Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Veteran Aligarhian passes away

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Muneer Muhammad Khan, Member, Executive Committee, Aligarh Muslim University Old Boys Association (AMUOBA) who passed away on January 13 was laid to rest at the DHA Graveyard in Karachi the following day. 

His Namaz-e-Janaza was offered at Mubarak Masjid in DHA Phase V Extension after Asr prayers which was attended by a large number of fellow Aligarhians, friends and relatives. 

Meanwhile in a condolence message, Engr Anwar Ali, Vice President, AMUOBA, has expressed his profound grief and sorrow over the death of Muneer Mohammed Khan and prayed that may Allah SWT rest the departed soul in eternal peace and grant fortitude to bereaved family to bear this loss.

Hajj balloting at AIT


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aligarh Institute of Technology (AIT) has, for the first time, introduced Hajj ballot scheme for its employees and staff, Engr Anwer Ali, Convenor AIT, announced.

According to him, commencing from this year, the AIT will send two persons to hold land to perform the sacred ritual of Hajj at AIT expenses. 

He disclosed that two lucky employees were selected through ballot held at the AIT Auditorium on January 10. 

Engr Anwer Ali said that in order to facilitate the female employees, if they emerged successful in the ballot, the AIT was also going bear the expenses of her spouse/mehram. 

Meanwhile the staff of AIT has welcomed and praised the management for introducing Haj Balloting scheme, which is set to become a regular annual feature. 

They thanked Engr Anwer Ali, Convener AIT, for taking this noble step and expressed the hope that this practice will continue in future as well.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

AKU alumni give back through landmark donation


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
 (Pakistan News & Features Services)

Continuing their history of philanthropy to the University, alumni of the Class of 1992 have added to their gift to support physicians from underserved communities across Pakistan.

The Alumni and faculty members gathered to celebrate a landmark gift to the Aga Khan University (AKU) where the MBBS Class of 1992 added another gift of $250,000 to the endowment fund previously established in 2012 to celebrate their 20th graduation anniversary. 

The MBBS Class of 1992 Endowment Fund was established to support the Medical College in perpetuity and in its commitment to making continuing medical education accessible to more physicians who work in underserved communities across Pakistan and who come to AKU for workshops, research symposiums, CME lectures and other research related activities specific to Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) students training at AKU. 

This latest gift is the most recent example of AKU Alumni’s generosity toward their alma mater. A career in medicine and caring for vulnerable patient populations is itself a way of endowing society, but the alumni clearly value the concept of paying it forward. 

Proceeds from the fund will continue to enable the University to open its doors to many more students from other medical institutions across Pakistan to attend world class conferences and workshops at AKU, to more closely connect them, through the curriculum, with advances in medicine so as to better care for the communities where they come from. 

It will also support education of undergraduate students from some of Pakistan’s most underserved communities requiring financial assistance to access world-class medical education.


“AKU has opened up new worlds for me and my classmates. It has offered me new perspectives, which allowed me to fulfill my dreams. Looking back over many years of practice, we know that medical education is our most valuable possession. It is a privilege every day to practice medicine as it helps to ground us and humble us. It has been a lifetime of learning, growth and service,” Dr Faiz Bohra, who along with Dr Mumtaz Khan signed the agreement on behalf of their class, remarked. 

They acknowledged the efforts of Dr Muneer Abidi and Dr Obeid Ilahi in championing this gift. Graduates of MBBS 1992 from within and outside Pakistan, attended the ceremony, along with the Faculty of Health Sciences staff and learnt first-hand the impact that the MBBS Class of 1992 Endowment has already created. 

“Our education at AKU prepared us well for the challenges of medicine. As students, we focused on didactic and clinical work, the tasks of becoming a doctor. However, we learned many things we were not aware of excellence, compassion, resilience, passion, teamwork, commitment and intellectual curiosity that have made all the difference in our success. We attribute this to the strong mentors at AKU, many of them women setting high standards for patient care and education, yet able to show the joy in their work and the human aspects of medicine” Dr Khan added. 

“Our alumni believe giving back is their responsibility. We sincerely hope that this gesture will inspire other alumni to personally contribute to the advancement of medical education,” Dr Farhat Abbas, Dean of the Medical College, observed. 

