As the celebration of 40 years of dedicated service by SIUT moves towards its grand finale next week, civil society has ample reason to dedicate this great institution as its offering to the people of Pakistan. Surely SIUT is a most sparkling example of what can be done by citizens for the glory of their state.
The SIUT was born as an eight-bed surgery ward in Karachi’s Civil Hospital in 1972. The confidence of the administration and the people that Dr Adib Rizvi won by his zeal for the methodical care of indigent patients facilitated the small unit’s recognition as the Department of Urology and Transplantation in 1986. Five years later, it became an autonomous institution under a Sindh act and became functional as the Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (SIUT) in 1992.
The philosophy inspiring SIUT that has won plaudits from the four corners of the world can be explained in a few words. Urological disorder is common in the world, especially in countries like Pakistan where many people are vulnerable to kidney malfunctioning. While kidney transplant offers a cure the expense involved in it or even in dialysis is beyond the common man’s means. Dr Adib Rizvi and his fellow pioneers at the SIUT set out on a two-point mission — to acquire the most modern technology for the treatment of urology disorders and transplantation and to place it at the service of those without resources without any charge. They have succeeded beyond anybody’s expectations.
The Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation takes care of nearly a million patients each year.
The institute now takes care of nearly a million patients per year, and specialises in providing emergency services, major and minor surgical procedures, lithotripsy and dialysis sessions, transplants, radiology tests and laboratory investigations by extraordinarily skilled professionals.
The institute has an impressive history of meeting new challenges — the first liver transplant in the country in 2003, established the highly praised Centre for Biomedical Ethics and Culture in 2004, opened a school of medical technology in 2005, a school of nursing and a department of stem cell research in 2006, departments of medical education and infectious diseases and a centre for human genetics and molecular medicine in 2010. It has also set up dialysis centres in several parts of Karachi and healthcare centres in a couple of Sindh towns besides providing relief to disaster victims.
Those who wish to know more about SIUT will find much to inspire them in the excellent book The SIUT Story: Making the ‘Impossible’ Possible, written and published by Zubeida Mustafa, a fellow spirit of Dr Rizvi. The book is entirely a product of contributions from friends of SIUT, and it confirms the adage that miracles wrought in the service of humankind beget a chain of similar endeavours.
Apart from the many visible achievements of SIUT, there are quite a few reasons that make its story and the work of the moving spirit behind it, Dr Adib Rizvi, a unique phenomenon in the annals of humanitarian accomplishments. Dr Rizvi rejected the concept of medical practitioners as moneymaking machines or using success in the world of medicine for advancement in other fields of life. He did not increase his fee from the level affordable by ordinary people he had fixed early in life so long as he could find time for private practice.
His second distinction was his decision to rule out the option of creating a large private hospital and to develop instead a government health facility’s capacity for delivering up-to-date medical care to the people, especially the poorest among them, without any cost to them and without compromising their dignity. This approach reinforced the principle of the state’s obligation to respect the citizens’ right to health. At the same time, it demonstrated a public health facility’s capacity to deliver if it had the right people to run it and if political authority was not blind altogether.
Thirdly, Dr Rizvi not only put a premium on teamwork he also created an environment of democratic management that helped SIUT grow as a hub for human resource development. The spirit of equality and the esteem in which everyone entering the institute is held is to be seen to be believed. Charity is a word that is hardly ever heard in the halls and corridors of SIUT; all that one breathes there is the assurance of respect for integrity and human dignity.
Finally, Dr Rizvi’s sincerity of purpose enabled him to awaken many an affluent citizen to his philanthropic responsibility and also persuaded the Sindh provincial government to extend the legal cover SIUT needed to function as an autonomous, degree-awarding institution. He was thus able to demonstrate civil society’s capacity for institution-building if the state could overcome its complexes and offered space to citizens to realise their genius.
No tribute to Dr Adib Rizvi can be complete without recording the fact that he started discovering himself and his mission as an active player in the students’ movement of the 1950s. He stands tall in the company of several public-spirited professionals in medical and other fields who fought from the platform of the Democratic Students Federation for not only the right of young people to meaningful education but also for the people’s right to democracy, social justice, and their basic freedoms.
That is not merely the story of the ability of Dr Adib Rizvi and his friends to survive repression by myopic rulers, it is also a grim reminder of what the state lost by preventing the youth from realising their potential as agents of democratic and egalitarian change and a vindication of the thesis that the roots of all human progress lie in the democratic struggle to eliminate inequality.
But let us put off that discussion for the moment and offer a standing salute to SIUT, Dr Adib Rizvi and his magnificent colleagues for what they are and what they have done to make the people of Pakistan proud of them.
Published in Dawn, December 3rd, 2015