AKU - WHERE MERIT QUALIFIES

Interview of Dr. Mohammad Khurshid, Dean AKU Medical College

By KHALIL AHMED
Dec 26 - Jan 01, 2006

I requested Uzma Osman, Senior Media Relations Executive, Public Affairs AKU, over phone last week to get me an interview with Dr.Mohammad Khurshid, the Dean of AKU Medical College. I found her quite receptive and helpful. Just after half an hour she gave me a call and told me that the Dean was busy in a meeting and she would get back to me as soon as she happened to listen from the Dean's office. Acting responsibly and with sheer professionalism, she gave me another call after a lapse of an hour and asked me whether I would be able to interview the Dean the following day at 1100 hrs since it was the only available time slot with the Dean. Considering the hectic schedule of the Dean, I agreed instantly.

When I rolled up Agha Khan University campus the next day (Agha Khan University Building fascinates everyone because of its architectural ambience of the Islamic tradition and that of the province of Sindh), I found Uzma Osman in the Dean's office at the given time. She extended all type of help. I personally thank her. I was led to the Dean's office at 1100 hrs. The seasoned medical professional greeted me with a friendly gesture and made me feel at home. The Faculty of Health Sciences comprises AKU Medical College and AKU School of Nursing. Dr.Mohammad Khurshid is the Dean of AKU Medical College. When I sought his permission to begin the interview, he nodded in concurrence. He was friendly, calm and collected throughout the interview.

PAGE: Could you please tell something about yourself?

DR. MOHAMMAD KHURSHID: Well, I was born in Karachi and got my education up to graduation from the same city being student at Saint Patrick's College and DJ Science College. Having graduated in 1967, I left for the United Kingdom where I worked in the University Hospital Wales and Wales National School of Medicine. I was awarded fellowship of Royal College of London as well. I also had an opportunity to serve as Professor in King Abdul Aziz University, Saudi Arabia. I came back to my country in 1984 after spending about 17 years abroad. Pride of Performance was bestowed upon me by the President of Pakistan a couple of years ago.

PAGE: How long have you been associated with AKU?

DMK: I joined AKU in 1984 as Professor in the Medical College of AKU.

PAGE: What distinguishes AKU from other medical schools in Pakistan?

DMK: Chartered in 1983 by the Government of Pakistan as the country's first private international university, AKU is committed to excellence in education, research and service and to the full utilization of modern communication and information technologies. Since 1986, the University has offered Postgraduate Medical Education (PGME) programmes for training in a variety of clinical specialties. These programmes are approved by the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan. Additionally, Residency programmes in General Surgery, Orthopaedics and Medicine are approved for Fellowship by the Royal Colleges of Edinburgh and Glasgow, and the programme in Obstetrics and Gynaecology is approved for Fellowship by the Royal College of England.

PAGE: What programs are offered by AKU apart from medical education?

DMK: AKU Medical College and School of Nursing offer Undergraduate and Graduate Programmes. Apart from these two schools, various programmes are offered by the Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilization, Centre of English Language, Department for Educational Development (a resource centre for the Faculty of Health Sciences) and the Institute for Educational Development.

PAGE: How many times a year the admissions are announced and what criteria do you have for giving admission to the candidates? How many candidates are given admission each year?

DMK: Admissions are announced only once a year in the Medical College for which the classes commence in October every year. Admissions are open to all academically qualified candidates of either gender, regardless of religion, race creed, colour or domicile. Students from anywhere in Pakistan and overseas may apply.

Admissions are based on merit and potential for leadership. There are no quotas and no reserved seats. There are no admissions against donations. There are three stages for admission process. In the first stage, the candidates appear in the Admission Test which comprises biology, chemistry, physics, mathematics and English. For the second stage, candidates are short listed for interviews on the basis of a combination of Secondary School achievement and AKU admission Test score. Short listed candidates are invited for interviews with senior faculty members of the programme. In the third stage, final selection is made by AKU Board of Graduate Studies on the basis of an overall assessment of the candidate in comparison with other short listed candidates.

PAGE: Can a student from a middle class family join AKU and will he/she be able to afford education expenses at AKU? Does AKU offer scholarships?