AKU alumni are part of a supportive, cohesive community that spans the globe and endures for a lifetime. From lifelong relationships to memories of life on the Stadium Road Campus, there are innumerable reasons alumni choose to support their alma mater. 

Every year, more alumni give back in celebration of reunions, as volunteers, or through annual gifts, and they are not shy about sharing why. AKU is a world-renowned institution that contributes a significant amount to the advancement of society, with a particular focus on serving disadvantaged, underserved, and indigent populations. 

Graduates from AKU work in numerous countries around the world, which allows the University’s reach to be felt on a global scale. AKU alumni play a major role in both the domestic and international economies. By educating the next generation of highly-educated, global citizens, the University is shaping a skilled workforce that will transform and lead an emerging global economy.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Policy planners receive immunization financing training


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Immunization programme managers, health policy planners and private sector officials from Pakistan and Afghanistan attended a four-day skill-building workshop at Aga Khan University on the planning of financially sustainable national vaccination programmes. 

Pakistan and Afghanistan rely on the financial support of the Global Alliance for Vaccines (GAVI) for their nationwide routine immunization programmes. 

From 2020, Pakistan will need to take on greater responsibility for financing the provision of these life-saving vaccines as GAVI phases of support in order to focus on the needs of the world’s poorest countries. 

Pakistan is currently in the preparatory transition phase and this shift requires the country’s health planners to develop the advanced skills needed to move towards self-sufficiency. 

“We’ve applied economic concepts and used real-life case studies from around the world to share practical lessons on how to plan a sustainable response to forthcoming financing challenges. Interestingly, we have kept a mix of public and private sector trainees so that we can develop a network of knowledgeable resource people who can collectively respond through pooling expertise and blended financing,” Dr Shehla Zaidi, regional trainer and an associate professor in Community Health Sciences and the Department of Women and Child Health at AKU, remarked. 

The Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho said: “Donor commitment for vaccines is declining and we have to make arrangements to fill this gap when the GAVI and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation support disappears. There should be arrangements for the local production of vaccines as this will help improve the financial sustainability of programmes.” 

The workshop was the first of three such capacity building workshops funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation on vaccine economics and financing. 

During the workshop faculty from the Aga Khan University, Johns Hopkins University and senior figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), provided training sessions to immunization sector stakeholders. 

Speaking about the goals of the workshop, WHO’s Representative to Pakistan Dr Mohammad Assai said: “Vaccines save over 2 million lives a year and represent one of the most cost-effective ways to protect children and adults from disease. By addressing critical gaps in the financial planning and management of immunization programmes, these workshops will ensure that vital health programmes can manage forthcoming challenges. They will also make sure that decisions to introduce new vaccines are based on sound evidence.” 

The workshop ended with a panel discussion featuring a mix of public and private sector representatives from Pakistan and Afghanistan, moderated by literary critic and former public health specialist Asif Farrukhi, and chaired by Sindh Health Secretary Fazlullah Pechuho. 

The sessions under the workshop represent the university’s efforts to support Goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals which call for countries around the world to ensure the availability of safe, effective, quality and affordable vaccinations for all.

Policy experts recommend steps to help Pakistan excel in science education


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The persistence of outdated teaching methods in science in Pakistan’s classrooms, coupled with a lack of emphasis on developing qualified science teachers, is holding back the country’s potential to excel in science and technology, according to public and private sector experts speaking at a policy dialogue at the Aga Khan University’s Institute for Educational Development.

The policy dialogue brought together a panel of experts from Alif Ailaan, the Sindh Curriculum Bureau, the Institute of Business Administration as well as science teachers from schools and universities to discuss how to transform education practices so that today’s students can become tomorrow’s innovators.

“Innovation in science and technology begins by inspiring students about the possibilities of science. Too many classrooms across the country have teachers using rote learning methods that fail to involve students and limit their ability to apply their knowledge to the world around them,” Professor Nelofer Halai from the Institute of Educational Development observed. 

On the reasons why rote learning methods remain prevalent in schools, experts noted that there are serious gaps in the content knowledge of teachers at all levels of the education system. 

The specialist teachers for science are only present at college level; even though all students from primary to secondary to higher education should have access to knowledgeable, trained teachers. 

