Karachi: Towns in rural Sindh, such as Kunri at the edge of the Thar Desert, have suffered from inadequate health care facilities. Yet the arrival of just one doctor Dr Philomena Drago-Johnson, one of the first surgical residents to graduate from the Aga Khan University, at the local hospital was to change all that 20 years ago.
Today, Dr Drago-Johnson was back to witness the 20th and largest-ever graduation of the Aga Khan University’s Postgraduate Medical Education programme. This year 173 doctors, over half of them women, were awarded their postgraduate training certificates. They included 70 interns, 80 residents and 23 fellows, with the longest programme offering five years and the shortest a year of clinical training.
Addressing the gathering, chief guest, Dr Atta-ur-Rahman, President Network of Academies of Science in Countries of the Organization of Islamic Conference (NASIC) said, “Knowledge is now the single most important factor for socio-economic development and science and technology are great equalizers. The real challenge is therefore to set up world class Centres of Excellence so that we may cater to our national needs … we must help ourselves.”
The University has been a pioneer in introducing postgraduate medical training programmes – 33 residencies and 27 fellowships – in areas such as chemical pathology, cardiac surgery, endocrinology and paediatric intensive care, supported by over 450 qualified and dedicated faculty members. All in all, 2,697 highly skilled physicians in many disciplines have graduated from the PGME programme since 1986.
“You have been trained to be critical thinkers, compassionate caregivers and clear communicators. To question that which is taken for granted. To question that which is taken for granted. …You have learned to act as leaders, capable of making difficult decisions with limited information when lives hang in the balance,” said AKU President Firoz Rasul. “You have knowledge that is essential not just to the health of individuals but to society as a whole.”
The Best Intern and the Best Resident awards were given to individuals in each of 11 departments; an Excellence in Research Award was awarded to a resident and a fellow.
An international conference was also organised as part of the three day series of events to discuss the future of PGME and its role in tackling a national health care scenario where the country faces a shortage of trained medical specialists coupled with a steady increase in communicable and non-communicable diseases. The conference also discussed how to provide specialist care at the peripheries and not only at large urban health care centres.
Speaking on the sidelines of the conference, Associate Dean, PGME, Dr Mughis Sheerani said, We really need to continue to develop the capacity of our doctors to deal with the country’s specific health care needs through specialized training and inculcate in them a sense of service for this country and its people.”
As for Dr Drago-Johnson, she credits the difference she has been able to make to the training she received at AKU and advises her young colleagues, “Come out and spend two weeks or a year in a rural area like Kunri for a different perspective on dealing with medical problems … you will witness the problems that persist for a majority of Pakistanis.”