'He treated us like his daughters': Tributes pour in for pioneering Dubai doctor

Friends, students and colleagues share memories of the late physician who founded medical college for girls in the emirate


Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Sat 26 Nov 2022, 5:32 PM

Last updated: Sat 26 Nov 2022, 5:42 PM

Friends, colleagues and former students turned up to pay their last respects to Professor Joseph Michael Muscat-Baron, consultant physician and cardiologist at the Dubai Healthcare Authority (DHA).

The funeral, held at the Dubai Christian cemetery in Jebel Ali, was emotionally charged as tears were shed, memories were shared, and prayers recited. "I can say confidently that he was the only senior doctor who treated us like his daughters,” said Dr. Maryam Matar, founder and chairperson of UAE Genetic Diseases Association and a former student of his, her voice cracking with emotion.

“His door was always open for us. Once we graduated, he would treat us like a colleague.”

Over 1,500 students have studied under the founding professor of medicine in Dubai Medical College (DMC) for girls. A passionate teacher, Professor Muscat-Baron made sure that every student of his was competent in their profession. “I was one of the mannequins in his anatomy class,” said one student, who was a graduate of Batch 22 of Dubai Medical College.

“In true medical fashion, his writing was not very great,” added another student, who was a graduate of the second batch of DMC. “Sometimes, he would call us to help him read back what he had written and we would tease him about it. He was an amazing teacher, and it is the values that he taught that has shaped our career over more than two decades.”

He was the first in Dubai to develop the internship programme, and later a residency programme during his tenure as Head of the Higher Education Committee of the Department of Health & Medical Services (DOHMS). This enabled thousands of medical students in the UAE to complete their education without having to leave the country.

Medicine was his life

Another person who spoke at the funeral was John Valencia, a close associate and long-time friend. “Medicine was his life and he was keen to spread the knowledge the had,” he said, with tears streaming down his cheeks.

“His mission was to train all these students to become excellent doctors. He would help anybody who needed his help without ever asked for anything in return. He loved everybody unconditionally.”

This was echoed by Rashad Hassan Al Moosa, a family friend of Dr. Muscat-Baron. “He treated everyone like his children” he said.

“He was a close friend of my father’s and after my father’s death, he was a mentor, guide and teacher for me. In every situation, he advised me in like a father figure. He is going to be missed terribly.”

One of his crowning achievements was that he established the MRCP (UK) Examination of the Federation of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the United Kingdom and set up a regional office for this examination in Dubai, the only such office outside the United Kingdom. For a community that was reluctant to allow its women to travel alone abroad, the move ensured that several doctors were able to continue their medical education seamlessly.

Gem of a person

According to Dr. Maryam Matar, some of her biggest lessons in humility were imparted by Dr. Muscat-Baron. “He has treated everyone from the Sheikhs to workers in the country,” she said. “He treated every patient with the same level of respect and that was one of the biggest lessons I learnt from him. On a daily basis, he would chat with the drivers and cleaners and ask after their families. He was an amazing man and I consider myself lucky to have learnt from him.”

A tent, paid for by the ruling family, will be set up in Jumeirah until Sunday for those wishing to pay respects to the physician. Hundreds of his former students, colleagues and acquaintances are expected to attend.


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