The Journey

You may not walk in my shoes, but You can look at the path I treaded to reach here to understand me better..

May be we can work together and make a great team...

In search of meaning...

Sometimes, sitting in  the Professor's office at one of the most prestigious medical institutions of the country, I get a chance to reflect back upon my journey.
It wasn't easy, but it was certainly meaningful... 

My mother raised me as a single parent, as I lost my father when I was only two, and I owe all my success and accomplishments, to the sacrifices of that venerable lady, who is not here to witness the results of her efforts.

Left to right: Myself, Alina Babar and Muhammad Tariq Siddiqui  (Picture taken Sometime in 1997 at Nasra School Malir)

Old school days...

Back in 1997, I was studying at Nasra School (Malir),  I was the Head Prefect, and I wanted my name on the honour board at the entrance.

I was diligent, but I lacked some of what it took, so I passed my Matric exams with one mark less than the A+ grade.

A teacher said to me, this will remain a lesson for life, and he was right. 

Persistence has its fruits..

It was not over for me though,  and more than two decades later, my profile got featured on the Memorial Calander of the  School's 70th Anniversary asa a shining alumnus.

Sometimes, things You desire, You do not deserve at that time, but if You persist long enough, You get more than what You asked for.

I am now a frequent guest on School functions, I often get a chance to talk to the students, and inpsire them for becoming the best versions of themselves.

The historical touch..

DJ Sindh Govt. Science College was my next station.  it was a place I wanted to be at.  It has a beautiful, historic building, and with some luck, I got admission.  There I met some of the finest teachers of their time and learned from their wisdom.

Not only the subjects they taught, but at the same time their teaching methods and their style.

Most inspiring among those were Professor Muhammad Rizwan (Physics), Professor Rizwan Hyder (Zoology) and Professor Moosa Kamlani (English).

Professor Moosa was a meastro in the class, he knew all the textbooks by heart.

A new life begins...

I still remember the first day, probably  it was 17th January 2000.

I was standing right at the place where the clockpost is, wondering, where I am, do I belong here or is it somebody's mistake?

The life had taken some strange turns.  For me, it was more than a miracle that I had qualified.  As I was going through my intermediate final exams, my mother had passed away after a breif illness, and I had to leave the place I was living at.  All this turmoil had affected my performance, and passing through a long period of uncertainty, I had finally made it.
I was there, standing bewildered at the most prestigious medical institution in the province, not knowing what lies ahead...

Faculty of Merit n Merit in the early days...

First Row from Left to Right:
Mr. Saed, Dr. Noman Iqbal,  Dr. Akhtar Sharif, Myself, Mr. Safi Ahmed Zakai, Mr. Amjad Faizan, Mr. Shoib Alam, Mr. Faizan Hyder Malik

Second Row: Mr Syed Rehan, Mr. Faizan Hyder Malik, Mr. Wasiq, Dr. Saad Ahmed,  I missed those two names, Mr. Aftab and Mr. Zohaib

The Dow days

Next six years went fast.  While studying at Dow and going through the  internship, my personal life took several turns. 

I had started teaching at a local Institute in the evening.  "Meritorious Education Center" was my first exposure to the world of teaching.  I spent one year there and moved on to other institutes.  I did not thought of that, but that was the start of a life-long journey.  

Later on, I joined "Meritorious Ispahani Campus." lt morphed into Merit 'n'  Merit after some time, and remained my second home for more than a decade.  I met some wonderful people there, who were excellent teachers with strong grip on their subjects.  Some of them, you can see in the picture on the right.

By the time I was done with my internship in 2006, I had  already married and we had a baby daughter to care for.  

We were both stuyding and working at the same time. 

The first setback...

While I was going through the mid of my internship, the Government annouced Faculty Development Program and invited applications for PhD from abroad.  I applied for Dow University and University of Karachi.  After a few months, I received a call for the test and interview, which I cleared and received confirmation from the Co-ordinator of PhD (Foreign) Scholarship Program with the instructions to secure admission in a suitable University.  

