Belfast Telegraph

Leading cardiologist who helped to develop pioneering heart procedures


A distinguished cardiologist who helped revolutionise the treatment of people with heart problems in Northern Ireland has died.

Dr Mazhar M Khan, who was also a prominent member of the Islamic community in the province, was 76.

Dr Khan, who qualified in medicine at the King Edward Medical Centre in Lahore in his native Pakistan in 1962, was drawn to Northern Ireland by the pioneering work of the late legendary Professor Frank Pantridge who helped invent the mobile defibrillator which could correct what were essentially electrical short-circuits in the heart.

Dr Khan first continued his studies in Vienna and then worked in Liverpool and Birmingham before coming to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast in 1978 where he worked with Prof Pantridge.

While that was at the time the cutting edge of coronary care, Dr Khan was to help develop it further after going to the United States to study the groundbreaking work of Andreas Gruntzig in angioplasty - a method of widening blocked or narrowed coronary arteries.

At first he used a balloon method when a small balloon was inserted into the artery and then inflated to make it wider. Later, in 1992, stents - wire mesh tubes - were inserted which provided a longer term solution.

In 1990 Dr Khan implanted the first cardioverter defibrillator in a RVH patient. This is used to correct cardiac arrhythmias ensuring correct pacing of the heartbeats.

During an interview with this newspaper on his retirement in 2005, Dr Khan pointed out that he lived as he wished his patients to do - he did not smoke, didn't eat fried food and was a keen walker.

He also tried to avoid stress where possible.

Away from the hospital theatre he was a regular audience member at Ulster Orchestra concerts.

He also played a prominent role in the life of the Islamic community in Northern Ireland and spoke out strongly when former First Minister Peter Robinson took the side of Pastor James McConnell who made controversial anti-Muslim remarks during a sermon.

At the time Dr Khan expressed disappointment at Mr Robinson saying that he would not trust Muslims for spiritual advice but would trust them to go to the shop.

Dr Khan said: "I am really disappointed by the comments of the First Minister as he is supposed to represent the entire community."

He added: "If someone came to me as a doctor and said they did not trust me I would be shattered."

He accepted that Pastor McConnell had the right to make any statement he wished but said that with freedom of speech comes responsibility.

Mr Robinson later visited the Islamic Centre in order to defuse the controversy over his support for Pastor McConnell.

Dr Khan, who is survived by his wife Amtul Salman, who received a MBE for her voluntary work, and three sons, Ashar, Badar and Mubashir, died at the cancer centre at Belfast City Hospital and was buried at Roselawn Cemetery.


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