the school syllabus. The Anatomical Society of India, in recognition of his contribution to the advancement of teaching and research in clinical anatomy, has instituted a Gold Medal Award for the best paper presented in clinical anatomy at a special competition held during the national conference of the Anatomical Society of India since 1990.

His work on age-pigmentation is a boon to humanity. Many medicines have been prepared on the basis of his findings. If you want to lower the rate of ageing increase your mental activity he suggests. ‘It is known that the rate of ageing is determined by the activity of brain. The 10 billion cells in the brain are not renewed unlike other cells of the body. They are as old as the individual, hence distinctly show the signs of the passage of time. With the increase in age, waste products tend to accumulate inside the brain cells because of changes in the membranes or the boundaries of brain cells. In the younger cells waste products do form but are expelled,’ he explains.

The accumulation of waste products (pigments) has been correlated with ageing and disturbances of memory and behaviour in the aged individuals.

Some drugs have been used for the removal of waste products and thereby improving the functions of the brain. This drug was experimented on rats by Dr Paul Glees and Dr Mehdi Hasan in Germany. After a series of experiments Dr. Glees and Dr. Hasan published their results in a small book Lipofuscin in Neuronal Aging and Disease. This book was well received in the medical world. His magnum opus, Modern Science and religion, deals with prohibition in Islam or why alcohol is banned in Islam, has also been widely acclaimed.

He has to his credit about five books, seven book chapters, 125 research papers in indexed journals. His research work has earned him over 600 citations including those in the prestigious Nature, Gray’s Anatomy, NIOSH and in 38 other reference works.

His description will be incomplete without his better half, Begum Abida Mehdi, popularly known as 'Asmat.' She left her PhD in Urdu in order to provide a peaceful domestic life to her husband in his upward march. Even personal tragedies in the family never came in her way and she steadfastly stood by her husband looking after his daily needs, attending to family responsibilities, playing host to guests and bringing up their only son Abbas to follow in his father’s footsteps..

His son, Dr Abbas Ali Mehdi, is an associate professor in King George Medical College and daughter-in-law Farzana is a research scholar in Botany. When this correspondent visited Mehdis home he was offered barfi which was being distributed as his elder grandson Raza had started reading Qur'an the same day (this function is known in Awadh as Bismillah).

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