Wednesday 28 Sep 2022

Goans in Karachi: 1947: Goans in Healthcare, Medicine

Menin Rodrigues | AUGUST 12, 2022, 09:59 PM IST
Goans in Karachi: 1947: Goans in Healthcare, Medicine

Before the partition, there were more than 50 prominent Goan doctors in the city of Karachi and following independence, the trend continued, and another 50 physicians joined the medical corp. Today, a new crop of doctors have emerged to serve humanity. Proud of them!

The Goan community that lived in the old Cincinnatus Town (now called Garden East) besides giving many sons and daughters to the Church, also has the distinction of producing many doctors. The first Goan doctor, a graduate of the Grant Medical College Bombay, was Dr Manoel St Ana Caldeira, a surgeon in the British India Medical Corps; he was the very first student at St Patrick’s School (Est 1861) in Karachi.

The most significant health-care contributions at the time of Indo-Pak partition came from the yeoman services of Dr Hermenegild Drago, Dr Orphino de Sa (who was also the Chief Medical Officer of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation in 1947), Dr APR Pinto (Municipality Councillor), Dr Bonnie Rodrigues, Dr Bella Lobo, Dr Angelo Freitas, Dr Monica D’Souza-Smith and others who, as quoted by one who was a witness to the influx of migrants from across the border, “They not only operated their private clinics but helped the refugees pouring in from India in 1947.”

How appropriate and coincidental to remember them as both nations celebrate their 75thanniversary of independence.

When partition took place, there was a massive refugee crisis due to widespread diseases such as cholera, dysentery, malaria, plague, smallpox, and typhoid which added to the suffering of the people coming into the city. They needed help and medical attention. The city’s municipality was compassionate in ensuring that the people’s sufferings and miseries were contained. The Red Cross was on active duty. Some of the best doctors, including Goan practitioners, were engaged and deployed in medical-aid refugee camps. They did a benevolent job which helped the immigrants to recover from their ailments, find decent work to earn a living and settle down in their newfound homeland.

Medicine was a privileged course of study for young Goan men and women in Karachi. The city provided them with the opportunity to excel in theory and practice because of good educational institutions; and existing and upcoming hospitals. Many Goan doctors set up private practices and along with doctors from the Zoroastrian (Parsi) community were among the most sought-after physicians in the city. Dr Hazel Misquita, a paediatrician, was well-known throughout Karachi.

The 225-bed Holy Family Hospital which was founded in 1948 by the Medical Mission Sisters (MMS), a Roman Catholic religious order from the USA, offered opportunities for Goan doctors. The hospital has a dedicated Nursing School where 100 Christians and nurses from other communities graduate every year to serve the hospital, city, and country. Dr Mary Braganza has served the institution for decades. The hospital is governed by the Archdiocese of Karachi.

Another institution to be noted is the St Lawrence’s Poor Aid Society (Est 1959) later to be called the Social Welfare Society which operates (to this day) a Medical Dispensary in the St Lawrence’s Church compound. It provides subsidised/free-of-cost healthcare to the poor and less privileged; Dr Philippa Drago/Janjua has been one of the dedicated persons behind this project.

Currently, a new crop of Goan doctors in Karachi has emerged, including Dr Joaquim Soares, Dr Marie Andrade, Dr Luna Pereira/Vellozo, Dr Delvine Soares, Dr Karenza Caeiro, Dr Russel Martins, Dr Jared D’Souza, and Dr Patricia Mendes. May the spirit of service to humanity continue to live in our Goan doctors in Karachi.

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