Textbooks do not prepare you for real world: PM’s adviser

December 01, 2019

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Dr Sania Nishtar speaks at the AKU on Saturday.—White Star
Dr Sania Nishtar speaks at the AKU on Saturday.—White Star

KARACHI: As the graduating class of 2019 settled down in their seats there were loud cheers from them when their teachers and professors walked by in the academic procession to take their place on either side of the grand stage in the convocation area of the Aga Khan University (AKU) here on Saturday.

The AKU’s 2019 convocation saw some 350 men and women, including students from Afghanistan, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tanzania, UAE and USA, receiving their degrees and diplomas.

The chief guest, Dr Sania Nishtar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Social Protection and Poverty Alleviation, said that her own professional journey had an incident that changed her course. “Two decades ago, I was a cardiologist working in the cath lab when I was told not to open disposable catheters for people who could not pay for them. That’s when I decided to do something about it by embarking on a journey of finding solutions with courage, agility, perseverance and integrity,” she said, urging the fresh doctors to arm themselves with values in the next phase of their journey. “Textbooks do not prepare you for the real world,” she said.

350 men and women, including foreign students, receive their degrees and diplomas at AKU convocation

She also said that the real world is beset by many challenges: widening inequities, demographic challenges, rapid urbanisation and a context in which collusive behaviours are deeply entrenched. But such challenges also offer a huge opportunity. For example, advancements in artificial intelligence and pharmacogenetics — the study of how genetics impact an individual’s response to medicine — are transforming medicine and today’s graduates have the opportunity to change the world dramatically.

She said that she had long admired the AKU for setting high bars of standard and quality in the area of teaching medicine. “It has become a bit cliché but the time-old adage of doing the right thing for the right reasons is something that you must hold very dear to your heart as you walk into the real world,” she stated.

In his welcome address, the university’s president and CEO Firoz Rasul called on the graduates to make the most of their education by embracing challenges and by never letting setbacks hold them back from achieving their goals.

“There is no such thing as a life without setbacks,” he said. “Remember that those who survive disappointment with their determination intact, and learn the hard lessons it has to teach, are forces to be reckoned with,” he added.

The valedictory speaker, Haider Ali Saleem, had everyone laughing and smiling as he shared some highlights of their journey at the AKU. “It feels like just last week when we were waiting at our gate for the courier. Hoping to see a large envelope in his hand instead of the dreaded small envelope of rejection,” he said.

“The first year was all about discovery. Life was more settled in second year ahead of the hysteria before our clinical phase when we entered the wards. Suddenly there were patients talking unlike the mannequins we had been practising on. And as soon as we felt that we had a grip on the clinical phase, it was over and we found ourselves in the final year of medicine. Class of 2019, it has been a marvellous journey of learning experiences and perseverance,” he said.

Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, founding chair of the university’s Centre for Excellence in Women and Child Health, was elevated to the rank of Distinguished University Professor and is just the second faculty member to hold this title.

The students received degrees and diplomas in different disciplines, including nursing, midwifery, medicine, education, dental hygiene and Muslim Culture. This included 181 graduates from the School of Nursing and Midwifery, 143 from the Medical College, 16 from the Institute of Educational Development and 10 from the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations.

A number of students won awards at the convocation. The 2019 ‘Medical College Best Graduating Student Award’ went to Dr Maya Zahid Khan, who also received the AKU Medical College’s Gold Medal for achieving the highest score in three out of four certifying examinations. She is only the 10th student in the university’s history to receive this medal. The 2019 School of Nursing and Midwifery ‘Best Graduating Student Award’ went to Sahar Makhani.

Three awards of distinction were presented to Dr Amirali Pyarally Gulamhusein, Asif Fancy and Louis Ariano for their significant contributions to the university’s development. An Award of Excellence in Teaching and Teaching Leadership was conferred on Dr Rashida Ahmed and an Award of Excellence in Research was given to Dr Rumina Hasan.

Professor Emeritus and Professor Emerita were conferred on five retired members of faculty — Prof Abul Faizi, Prof Mohammad Perwaiz Iqbal, Prof Murad Moosa Khan, Prof Nelofer Halai and Prof Yasmin Noorali Amarsi for their sustained contributions to teaching, scholarship and service throughout their careers.

Published in Dawn, December 1st, 2019