Many of us believe that we are born with an ingrained passion to fulfill certain goals and ambitions. For a young Zulfikar Bux, it was definitely cricket; or so he thought. He was convinced from a tender age that becoming a renowned cricketer was the path he was firmly destined to be on. This was quite believable because he played incredible cricket for a Berbice youth team.
But his father, Tazeen Bux, on the other hand, was convinced that practicing medicine was his son’s destined forte.
It wasn’t until his early teenage years that the young Bux was overwhelmed with the realisation that indeed he was birthed for all things medicine. It all hit him like a ton of bricks when he witnessed the demise of a neighbour from a medical condition that he learnt was very avoidable.
Bux is now a very reputable doctor practicing at the country’s premier public health institution – the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation.
He, during an interview with Guyana Inc. Magazine, recalled all too well that he was about 13 years old when one of his neighbours, a diabetic, became gravely ill to the point of becoming unresponsive. He was seen at a health facility but died shortly after. It was later discovered that the neighbour was suffering from hypoglycaemia, a condition caused by low blood sugar.
“The fact that nobody could have looked for signs of low blood sugar made me realise this was the level of health care we were getting. All somebody had to do was give him some ice cream or even a little bit of sugar water and he could have been alive today. This was the turning point for me,” confided Dr. Bux.
Although determined to eventually pursue a career in medicine, as a young boy Dr. Bux desperately tried to balance his studies with his passion for cricket. After all, he was convinced that there was no reason he couldn’t be the best at both. He was smart enough to master both.
His father, however, encouraged him to focus more on medicine.
Before long, cricket had taken a back seat and his focus was trained on completing his secondary education with the view of commencing the Medicine Programme at the University of Guyana
(UG). He had barely started his studies when his family got an opportunity to migrate to the
United States (US). But Dr. Bux disclosed that even as a young boy he was not prepared to abruptly bring his studies to an end.
He was essentially left behind and had to live on his own; but not without his family’s enduring love and support.
BECOMING A DOCTOR and taking up residence in another land was in fact never an option for him. This was in light of the fact that he was driven by thoughts of “what can I do for my country…becoming a doctor I believe was one of the best ways I could contribute to my country.”
As a young boy Dr. Bux attended the Rosignol Primary School and then the New Amsterdam Multilateral School. It was after completing his Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) examinations and finishing up his advanced secondary studies, that he applied and was accepted to pursue the pre¬med programme at UG.
While encouraging words from his father were enough to keep him on track, Dr. Bux confided that it was really his mother who helped him remain focused along the way. “She was always keeping in contact with me by phone…I can’t remember a single day she didn’t call me. She was supporting me in every way possible. She would have given me everything she had just to ensure that I reached my goal. She is the one that helped me to become the person I am today,” said an emotional Dr. Bux.
After graduating from UG, he started practicing as a General Medical Officer at the GPHC. But in order to become a specialist in his field, he had to undertake some training overseas. He wasn’t too anxious to venture overseas but it was necessary if he was to specialise in Emergency Medicine. He wasn’t prepared to just be a general practitioner but rather he was aiming to fill a void that was gravely lacking at that time.
Through strategic collaboration between the GPHC and the Vanderbilt Medical Centre in the US, which is regarded as a top Emergency Medicine hospital, the young Dr. Bux was able to access specialist training. “I was like the lab rat…I was the pioneer when it came to Emergency Medicine here. A lot of people were skeptical about it but I was actually ready for this. Three of us were interviewed (for training) but I was the only one who made it through and graduated,” recalled Dr. Bux.
“It was a system where I had to trust them (experts at Vanderbilt) to train me,” recounted Dr. Bux, who after completing the programme became the first Emergency Medicine specialist in the country. And according to him, “It just goes to show that you can be elevated to the highest possible level of your profession and do the best you can by staying right here in Guyana,” asserted Dr. Bux.
Since his training, he has paved the way for seven more doctors to follow in his footsteps, and he is confident that in the next five years the number of specialists in this field will amount to at least 20.
The introduction of Emergency Medicine specialists like Dr. Bux into the public healthcare system does not only mean improvement in the service offered at the GPHC, but rather the country as a whole.
According to Dr. Bux, “an Emergency Specialist can figure out and manage a patient’s condition in a way that no other physician can…it could be a gunshot wound or even a heart attack and an Emergency Specialist can deal with cases like that and more in a safe and efficient manner.
Patients can actually be treated and stabilised by emergency doctors.”
It has been recognised internationally, Dr. Bux noted, that Emergency Medicine is in fact the face of the whole public health system, and it has been for this reason that he has graciously taken the lead to advance this mandate. Dr. Bux has been mastering this task well.
Born to Tazeen and Balkumarie Bux on April 17, 1984 at Fyrish Village, Corentyne, Berbice, Dr. Bux is the third of four children. His father, a seasoned agriculturist, was forced to uproot the family a few times during Dr. Bux’s childhood in order to fulfil the requirements of his work.
Most of his childhood days were spent in Cotton Tree Village on the West Coast of Berbice.
In fact, he disclosed that over the years he fell in love with the village so much so that he, even today, has remained grounded there. This translates to him driving from the Berbice Village every day in order to practice his profession at the Georgetown Hospital.
“I don’t see myself going anywhere else. I don’t care how frustrating things get in Guyana, somehow or the other I have gotten addicted to that village. If I had my way I would be living and doing everything in Berbice, especially in my village…probably that is the biggest reason I am still in Guyana,” confided a blushing Dr. Bux.
He is of the firm belief that Berbice is almost a separate and more hospitable world when compared to areas like Georgetown. And he knows this all too well because for a short period he rented an apartment in the city. “I did not know who I lived next to, people said hi sometimes…I have been to the US, Trinidad and a few other countries and you see the same thing. But where I grew up in Berbice it’s nothing like that,” asserted Dr. Bux.
As he reminisced about his younger days, Dr. Bux related that “my neighbours in Berbice practically brought me up when my family migrated.”
“I didn’t have to worry about anything…I could’ve just walked into their (neighbours) kitchens, take whatever I wanted and they never accepted payment from me. When I had birthdays they would celebrate with me. I could sleep at any of their houses; the love you have there, it’s not the kind you see anywhere else. That was the kind of atmosphere I grew up in and it is the same kind of environment I want to bring my children up in and grow old in,” said Dr. Bux.
Dr. Bux tied the blissful wedding knot on August 3, 2013 to his sweetheart, Farzana, and they are eagerly expecting their first child shortly. “I am looking forward to that part of my life when I’m going to become a father. I give quite a lot of my time to the public and I want to ensure what I have started continues, but at the same time I have to balance my family life too,” said Dr. Bux, who added that “at the end of my life I would like to hear that I was a good doctor but that I was a better husband and father…once family comes first I think I would be better able to share with my country.”
He, however, hasn’t forgotten his love for cricket and spares a little time at nights to nurture his cricketing talent.