His list of accomplishments is substantial. He has served as head of anaesthesiology as well as medical superintendent at Karachi’s Civil Hospital. He has also been principal of Dow Medical College and dean of the faculty of anaesthesiology at the College of Physicians and Surgeons. There are a series of international laurels as well, in addition to an extensive commitment towards philanthropy, social welfare, and arts and culture. Add to all this a self-effacing charm, a disarming personality, and a deadpan wit, and you have the persona of Dr Tipu Sultan, one of the foremost names in the country’s medical profession.
After finishing MBBS, Dr Sultan completed the customary one-year internship (house job) and enjoyed a brief but memorable stint as a ship’s doctor with a company operating out of Hong Kong. Before long, career advancement beckoned, and he left for England, eventually securing a training position at London’s prestigious Charing Cross Hospital. In 1976, he passed the FFA examination, qualifying as an anaesthesia specialist.
Anaesthesiology is the medical specialty devoted to making patients unconscious for undergoing surgery and other procedures that cause distress and pain. Dr Sultan was attracted to the discipline because it was a crucially needed yet grossly underdeveloped field in Pakistan. The challenge appealed to him, and in late 1976 he returned home armed with credentials as well as commitment.
Fate put him in a position where he was able to do an important favour for a member of the then government – expeditiously arranging a senior minister’s medical care in the UK – and it opened all kinds of doors. Dr Sultan walked through the one that mattered to him, and was appointed assistant professor of anaesthesiology at Civil Hospital and Dow Medical College.
A key item of progress has been the emergence of intensive care units (ICUs), which are specially formulated clinical units for care of the critically ill and are typically managed by anaesthesiologists. Among his professional contributions as head of anaesthesiology at Civil Hospital, Dr Sultan is especially proud of setting up its ICU facility, which he accomplished through private donations and a headstrong organisation in 1991. It became the first-of-a-kind in the local public health sector, equipped with technology and systems for modern management of critical illness.
Despite Dr Sultan’s other interests, medicine dominates his home. His wife is a child specialist and both his sons are physicians, one specialising in orthopaedics and the other, like his father, in anaesthesiology.
Since his recent retirement from Civil Hospital, Dr Sultan has been involved in a series of philanthropic efforts. He often arranges for one of his former medical classmates now settled in the USA to come to Pakistan and provide free medical care. “It doesn’t require much infrastructure because they bring their own medical supplies and equipment,” he says, adding, “It is very helpful for patients and meaningful for physicians.”
This spirit of service also motivated Dr Sultan during the devastating earthquake of October 2005 when he was active in medical relief, and coordinated the proper treatment of several individuals with complex, crippling injuries.
He also practiced anaesthesiology, being a staff member at the Sindh Institute for Urology and Transplantation. Dr Syed Tipu Sultan remained Principal of Bahria Medical Univerity Karachi for three years. At present he is chairperson Sindh Health Comission.