I felt my self lucky and blessed, as I had just graduated months ago, and here I was, on the verge of getting a scholarship to study for a PhD from any of the best universities.

However, not everything goes as planned.  I received a call from the University for one more interview, there were only five people, who had reached this level among the applicants.  They filtered one out, and that was me.  

My hopes got shattered, I wanted to pursue teaching as a career and was not much interested in Clinicals.  

The beautiful and picturesque building of Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research: The place, where I was, but did not belong to.

The forced marriage... and its failure...

Unfortunately, we still do not have a teaching track in the Higher Education in 2022, let alone back in 2007.  

Research was the only option.  So I appeared in the admission test of Dr. Panjwani Center for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research, got admitted and was assigned to the Meritorious Professor Dr. Anwar Waqar (Late)'s group.

This was a forced marraige and it lasted for about a year.

In Dr. Waqar's lab, I worked for an HEC funded project "Allergies and Asthma in Paksitan" , as a part of which we were studying pollen allergens.

PCMD was not my type of the place, or I was not among the type of people who could survive there.  I was bored to the core.  

Finally, I decided that this was not working out for me and I dropped out of the M. Phil Program.

Cloudy confusion...

I was utterly confused.  The Coaching Center in the evening was paying well, but it was not a career.   I was trying for a lecturership in different medical colleges, and I finally got interview calls from two of them.  Baqai Medical College and Liaquat National Medical College.  I wanted to join LNMC.

In the mean time, I had qualified the GRE type Graduate Assessment Test with a 99.35 Percentile score.  I was hopeful that I might secure a scholarship.

This time, I had some research experience, and a couple of publications to show off.

Those were blessed days, I received two calls on the same day, one from Dow University for the test for PhD Scholarship and other from LNMC confirming my appointment as a Lecturer.

My Graduate Assessment Test Scorecard.  This is one of the most significant and impactful documents of my life.  This was the key to the scholarship.

Liaquat National Medical College, where I spend one of the most memorable three months of life

It finally worked out...

Three months went by... 

These three months are a distinct era in my life..

I met some wonderful people at LNMC.  

Professor Javaid Altaf Baig was the finest teacher of Biochemistry, I have ever met.  Dr. Mukhtiar Baig was too encouraging and would always push me to apply for upcoming opportunities  Mr. Sultan Ahmed was the one, who made me stand in front of the whole class for my first faculty lecture.

I also met some brilliant minds, who are now consultants in their fields.  Some of them are still in contact, and I love to see them progressing.

During this period, I was able to qualify all the entry requirements of the Foreign scholarship program and was offered a position at Dow.

...... Off to Glasgow

So finally I got accepted to the University of Glasgow for a PhD in Infection and Immunity with Professor Tim Mitchell.

These three years were tough.  My project was related to genetic variation and virulence of Streptococcus pneumoniae. Experiments would more often unsuccessful, than they worked.  Apart from Science and Pneumococcal behaviour, I learned resilience and dealing with failure, and I think these were more precious lessons than the rest of it.  Family was back in Pakistan.  My daughter was now six and I missed them.

Glasgow is a beautiful city. I made some new friends. Learned a lot.  With all its greenery and peace, it was the type of city I want to live in... 

Time at Provincial TB Reference Laboratory-Farewell the Ms. Shaheen Ansari, our "Apa" with the Director Professor Nisar Ahmed Rao, a renowned and respected Pulmonologist.

The Provincial TB Reference Laboratory

"Do You have interest in TB?"

"I don't have it, but I will develop..."

This was the first conversation with the then Director of Dow Diagnostics Research and Reference Laboratory, Professor Rafiq Khanani.

The scholarship did not continue for the fourth year.  I chose to come back with three years of labwork, and pending thesis writing. 

I was sent to him.   He placed me at the Provincial TB Reference Lab.  It was being developed as a BSL3 facility.  It had a yearly culture load of >5000 with > 12000 Microscopies.  I had a staff of about 30 people to manage with a lot of coordination between the TB control Program and the University.