Since many of today’s teachers lack confidence in their understanding of the subject, they focus on telling students how to pass exams instead of teaching them how to think for themselves, the panel noted.

The experts recommended that teaching training programmes for science teachers should inquiry-based teaching methods that require students to pose questions and to develop their own processes to arrive at answers. 

To this end, Professor Halai noted that science teachers would need formal mentoring programmes to help them introduce such techniques into lesson plans and called for the induction of science teacher educators in colleges across the country. 

“Science education of the future needs to accommodate the changing views of science as well as the changing views of effective professional development to make real headway in developing science literacy in Pakistan,” Professor Halai added. 

Speaking at the event, Salman Naveed Khan, head of policy and political engagement at Alif Ailaan, said: “Subjects such as science and mathematics can be inspirational when taught well. Our studies have shown that Pakistani students consistently score the lowest in mathematics and science even though these subjects are key drivers of a country’s economic growth. We need to act now to ensure that Pakistan’s large and growing youth population is inspired by the potential of science and can contribute to the country’s prosperity.” 

The panelists also stated that the world’s most prosperous societies are distinguished by their ability to generate knowledge that helps them tackle the challenges posed by poverty, hunger, pollution and inequality. 

This ability to generate knowledge by asking questions and approaching problems in new, imaginative ways relies on a scientific mindset being inculcated at the primary, secondary and higher education levels. 

The other speakers at the event included Dr Shehzad Jeeva, director of the Aga Khan University Examination Board, Mr Noor Khoso, deputy director of the Sindh Curriculum Bureau, and Dr Irfan Rind, head of the department of education at IBA, Sukkur. 

The event’s objectives are in line with goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ensure inclusive and quality education for all and promote lifelong learning. Targets under the goal call for steps to widen access to education and to ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Aga Khan inaugurates state-of-the-art healthcare education centre in Karachi


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education (CIME), a state-of-the-art facility for technology-based learning for health professionals, was inaugurated today by His Highness the Aga Khan, Chancellor of AKU.

In his inaugural address, His Highness the Aga Khan acknowledged the many contributions made towards the advancement of healthcare in the country stating that civil society was underserved in education in Pakistan. Expressing his gratitude to all those who had sustained the University, he said: “We should position this institution in its correct place in service to Pakistan.” 

The CIME’s mission is to transform the education of health professionals through the use of simulation and virtual reality technology to develop knowledge and skills before treating patients. 

“The Centre aims to raise the bar for teaching and learning and to thereby deliver higher standards of practice across the professions of medicine, nursing and allied health,” the CIME Director, Dr Charles Docherty, announced.

“We seek to become a strategic asset for Pakistan and the region that is at the forefront of efforts to raise the standard of healthcare,” he declared.

The 80,000-square foot, Rs. 1.6 billion ($15 million), donor-funded Centre comprises three buildings, the Mariyam Bashir Dawood Building, the Ibn Sina Building and the Shiraz Boghani Building. 

The Centre offers multi-purpose teaching spaces, high-fidelity simulators, and specialty environments such as the phantom-head dental lab, a cardiac catheterisation lab and telemedicine clinics. 

Learning from other such centres around the world, CIME supports student-centred problem-based and team-based learning. Students and professionals from different disciplines work together on real-life patient simulations. 

For example, nurses and doctors can practice responding to a situation in which a patient stops breathing, using a high-tech mannequin that responds as a real patient would respond. Afterwards, they can watch a video of themselves and analyse their performance. 

“Using the latest technology in simulation, whilst being guided by our faculty, makes for a more effective learning environment for students, by converting high-risk, high-reward scenarios into zero-risk, high-reward scenarios,” Ibrahim Habib, a third-year medical student at AKU, remarked. 

High-speed communications technology allows video connectivity throughout CIME and with international experts, offering a truly ‘global classroom’, with students able to learn from specialists anywhere in the world in real-time. 

This same connectivity allows CIME to work with remote and rural populations within Pakistan and neighbouring countries to expand access to quality healthcare.

“In everything we do, as our Chancellor says, ‘we must look to the future, seeking always to think creatively, to innovate and to improve,” the AKU President Firoz Rasul, stated. 

