At 4.15 am in the morning of 20th February 2023, a kind soul passed away quietly. Mathura Prasad Shrestha was a medical doctor, public health professional, human right activists, left intellectual, and above all a great teacher. A gold medalist in the Masters of Community Health, Liverpool school of Tropical Medicine, he laid the foundation for public health education and research in Nepal and was rightly acknowledged as the Father of Public Health in Nepal.
He equally devoted his energies in the betterment of downtrodden people and in educating young rebellion hearts explaining why this unjust old society needs to be changed and why a society with equity and humanity will necessarily evolve. He stood for radical change whether against Panchayat or Monarchy. He chose to tread the hazardous path for change by serving his own example, inspiring people to take stand amidst the risk of state repression.
Mathura Prasad Shrestha stood for radical change whether against Panchayat or Monarchy. He chose to tread the hazardous path for change by serving his own example, inspiring people to take stand amidst the risk of state repression.
In the first historical people’s movement of 1990, the doctors and other health professionals of Nepal staged an unprecedented protest and struggle against the oppressive state to protect the wounded, ensure the right to health and dignity of people. The book by Prof Vincent Adams of Princeton University, “Doctors for Democracy” has captured the historical moments of this movement, the central figure being Professor Shrestha. He also was a leading figure of the civil society movement of that time and became health minister representing civil society after the success of the movement. He was equally active in the second historical people’s movement of 2006.
He was former chair of Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) and the head of the department of the Community Medicine and Family Health at Tribhuvan University Institute of Medicine. He was also chair of Forum for Human Rights, Nepal, Chair of Physician for Social Responsibility, Nepal, Chair of Resource Center for Primary Health Care, Advisor to Nepal Public Health Foundation and Mulyankan monthly. He has served as a member of the WHO advisory council for health research, South East Asia Region.
I had the privilege to be mentored by him, as he has done to many aspiring youths. I am deeply indebted to him for what I am today. The pain of his departure comes heavily on us, more so in his family, but perhaps it is time to remember and celebrate his gloriously worthy life.
His legacy will endure and his values will guide the generations to come.