I also had financial issues, since the University made me join at the previous position of Research Assocaite.  I was managing the lab in the morning, working in the evening and trying to focus on the thesis in the remaining time.

It took me a year to complete.  And it was another difficult year.

Becoming Dr. Dr.

In 2013, I went back to Glasgow to defend my thesis.  

Defending three years of intense work in three hours was a tough task.

Viva went smooth, and as per Professor Mitchell, I wish I still had that email saved somewhere....

"I spoke to Dan about it, and he told me you did a very good job!"

One of the most beautiful pictures of Dow International Medical College.  

Picture Credits: Myself :)

Dow International Medical College

I was lucky enough, that on my way back, a selection board was about to take place.  I got through it, and was appointed Assistant Professor on Tenure Track.  

Later on, I felt I was not able to do justice with the position becasue of my administrative load, so I applied for a regular position, and shifted from Tenure track to the regular BPS position.

It has lesser perks, but I felt more satisfied.

Now I was performing my academic work, along with managing the Provincial Tuberculosis Reference Laboratory and the TB Section of Dow Diagnostic Research and Rererence Laboratory. 

The Spiritual Connection

While in Glasgow, I came across the work Molana Shaykh Azhar Iqbal Sb.

When I came back, I met him and he encouraged me to join the traditional Dars-e-Nizami, the Eight-Year Alim Program and  I started studying under the guidance of the scholars of the Madrissa.

I learned from some wonderful and inspiring scholars during my time at Hidayah Academy.  Molana Nisar Sb was is my mentor since then. 

I graduated from the Program in 2019, was offered a voluntary teaching position, which I still hold.

Received best performance award for two consecutive years as a graduate on 8th and 9th Graduation ceremonies .

Receiving a cash prize from the Mentor  Molana Nisar Sb on writing a piece of Mehwar, which he liked.

Left to Right: Dr. Riffat, Dr. Sadaf, Professor Talat Mirza, Dr. Shaukat Ali, Myself, Mr. Tabish Ali

Dow College of Biotechnology

Sometimes You are able to create an impact by virtue of companionship.

I shared the office with Dr. Shaukat Ali, who was the first principal of Dow College of Biotechnology.  The BS Biotechnology was his brainchild.

When it came to the two subjects of Social Sciences, I was able to convince him to include Marketing, and offered my services to teach it.

Since then my students have created amazing project mixing their knowledge of Biotechnology and Marketing.

These can be seen here.

School of Public Health

Professor Kashif Shafique has been my batch mate at Dow.  He has been a dear friend,  confidant and advisor throughout.  

He needed a faculty member to teach Medical Genetics at SPH to MPH Classes, he asked me and I volunteered.   I taught Medical Genetics for about five years.

I also taught Nutrigenomics to BS- Nutrition classes.

Left to Right:  Dr. Shahkamal Hashmi, Nabeel, Prof. Kashif Shafique and Myself.  This was Nabeel's farewell, as he left for abroad for higher studies.

My non-traditional BS- Psychology class at Institute of Business and Health Management sometime back in 2016 .   Learning by doing.

Psychology at Institute of Business and Health Management

Human behaviour has been my deepest interest.  As I completed my Postgraduate Diploma from the virtual University in Applied Psychology, I requested the University to allow me to teach Organizational Behavior to the MBA classes.  

This request was turned down.  

However, I was offered to teach Psychology to BBA.

I taught there for two semesters, and remained the best scoring teacher on student evaluations.

If I could take a rebirth, I would become a Business Psychologist.

Psychology, Marketing and Leadership.. the stuff I wanted to teach.. 

A friend once said, "You don't get it, if You don't ask for it."  At times You have to design the future You are looking for.

I wanted to start an MBA, IoBM was the best option available.  I gathered a group of friends and applied for an MBA Health Management.  With some discussion, we were also able to get a group discount, as well as some exemptions.  However, again, things don't always turn out to be as You wish for.  Somebody got insecure, thinking of us joining IoBM as students.  Some disinformation was generated and we had to drop the idea, just before starting the MBA.

Sometimes, better things are waiting for You.

