A life dedicated to family, faith, and radiology- with a footnote on football (well, sort of)
In the realms of life, Dr Saifuddin carved his path with the precision of a skilled surgeon - equal parts family man, devoted believer, a gifted radiologist, a prolific scientific writer and let’s say, a quiet yet avid admirer of Leeds United Football club (from a distance). As the final whistle blows on his earthly journey, we reflect upon a life that was fully lived and was hugely impactful.
He was a serious and quiet soul but could come up with the driest of British wit at a time when his target of humour would be least expecting it.
Asif’s powers of concentration rivalled those of a Zen master. The office tearoom was a place he left untouched, as was the hospital cafeteria. His lunch half hour was spent with him working on one of his myriad research projects. He had a lot of time for his willing students, many of whom he launched into the world of research like a careful and proud supervisor.
Asif’s ability to spot the relevant abnormality in a radiological image was legendary, his power of inference extraordinary and his ability to get to the bottom of the most complex of cases, uncanny. He would deliver this high-quality service with exemplary consistency. No wonder that his opinion on managing the weird and rare cases was sought both nationally and internationally. And we all have seen the proof of his extraordinary writing skills by regularly seeing his name pop up as the author of scientific papers published in the most respected of scientific journals.
I recall an interesting anecdote that he used to fondly remember. During a stint with pneumonia, he was admitted to the Northwick Park Hospital. Recovering from the illness, he was waiting to be discharged. The ward staff would only let him go after his chest X-ray had been formally reported, stating that he had fully recovered from his infection. Getting frustrated with the delay, he ventured to the radiology department to get his X-ray reported. Lo and behold the reporting radiology registrar preparing for his forthcoming FRCR 2B exam was engrossed in none other than an Asif Saifuddin-authored book! Realising that in front of him was the author of the book he was reading, wanting a report on his X-ray, the registrar felt understandably nervous. Putting the X-ray on the view box, he quizzically looked at Asif and asked what he had wanted him to say in the report! Reassured by Asif’s verdict on his own X-ray, the registrar gave the ‘all clear’ and must have thought he’d stumbled into a surreal radiology-themed sitcom.
Honesty was his signature, which would sometimes border on being brusque. A classic case in point: a visiting fellow finished his reporting session with Asif. For the afternoon session, he was with me. I asked him how he found the morning reporting session. The slightly flustered fellow narrated that for one case, he had tried to suggest that they should recall a patient for some gad-enhanced scans. The suggestion was roundly criticised by Asif who questioned the possible utility of the suggestion. The proposal was dissected, analysed and then comprehensively thrown out of the window. The astute fellow had admiringly deduced straightaway Dr Saifuddin’s two aversions: Talking and Gadolinium! A man of clear convictions, Asif believed that gadolinium was to be used very sparingly and only when necessary. (He belonged to the class of radiologists who believed that ‘anything can and will enhance’ and though he did use it, his threshold for this option used to be fairly high).
As the curtain falls on Dr Saifuddin’s time among us, a chasm opens in our hearts. His departure has left us to ponder the brevity of his years while acknowledging the monumental impact he made during his relatively brief time on this earth. In this age of longevity quests, Asif’s legacy reminds us that a life, even when brief, can be extraordinary when lived with a purpose.
Farewell, Dr Saifuddin. Your memory will stay with us, and your patients, colleagues and students, spread around the world will forever remain grateful to you.