“Technology-enabled learning has the potential to transform how we prepare students and professionals to face society’s most pressing issues. By giving today’s health professionals the most advanced facilities to work and learn together at CIME, we give them the best chance of becoming leaders capable of solving tomorrow’s healthcare challenges,” he added. 

“AKU has been the recipient of significant philanthropic support. That support has enabled us to launch important new ventures, build new facilities and achieve ever-higher standards. We are very grateful to our donors for their extraordinary generosity,” the AKU President acknowledged. 

His Highness the Aga Khan laid the foundation stone for the three buildings of CIME during his previous visit to Pakistan in 2013. 

The inauguration of the facility on Friday was part of the Aga Khan’s state visit to Pakistan on the occasion of his Diamond Jubilee: the 60th anniversary of his accession as the spiritual leader of the Shia Ismaili community in 1957.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

AKU graduates urged to seize opportunities to innovate


By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The faculty at Aga Khan University has launched a comprehensive medical atlas aimed at improving the diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections which are becoming a growing public health concern in Pakistan.

The new book Practical Guide and Atlas of the Diagnosis of Fungal Infections was launched at the 1st International Collaborative Mycology (ICM) Conference, jointly organized by the global research and advocacy body, Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (GAFFI), the Medical Microbiology and Infectious Diseases Society of Pakistan and AKU. 

The skin specialists from around Pakistan told the conference that common fungal infections affecting the skin are now the leading cause of patients visiting skin clinics and hospitals. 

Despite the prevalence of such infections and the fact that 3.2 million Pakistanis are living with infections such as keratitis, which can cause blindness, and the life-threatening Candida auris infection, researchers noted that there is no specific national policy on fungal disease. 

“Fungal disease is an area almost forgotten by public health professionals and policymakers. Since treatment options for these diseases are already limited this policy oversight has dangerous implications. Fungal infections also represent a growing threat to the livelihood of our animals and plants which harms the country’s food security and biodiversity,” Dr Kausar Jabeen, associate professor in the department of pathology and laboratory medicine at AKU and chair of the conference, remarked.

The speakers at the book launch ceremony on the first day of the conference mentioned how the book contains high resolution microscopic images of over 20 types of fungal infections caused by more than 60 fungal species that have been reported at the country’s healthcare institutions. 

Compiled over a period of 6 years and through a series of eight intensive workshops, the publication also contains detailed instructions to guide medical professionals and students in diagnosing these infections, they added. 

The sessions at the conference also focused on the key concern of growing fungal resistance to medications which were narrowing treatment options and leaving patients little choice beyond very expensive drugs. 

Commenting on the challenges in treating by a serious fungal infection, Candida auris, which can trigger sepsis, a deadly illness that causes inflammation throughout the body, the speakers noted that poor availability of medicines was leading to delays in treatment. Even when medicines were present, the prohibitive cost of using second-line drugs, which can cost around Rs 13,000 per day, limited the availability of treatment, the experts added. 

Speaking in a global context, Professor David Denning, President of GAFFI, stated that fungal infections claim 1.6 million lives around the world every year: a death toll that exceeds malaria and is equivalent to the lives lost to tuberculosis. Similarly, fungi and fungi-like micro-organisms, oomycetes, commonly known as water mould, destroy a third of all food crops around the world which would have fed 600 million people. 

“The World Health Organization has no funded programmes specifically targeting fungal diseases, fewer than 10 countries have national surveillance programs for fungal infections, and fewer than 20 have fungal reference diagnostic laboratories. Many of the diagnostic tests that do exist are not available in developing countries, and well-established antifungal drugs that would cure disease are not reaching people that need them,” Professor Denning added. 

The experts from various disciplines of medicine, veterinary medicine, agriculture, food and pharmaceutical industry were present at the two-day event. The conference was followed by a day of workshops at AKU’s Centre for Innovation in Medical Education. 

The conference’s objectives to improve the diagnosis and treatment of fungal infections are in line with global efforts to achieve infectious disease targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals: ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages. 

The new book Practical Guide and Atlas of the Diagnosis of Fungal Infections has been edited by Professor Afia Zafar alongside co-editors Dr Kausar Jabeen and Dr Joveria Farooqi.