Balbir Ball Greene NehaulBMJ 2003; 327 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.327.7427.1350 (Published 04 December 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;327:1350
Balbir Ball Greene Nehaul
An expert at setting up pathology laboratories in developing countries
Balbir Ball Greene Nehaul, former government pathologist and microbiologist Guyana, consultant to the World Health Organization, and a founding fellow of the Royal College of Pathologists (b Guyana 1912; q University College London 1938; OBE, FRCPath), died in Leeds, England, on 16 October 2003.
Dr Nehaul rose from very humble beginnings in Guyana, where he was educated. In 1931 he travelled to London to study medicine at University College Hospital School of Medicine, where he excelled at his studies, winning a gold medal in clinical surgery. He returned to Guyana in 1938 to practise medicine, working in general practice, on the wards of the public hospital, and as district medical officer.
For six months in 1941-2 he acted as government pathologist and microbiologist, an appointment that was to determine the direction of his medical career. In 1942 he returned to England to gain experience in pathology and microbiology, working in laboratories in Leeds and Edinburgh and gaining expertise in the areas of microbiology, general pathology, and forensic medicine.
He returned to Guyana in 1945 as government pathologist and microbiologist at the Central Medical Laboratory, the first Guyanese to be appointed to that post. He set about developing and extending the services provided by the laboratory to the public hospital, in support of the district laboratories and to local authorities. He placed a high priority on training and supporting laboratory staff to ensure that the services provided were of the highest quality. He carried a heavy on-call workload in the medico-legal field, travelling and working throughout Guyana to assist the police in their investigations.
Dr Nehaul was very keen to use his skills and the services of the laboratory to improve the health of the people of Guyana. To gain additional expertise he studied for and gained the diplomas in public health and in tropical medicine and hygiene from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
Dr Nehaul’s expertise and his many contributions to the specialty of pathology, including microbiology, became widely recognised by eminent experts in the West Indies, the Americas, and other countries, and by the Pan American Health Organization. His work included research into rabies transmitted by bats, trials of the new polio vaccines with American colleagues, and the introduction of childhood immunisation programmes in Guyana.
He was a recognised expert in setting up pathology laboratories in developing countries and training their staff. Colleagues visited Guyana and he visited their laboratories abroad, developing collaborations, sharing ideas enthusiastically. He and these colleagues enriched each other’s practice and research. When the Royal College of Pathologists was founded in the United Kingdom in 1962, Dr Nehaul was made a founding fellow.
Dr Nehaul was deputy director of medical services in Guyana from 1960 to 1964, before joining the World Health Organization as a consultant to use his proven expertise and knowledge to develop microbiological laboratories and train staff in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Nepal. Scientists in the field of microbiology in many countries have been inspired by Dr Nehaul’s infectious enthusiasm for his subject.
He settled in England in 1970, and worked in the laboratory and taught in the University of Leeds Medical School’s department of microbiology for the next 10 years. By the time he eventually retired, many medical students, laboratory workers, and doctors had been inspired by his love for and wide experience of work in microbiology, tropical medicine, and public health.
Dr Nehaul was a deeply religious man. He applied his strong Hindu and Christian spirituality in practical ways, working actively in various charities in Guyana and Leeds. In 1965 he was made an officer of the British Empire in recognition of his medical and social work for the people of Guyana.
Dr Nehaul was a voracious reader and a fascinating conversationalist, not only in his specialist medical field, but also in his other favourite subjects, which included Eastern philosophy, spirituality, and culture, and of course his beloved home country, Guyana, and home village, Buxton. He was a gentle, warm, and friendly man, with friends from all walks of life and in many countries. Almost to the end of his life he was still enjoying a lively correspondence with his friends worldwide.
Dr Nehaul was devoted to his family, to his wife Aileen to whom he was married for 64 years, to his four children, Ahilya, Kamala, Johnny, and Lika, three of whom are working in medical fields in the United Kingdom, to his seven grandchildren and his two great grandchildren, and to his large extended family. His was a valuable life. He will be greatly missed by his family and his many friends and colleagues. [Ahilya Noone]
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