Through this adventure, I got acquainted to Dr. Asima Faisal, who was heading the Health Management Program at Institute of Business Management.  She offered me to to teach "Primary Health Care."  I did not like the subject, but to put my foot in the door, I agreed.

In the next semester, an opportunity arose for teaching "Management Issues in Health Psychology."  I gladly accepted the offer, and that was the start of a long-term relationship with IoBM as Visiting Faculty.

Health Psychology was my signature course.  I also taught Healthcare Marketing and Healthcare Leadership there.

I did not like the intense administrative work at the lab.  All requests to move to a pure educational setup were turned down.

During these depressing times,  Sundays at IoBM served as "breathing space" for me and trickle down effect kept me going through the weeks.

From Left to Right: Dr. Abdul Rahman Aleemi, Myself, Dr. Athar Akhlaq and Dr. Shahida Mirza

I am still attached with IoBM as a visiting faculty, however, I only supervise their students'research projects and have excused from teaching any courses.  I also serve as a member of the Board of Studies of their Health Management Program. 

With Dr. Shahnawaz Adil, one of the most learned people I have ever met.  He was my favourite teacher at Iqra University.  Picture Taken in 2023.

The MBA finally starts..

I was to determined to start an MBA.  There were few reasons. I was managing a lab and I wanted to do my administrative work more efficiently.

I wanted to do something useful with my evenings.  There were offers from a couple of labs, but I did it as an obligation to the job and I did not want to do something I dont like for the evening as well.  

I wanted to teach in the evening, I was already teaching at IoBM on Sundays, and it could serve as a good foundation.  I was also interested in learning more about Marketing and Communication.

So I applied for an MBA from Iqra University, and got enrolled and was able to secure an admission.

The apparent misadventure at IoBM was a blessing in disguise.  As all those years spent at Iqra studying, I was now teaching at IoBM simultaneously.  During these years, I got to meet some amazing teachers.  Dr. Shahnawaz Adil, Mr. Raheel Bhagar, Mr. Noaman Ashraf, Mr. Tehseen Javaid, Mr. Asgher Raza, Mr. Sohail Majeed, Dr. Amir Adam were among the best, who left a mark.

The backup plan...more Psychology

This time, I was a bit weary becasue of my previous experience and I also wanted to study Psychology in more depth. I got myself enrolled in a Masters of Organizational Psychology at the Virtual University.

I  already knew that the Higher Education Commission will only recognize one of the two simultaneous degrees, but I wanted to play safe and also wanted to  get myself hooked to a system, so that I can study Psychology at a predetermined pace.  

Studying simultaneously at Hidayah Academy, Iqra University and Virtual University was a challange, but I was able to get through, and complete the three degrees.

To me, this raises some questions on our system.  If someone is happy to put their time, effort and money to work extra and enroll in more than one degree programs simultaneously, why stop them?

Studying Psychology was more about getting hooked to a system, and covering the concepts in an organized way, rather than to get a qualification.  The M. Sc degree in Organizational Psychology, I might not use (or might not be able to use), but the knowledge I gained through this effort,  was priceless.

An experience that changed me....

In 2014, I was invited as a penalist by the School of Leadership to attend Young Leaders Conference with the youth of Lyari and Sultanabad, which are underpriviledged areas of the city. 

Not only I got a chance to meet some amazing individuals, but also I first handedly observed the immense potential and unlimited energy of the youth of these areas.

These teenagers can either be a resource or a burden on the society, depending upon how we educate and train them (or fail to do so).

This gave me a direction to write on Personal and Professional Development.

A Life Changing Experience: Young Leaders Conference in 2014 with the youth of Lyari and Sultanabad, underpriviledged areas of the city. Left to right, me, Mr. Sahib Kareem Khan, Mr. Karim Aman and Mr. Ashok Kumar

Mehwar-1 gets published..

Mehwar-1 got published in 2019.  

By this time, my writings on Personal and Professional Development were making some impact, and I was constantly receiving feedback, that they are helping the youth find their way.  

I later on released the book on Pdf, so that it can reach to anyone, who might get some help from it.