off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid


Development of
neurosurgery in Pakistan



Younger generation of healthcare professionals in Pakistan are not aware of the problems and difficulties the pioneers of various sub-specialties had to face while establishing these disciplines and getting them recognized. They not only had to convince and get permission from the bureaucracy but also had to face lot of hurdles created by no one else but their own professional colleagues. However, since they were committed, devoted and dedicated, they never lose heart and eventually succeeded in their mission and not only earned respect but also got these sub-specialties recognized from the regulatory bodies.

Prof. O.V. Jooma was the first qualified neurosurgeon in Pakistan. He arrived in Paksitan on September 12th 1951 from UK after completing his postgraduate training and established the first Dept. of Neurosurgery in Pakistan at Jinnah Hospital Karachi. He did the first neurosurgical operation, a thoracolumbar laminectomy for a spinal cord tumor in the first week of October 1951 and in the same month did the second operation frontal lobectomy for a chronic psychotic female. He provided neurosurgical services for the whole of West Pakistan and East Pakistan besides covering a wide area of many neighboring Gulf States. He was known as a strong headed personality who had more friends outside the medical profession.1

It was in mid 60s that Dr. Basheer Ahmad from Pakistan who had completed his training in UK that he wrote a letter to Principal of Nishtar Medical College Multan that he wanted to come back and serve his country. The then Principal of NMC Lt. Col. Najib Khan was a man of principles, a strict disciplinarian and character. These were some of the qualities that even the bureaucracy was afraid of such people and whatever decision they used to take was honoured and implemented. Col.Najib Khan responding to Dr. Bashir’s request asked him to come and join Nishtar Medical College Multan as Assistant Professor.

Thus Dr. Bashir Ahmed returned to Pakistan and jointed NMC Nishtar Hospital. He was appointed and allotted a few beds in one of the units. In those days Professors had their own personal “Kingdoms” and would never like to share beds with someone else in their ward. The Professor in charge was not happy at this development but he could not dare say No to Prof. Najib Khan or refuse to obey his orders. Hence, he decided to frustrate Dr. Bashir and ordered his unit staff not to allow Dr. Bashir visit the ward. He thought after a few days, disgusted and frustrated Dr. Basheer will return back to UK or at least leave Nishtar Hospital but Dr. Bashir Ahmed had his own plans. Prof. O. V. Jooma had to face a similar situation when he too was allotted a few beds in a Ward. Whenever Dr. Bashir would like to visit the unit, he will find door closed and as per instructions of the Professor in charge, the unit staff will refuse to open the door. Dr. Bashir went to the Principal’s office and complained to Prof. Najib Khan that he was not being allowed to enter the Ward. Col.Najib Khan looked at the young neurosurgeon and then in his typical military tone said “Dr. Bashir you have been appointed as Assistant Professor. Go and take charge of your beds in the ward.”

Dr. Bashir Ahmed got the message. Next day when in the morning he went to the ward, Professor in charge along with his house officers was taking the round and the door was as usual closed. It was not opened even on Dr. Bashir’s request. Dr. Bashir Ahmed kicked the door with such a force that it broke down and opened. Dr. Bashir went in and moved straight towards the Professor taking the round. Looking at Dr. Bashir coming towards him, the bald headed short physical stature Professor got frightened and trying to escape, slipped and fell down on the floor. The House officers surrounded him and took him into safety before Dr. Bashir could reach him. Dr. Bashir then went to the corner where he was allotted a few beds, talked to the patients and went to the OPD. The message had been conveyed effectively to all concerned. From that day onward no one dared to stop him visiting the ward.

After sometime he managed to get his own separate unit and thus established the department of neurosurgery at Nishtar Medical College/Nishtar Hospital Multan. It was a boon for the neurosurgery patients in this area who got specialized care and with the passage of time the department of neurosurgery became one of the busiest units. Later on he was transferred to Lahore General Hospital Lahore where he again established the Department of Neurosurgery. He started planning to establish a specialized institute of neurosurgery, started training neurosurgeons who got MS degree from University of Punjab. Later when CPSP was established, it also started FCPS in neurosurgery. Prof. Bashir Ahmad believed that it is the quality of training which matters the most and not the name of the degree. Hence he continued training numerous postgraduates who eventually earned the degree of MS in neurosurgery. Prof. I.H. Bhatti and late Prof. Iftikhar Ali Raja, Prof. Khaleequz Zaman, Prof. Rasheed Jooma all well-known neurosurgeons of Pakistan who are among those who did a lot to further promote and develop this specialty. Prof. Tariq Salah Uddin after transfer from Punjab Medical College/Allied Hospital Faisalabad to LGH also contributed a great deal to work tirelessly to realize the dream of a separate specialized institute of neurosciences.

The Society of Neurosurgeons had instituted O.V. Jooma Memorial Lecture at the first neurosurgery conference which was delivered by Prof. I.H. Bhatti another legendary neurosurgeon who was appointed Head of the Dept. of Neurosurgery at JPMC after Prof. Jooma. Prof. Basheer Ahmed also delivered the Jooma Memorial Lecture at the 7th National Neurosurgery conference at Islamabad on December 2, 1994. He paid rich tributes to Prof. Jooma saying that “We owe everything to late Prof. O.V. Jooma for the development of neurosurgery in Pakistan. He inspired many to join this specialty and his name has become a legendary”. 1

It must be a great honour and privilege for Dr. Asif Bashir who got training in Neurosurgery in United States of America to be heading the institution, Punjab Institute of Neurosciences which his late father Prof. Bashir Ahmed had nurtured. While I was making a presentation in the magnificent Bashir Auditorium in this newly built Punjab Institute of Neurosciences last month, this historical background also came to my mind though I did not share it with the participants but wish that the younger generation of healthcare professionals in general and neurosurgeons in particular must know these historical facts. Dr. Asif Bashir pointing towards the pictures of various eminent neurosurgeons displayed prominently in the auditorium who have served at LGH as Head of the unit is full of praise for all of them. He gratefully acknowledged that they all had contributed a great deal towards the development, expansion of neurosurgical services at Punjab Institute of Neurosciences which at present is the biggest and only independent institute in this discipline in Pakistan as most others are departments. We must remember all these benefactors who played a vital role in establishing and getting recognition to various sub-specialties as important discipline of Medicine.


1. Medical Men and Women of Pakistan. Eds. Shaukat Ali Jawaid and Maqbool H. Jafary. Published by Pakistan Medical Journalists Association (later renamed as Pakistan Association of Medical Editors). Karachi. January 1995. Page 77-85.

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