DMK: A deliberate effort is made to select students from diverse economic and educational backgrounds. This is done in the belief that diversity in the student body greatly enriches the educational experience. AKU operates a Financial Assistance Programme that ensures that no Pakistani citizen who qualifies for admission to the Medical College or the School of Nursing is excluded because of inability to pay tuition fees. For the 2003-04 academic year, more than one-third of the students enrolled were awarded financial assistance by the University. Financial assistance arranged by the University is intended to favour and encourage qualified students from families with low incomes, as well as those from rural and underdeveloped areas of the country.

PAGE: What is the admission policy?

DMK: For Graduate and Postgraduate Degrees, candidates from Pakistan and overseas who have achieved a cumulative grade 'B' or a cumulative GPA of 03 or have least 65% marks or equivalent in their degree examination may apply, irrespective of their achievements in Higher Secondary Certificate examination. It is necessary for such candidates to have read biology and chemistry as subjects at the Higher Secondary School level. All applicants are notified individually of their performance on the AKU Admission Test, their outcome in the short listing process and final selection. Enquiries through telephone, from well-wishers or friends at the University are not entertained. Applicants are strongly urged not to call the Admission Office or University offices through their relatives or well-wishers to follow up on progress on individual applications. Applicants or their parents may correspond with the Admission Office to submit documents or enquire about pending exam results, and to make queries if they have not received any information on the progress of their application, within a week of the published dates.

PAGE: Approximately how many students pass out of AKU Medical College each year?

DMK: Around 75 students pass out each year, however, this year about 85 students are expected to pass out.

PAGE: How many foreign students join AKU Medical College each year?

DMK: On average, five to ten students from foreign countries join each year. Most of these students are the offspring of the Pakistanis settled abroad.

PAGE: Would you please tell us the percentage of AKU graduates working in medical profession abroad? What is the scope of AKU's Medical graduate in European and the US market?

DMK: AKU medical graduates have been extremely successful in getting jobs abroad and we have got excellent feedback regarding this. In past over 95% graduates left for the USA and got jobs there but at present there is somewhat different scenario. I have observed that majority of the graduates prefer staying in Pakistan. There are manifold reasons for that: growing family responsibilities, devotion to contribute to the progress of the country and better packages comparatively as well.

PAGE: How many faculty members of AKU Medical College are PhDs?

DMK: Well, it is not sine qua non for a medical professional to have PhD in order to be successful or more skillful. Skill is attained will experience and curiosity. The number of PhDs in all basic sciences faculty of AKU is between 30 to 40: out of which 06 are foreigners; one each from France and Canada and two each from the US and the UK.

PAGE: Online libraries are commonplace nowadays? What is the progress of AKU in this regard?

DMK: The Jivraj Health Sciences Library and the Kurji Periodical Library in the Faculty of Health Sciences are two of the best in the country and have been recognized by WHO as training centres. The Jivraj section, intended to be a major repository of health sciences literature, stocks some 28,000 volumes of books and monographs. Books on CD-ROM can also be accessed from Learning Resource Centre and faculty offices. The Kurji Periodical section subscribes to nearly 500 journals in medical, nursing and basic science disciplines, 260 of which are also available online. In addition to printed material, the library provides access to health and education literature databases through MEDLINE, CINAHL and ERIC. Via the Internet, the library provides access to the catalogues and inter-library loan facilities of other leading libraries of the world. The library has its own website and it is part of the WHO/EMRO virtual library, through which resource sharing is possible online.

PAGE: Could you please brief us about the progress of AKU over the last decade? Where do you see AKU ten years from now?

DMK: Let me tell you right from the outset. School of Nursing was established in 1980.

Medical College came into being in 1983. University Hospital was set up in 1985. Institute of Educational Development was founded in 1993. Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations was inaugurated in 2002 and AKU Examination Board was set up in 2003. AKU is now poised to become a comprehensive university. The focus of new endeavour is AKU's Faculty of Arts and Sciences (AKU-FAS) which will be under way during the present decade. This faculty will be established on a residential campus covering over 1,100 acres of land that the University has acquired to the north-east of Karachi.