In Remembrance

We need more souls like Dr. Ibrahim

I met Prof. Dr. Md. Ibrahim when he was toying with the idea of establishing a diabetes research centre in Dhaka in a small scale. Those days I was working for The Pulse, a medical weekly, owned and edited by late Anwarul Islam Bobby. Dr Ibrahim was a busy man so it took some persuasion on the part of Mr. Bobby Islam to make Dr Ibrahim agree to give me one hour time to discuss the concept of his research centre. So, one afternoon, we sat in the professor’s office at Segun­bagicha. After exchanging some pleasantries we got down to business. I requested him to talk about his dream project. He began by giving me some statistics on the situation of diabetes in the country those days and also a global picture. 

It was at this point that he became more serious and told me that within the next decade diabetes would become a major health concern in Bangladesh. He also warned that children would also get afflicted by diabetes. He pointed out food habit and lifestyle of the people as the two major reasons for this. Both these prediction came true. Regarding the research centre he envisaged a moderate hospital cum laboratory where doctors and researchers would work on different types of diabetes prevalent in Bangladesh. Research would also be done on other related issues like diet, medicine, exercise, lifestyle and so on. 

After collecting my notes I took my leave to write my report, never knowing that I just wrote the first draft of history, as it is said about first hand reports. I felt too small in front of the great visionary who had given up worldly pleasures to serve humanity. Since that day I had followed his works and the development of his project as closely as I could. I befriended some young doctors who had joined the centre to work with him. It used to be fun going there and engaging in adda in the canteen with those bright fellows. They were also a dedicated lot who loved Prof. Ibrahim and his work.     

Prof. Dr. Ibrahim could perhaps not envisage that his small project would one day turn into  the monolithic entity that we now know as ‘BIRDEM (Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders.)  It is one of its kinds in Asia. It has been declared a “Centre of Excellence” by WHO about 20 years back. Hundreds of doctors and medical students from countries across the world came to the institution to work and gather knowledge in the last 40 plus years. BIRDEM remains the first choice of people suffering from acute diabetes. The standard of research, treatment and care at the institute is the best in the country.  

Below are some paragraphs written about him in Banglapedia. 

“Dr Md Ibrahim along with a group of social workers, established the Diabetic Association of Bangladesh (DAB) in 1956 and in 1957 set up an out-patients clinic at Segun Bagicha, Dhaka, for the diabetics. He succeeded in establishing the diabetes health-care and research institute complex, named the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Rehabilitation in Diabetes, Endocrine and Metabolic Disorders (BIRDEM) at Shahbag, Dhaka, in 1980 where the out-patients centre of the Bangladesh Diabetic Association was shifted. 

“It has been acclaimed as a model for South East Asia. Diabetes care centres began to be established all over the country with local entrepreneurs and now there are branches of the Bangladesh Diabetic Association in all the districts of the country. In recognition of its innovative, extensive and high quality services BIRDEM was designated in 1982 as a 'WHO-Collaborating Centre for Developing Community-oriented Programmes for Prevention and Control of Diabetes'. It is the first such centre in Asia. 

“For over three decades, Mohammad Ibrahim succeeded in generating awareness on diabetes in the country through free-of-cost quality services, health education, and motivation. He also established the Bangladesh Institute of Research and Trai

After collecting my notes I took my leave to 

write my report, never knowing that I just

 wrote the first draft of history, as it is said 

about first hand reports. I felt too small in

 front of the great visionary who had given

 up worldly pleasures to serve humanity

ning for Applied Nutrition (BIRTAN) and Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Centre in Jurain, a semi-urban locality about 6 km from Dhaka, to develop low-cost nutrition, and to give vocational training to poor and unemployed diabetics. 

“Mohammad Ibrahim was also involved in the care of the old and the aged. He was the chairman of the Bangladesh Association of Geriatrics during 1978-89 and helped to set up the Institute of Geriatric Medicine and Research. 

He was also Chairman of the Retired Government Employees Welfare Association from 1976-88. For his work on the old and the aged, he was elected a Member of the Executive Committee of the International Federation of the Aged, London. He was appointed national professor by the Bangladesh government. 

“Mohammad Ibrahim also took keen interest in family planning. His involvement began as a founder member of the Family Planning Association of Bangladesh, which first started its programme in this country in the mid-fifties. He made his real impact as the Adviser to the President, with the rank of Minister, in-charge of the Ministry of Health and Population Control, in the mid-1970's. He was instrumental in formulating the population control policy of the Government for the first time and introduced the National Population Council. Dr Ibrahim earlier introduced family planning as a component of his applied nutrition programme at BIRTAN and also set up a family planning section at BIRDEM for motivational work. 

“In recognition of his dedicated, innovative, and outstanding contributions in the health and social sectors, Mohammad Ibrahim received numerous prizes, medals and honor from different organisations. Some of such awards are Swadhinata Padak (Independence Day Gold Medal), Government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh (1979); gold medal for contribution to public welfare and medical and social service, Begum Zebunnesa and Kazi Mahbubullah Trust (1981); gold medal for contribution to medical and social service, Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial Trust (1985); gold medal for contribution to medical and social service, Comilla Foundation, Comilla (1986); gold medal for contribution to medical and social service, Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah Memorial Trust, Ahsania Mission, Dhaka (1989); and gold medal for contribution to medical and 

social service, Islamic Foundation Bangladesh (1989). Mohammad Ibrahim was Founder Fellow, Islamic Academy of Sciences, Amman, Jordan (1986). He was also a Fellow, Bangla Academy (1985). 

Shahnoor Wahid is Advisory Editor of Bangladesh Post“