Chowdhury, a trained vascular and general surgeon, left his London (UK) based
job, in April 1971 to join the freedom struggle of Bangladesh against Pakistan.
M. A. Mobin, Who was also a cardiac surgeon in London (UK), Zafurullah
Chowdhury and few others built a 480 bedded makeshift field hospital at the
border between Bangladesh (the then East Pakistan) and Agartola, the capital of
Tripura State of India for the wounded freedom fighters and Bangladeshi refugees
in guerilla warfare and running an alternative health care with young people,
mostly women with no medical training, laid the foundation for reincarnation of
Zafurullah Chowdhury, a sophisticated hospital based vascular surgeon into a
village based general surgeon-cum-obstetrician, more so into full-fledged
public health activist since 1972.
Chowdhury writes occasionally. His article ‘Research- a method of colonization’
and “Tubectomy by Paraprofessional surgeons in rural Bangladesh” (co-authored)
has made uproar in medical world.
other book ‘The Politics of Essential Drugs: the making of successful health
strategy: lessons from Bangladesh’ published by Zed Press, UK (1995) used as
textbook in many third world universities.
spent his early childhood in Kolkata and later his family settled in Dhaka. He
was one of ten children born to his parents. After attending Nabakumar School
at Bakshibazar, he studied at Dhaka College. He studied medicine at Dhaka Medical
College, where he got involved with leftist political ideologies. As the
general secretary of the Dhaka Medical College students' union, he held a press
conference to expose the corruption at the hospital. After a turbulent student
life, he finished his MBBS degree in 1964 and left for the UK for post-graduate
studies in general and vascular surgery.
Chowdury gained prominence by being the driving force in formulating the
Bangladesh National Drug Policy in 1982. Before that, 4,000 commercial drugs
were available in the market, mostly manufactured by the multi-national
companies or imported from abroad. Most of the drugs were out of reach for
majority of the people. Some of these drugs were unnecessary and even dangerous
whereas the most essential 150 remained in short supply.
drug policy changed all that. Following WHO guidelines for the developing
countries, the policy restricted manufacturing and import of number of drugs to
225. It emphasised on manufacturing of generic drugs and manufacturing them
locally. The result has been the wider availability of drugs at drastically
reduced prices. And today, Bangladesh has turned into a drug exporting country.
1972: Certificate of
in 1972 for contribution to the freedom struggle for the liberation of
1973: The discovery of Penicillin was one of the milestone in the field of
drug manufacturing in the last century. One of those pioneer scientists
Dr.Norman Heatly out of his 6 (six) vessels used for manufacturing Penicillin
donated 1 (one) to Gonoshasthaya Kendra and 5(five) to Oxford University.
Swedish Youth Peace Prize in 1974 in
recognition of contribution in setting up Gonoshasthaya Kendra and provided
primary health care services to the rural people utilizing rural women and men
in delivering health care.
Independence Award, 1977 ( received
in 1978), the highest national award of Bangladesh in recognition of
contribution to the development of primary health care in Bangladesh and the
delivery of family planning services at the grass root levels.
Ramon Magsaysay Award, popularly
known as the ‘Asian Nobel Prize’ in
recognition of contribution to community development and his role in the
introduction of a National Drug Policy in Bangladesh.
Mowlana Bhasani Award, Bangladesh
“Real Admiral Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial
Award” for special contribution in health sectors of Bangladesh.
“Right Livelihood Award” popularly
known as the ‘Alternative Nobel Prize’,
in recognition of its contribution to People Oriented Primary Health Care
Development in Bangladesh and its role in the introduction of a National Drug
Policy in Bangladesh.
“International Public Health Hero 2002” University of California, Berkeley, USA
2007: “Father tongue
to Gonoshasthaya Kendra for its notable contribution in Public Health Movement
in Bangladesh from Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI).
"Doctor of Humanitarian sciences”