Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury
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Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury

Trustee (Physician )

Dr. Zafrullah Chowdhury

Zafurullah 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.

Dr. 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 Tripura.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Participation 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.

Zafurullah 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.

His 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.

He 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.

Dr. 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.

National 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 Commendation in 1972 for contribution to the freedom struggle for the liberation of Bangladesh

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.

1974: 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.

1977: 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.

1985: 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.

1989: Mowlana Bhasani Award, Bangladesh

1989: “Real Admiral Mahbub Ali Khan Memorial Award” for special contribution in health sectors of Bangladesh.

1992: “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.

2002: “International Public Health Hero 2002” University of California, Berkeley, USA

2007: “Father tongue Award” to Gonoshasthaya Kendra for its notable contribution in Public Health Movement in Bangladesh from Voluntary Health Association of India (VHAI).

2009: "Doctor of Humanitarian sciences” from Canada


We welcome researchers and others interested in our work to visit and gain practical exposure to GK's activity in the field.


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