Surgeon's Diary columnist, Dr Yusuf K Dawood, dies aged 94

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood during a thanksgiving dinner held at Muthaiga Country Club on February 23, 2017.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Prolific surgeon and columnist Dr Yusuf Kodwavwalla Dawood has died in the United Kingdom aged 94.

His son Jaan Yusuf broke the news of his demise on Saturday, saying “my dad slipped away from us in the early hours of this morning. May his soul rest in peace.”

For 41 years, Dr Yusuf K Dawood won himself a large loyal follower for his prolific Surgeon's Diary column on Sunday Nation, and on Sunday, fans condoled with his family and friends after news of demise spread.

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood in his office.

Photo credit: File

He was born in India on September 13, 1928, in a family of five brothers and a sister, and came to Kenya in 1961 where he launched his surgery career at the Aga Khan Hospital.

In 1975, he was appointed the hospital’s executive director.

His work, experience and unique writing skill enabled his fans to interact closely with him through his articles, treating his readers to a ‘medical sermon’ every Sunday.

Dr Dawood was a committed member of Rotary and was once the president of all Rotary clubs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia.

In one of his articles, Dr Dawood told an interviewer that he had four wives: surgery, Rotary, writing and Marie Dawood. However, the order in which he mentioned the ‘four wives’ in his response nearly got him in trouble with Marie, he added.

“I thought I had been smart in the response... until I got home and found to my horror that Marie had watched the live interview. She met me at the door and confronted me. ‘I don’t mind being one of your four wives because the other three are inanimate, but I do object to your pecking order!’”

“I took refuge in our African culture and replied: ‘The last wife is usually the prettiest and youngest.’ And marital harmony was restored,” Dr Dawood continues.

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood and his wife Marie Kodwavwala

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood and his wife Marie Kodwavwala addressing guests during a thanksgiving dinner held at Muthaiga Country Club, Nairobi, on February 23, 2017.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Dr Dawood, was fond of his sister and in one of his articles, he wrote, “my only sister did not go as far in education because of early marriage necessitated by social constraints, but completed her schooling at a convent and spoke fluent English, to the utter amazement of community elders. This gave a sense of great pride and pleasure to my dad.”

His father was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus in September 1948 and died the following Christmas.

In his vast writings, Dr Dawood wrote his own story titled, “Nothing but the Truth-The Story of a Surgeon with Four Wives”, in which he argues that his age should not be looked at in terms of the number of years, “but by the intensity of life-the life I have crowded into those years”.

By that measure of intensity “then I can claim to have had a long and fascinating life”, he concluded.

And true to his words, in death he still holds a fullness of life that could be witnessed by generations to come.

“Oh boy! Dr Yusuf could write. One of my long-time favourite reads. It is sad that nothing in these mortal lives we live is permanent,” said Prof Ngugi Njoroge.

Dr Dawood had once confessed that “writing worked as a balm for my jangled nerves and even helped to maintain my sanity.”

His last article for Surgeon’s Diary was on October 24, 2021 where he wrote about the “Tragedy of dear colleague who had prostate cancer”.

In the article, he lamented that “as a surgeon, I am used to disease and death staring at me in the face all the time...It’s a duel I constantly fight. Many a time, I emerge as a winner. But some battles cannot be won.”

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood

Dr. Yusuf Kodwavwala Dawood displays his certificates and award winning titles "The last Word" and "Eye of the Storm" at his office on October 3, 2014.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

In his life as a doctor, Dr Dawood dedicated his time to breast cancer treatment, management and research.

But he still found ample time to write, not only penning the weekly Surgeon’s Diary column, but also publishing some books.

He published his first fiction book titled No strings attached in March 1979, and went on to also publish The Price of Living, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, One Life too Many, Off my Chest, Water under the Bridge, Behind the Mask, Return to Paradise, Nothing but the Truth, and Eye of the Storm.

The price of Living, Yesterday Today and Tomorrow, and Behind the Mask contain extracts of his Sunday Nation column.

Apart from reading and writing, Dr Dawood’s other hobbies were travelling and golfing.

After living in Kenya for 57 years, Dr Dawood went to the United Kingdom to live out his final years with his wife and children.