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On 16 December 1971, Bangladesh became a sovereign independent state after a nine months liberation war. The country at that time had only one orthopaedic surgeon and a single orthopaedic department with few beds in Dhaka Medical College. This facility was inadequate to meet the demand of orthopaedic treatment required of the thousands of injured freedom fighters.
In early 1972, foreign aid and helping hands were extended to help this new country meet its immediate needs. In the field of Orthopaedic Surgery, it is worth mentioning the visit of Mr. J.N. Wilson, a renowned British Orthopaedic surgeon, who was to examine and ascertain the ways the Brithish Government could help. About this time Dr. R.J. Garst, an American missionary orthopaedic surgeon and his wife Mrs. Marie Garst visited Bangladesh. He approached and persuaded the government to allow him to accommodate all war affected in one place which the government gladly agreed. The outpatient building of Shaheed Suhrawardy Hospital at Dhaka was converted into a 100 bed in patient hospital. This was the establishment of the first independent trauma management unit in Bangladesh and sowing of seed of orthopaedics as a subspecialty.
Within eight months the majority of the war victims completed their treatment and now the door of the hospital, which had expanded to 250 bed was opened to the general patients of the country with orthopaedic and trauma problems. What followed for the next eight years may be considered as 'emergence of orthopaedic' in Bangladesh. Post graduate courses in Orthopaedic surgery and Physiotherapy under the University of Dhaka was initiated in 1973. The first batch of nine locally produced orthopaedic surgeons qualified in 1976.
In 1978, this orthopaedic hospital was shifted to new building consisting of 500 beds, the 'Rehabilitation institute & Hospital for the Disabled (RIHD)'. The name of this institute was later changed to National institute of Traumatology and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation (NITOR) in the year 2002. the institute became and still is the prime centre of orthopaedic service and training orthopaedic surgeons, nurses, and physiotherapists in Bangladesh. This period can be seen as the 'expansion of orthopaedic' in Bangladesh. By now there are over 250 orthopaedic surgeons working all over the country.
By 2002, the infrastructure in terms of departments and manpower had expanded well enough to decentralize the role of NITOR. Post graduate training and courses were introduced in the country's only Medical University (BSMMU) and eight other Government Medical College Hospital. As a result, Bangladesh has now over four hundred orthopaedic surgeons mostly trained locally and employed by the government of Bangladesh. At present consultant orthopaedic surgeons are posted in all the 64 district hospitals and about 120 upzilla hospitals in the country.
Bangladesh being a country of more then 150 million people, one of the most densely populated country and the ratio of orthopaedic surgeons to patients is still far behind the standard set by World Health Organization. But, it may be said that the quantity of orthopaedic surgeons having been met to some extend, we now look forwards to improvement of the quality and standard of our service. I believe that we are ready to enter the 'modern era of orthopaedics'
Dr. Md. Iqbal Qavi
Prof. of Orthopaedic Surgery
Ministry of Health and Family Welfare