Let us learn some
Attending the South Asian Federation of Endocrine Societies (SAFES) Summit-II held at Dhaka Bangladesh from April 24-26, 2015 was a fascinating experience. It provided a unique opportunity to meet, share knowledge and experience with diabetologists, endocrinologists from India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Pakistan. In fact it was a great learning experience as well from many respects. Pakistani delegation consisted of over a dozen eminent diabetologists and endocrinologists and some of them were from various institutions like Prof. Abdul Basit from BIDE, Prof. Najmul Islam from Aga Khan University, Dr. S. Abbas Raza from Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital and Research Centre, Prof A.H.Amir from Hayatabad Medical Complex Peshawar. I am sure they too would have learnt a lot and how far they are going to implement some of the unique features of this academic activity, only time will tell.
To begin with, it was a commendable Team work and no individual projection was witnessed throughout the conference. Prof. Farooque Pathan the moving spirit behind this conference most of the time remained in the background and instructed his team members quietly. On the contrary conference organizers in Pakistan are most often eager to project and at times over project themselves. There was no center table on the stage and everybody sat among the audience. Brief introduction of the Chief Guest, Guest of Honour and the Chairpersons were displayed on the screen and that is all. Even the chairpersons sat in a corner along with the other delegates while in Pakistan, the organizers often face a dilemma who should be accommodated on the Dais and who should sit at what place on the stage in order of seniority etc. Earlier I had witnessed it in Turkey at an international conference where the then President of Turkey Suleiman Demryl who was the chief guest came and sat among the audience. When his name was called, he went up to the rostrum, made a speech and returned to his seat again. Similarly in Malaysia, the Foreign Minister who was chief guest in the ASEAN Head and Neck Surgery Conference came, sat among the audience. When he was invited, he went to the rostrum, delivered his speech and returned to his seat.
Scientific programme was excellent and it had something to offer to every one. There were Theme lectures, State of the Art lectures, Plenary Sessions, sessions devoted to different aspects of Diabetes and Endocrinology, Panel Discussions, Poster sessions, special seminars sponsored by the Pharma industry, Workshops and not to forget the seminar on Medical Writing which was organized by the Pakistan Associaton of Medical Editors (PAME) on a special invitation from the organizers. Legendary late Prof. Mohammad Ibrahim the Founder of BIRDEM and Diabetic Associaton of Bangladesh was remembered by showing his brief Video. Other seniors like Prof. M. R. Khan, Dr. Azad Khan and Prof. Hajera Mehtab were also given due respect which they deserve at different sessions. Social programme was also quite enjoyable.
A sincere effort was made to uphold professional ethics during the conference. The organizers served working lunch to the delegates throughout the conference with a very simple menu, thus did not waste much funds which is usually the case in Pakistan. Financial help and support from the Pharma trade and industry was there but it was used very carefully and intelligently. The most important aspect was that the conference itself was organized at the Bangladesh International Conference Centre (BICC) instead of Five Star Hotels a luxury which the medical profession in Pakistan has become addicted to. Since all this is sponsored by the Pharmaceutical industry, they naturally pass it on to the patients in the shape of high cost of drugs and medicines. Little do our healthcare professionals realize that each lunch and dinner they take at these Five Star Hotels during the conference, deprives a couple of patients of their drugs and medications since they cannot afford it. A recent WHO and World Bank report has revealed that “400 Million people do not have access to essential health services. 6% of the population tipped into or pushed further into extreme poverty because of health spending”.1 In case of an international conference to ensure security of the foreign delegates, conference can be organized at a Hotel but still efforts can be made to reduce the overall expenditures.
It is time that we learn some lessons from Bangladesh. These are some of the steps which have enabled them to make tremendous progress and they are far ahead of us these days in many areas. Let the healthcare professionals in Pakistan, particularly those kind hearted physicians who think for the poor and have soft corner for them, to ponder over these issues. Discourage those among their ranks who coerce, blackmail pharmaceutical trade and industry to extract money, and are in the habit of making money at the pretext of these medical conferences, seminars and symposia. Organize all such academic activities at medical institutions or Convention Centers which are now available in every big city of the country which will reduce the cost tremendously. If they lack some facilities, they can be improved. Pharma industry all over the world sponsors Continuing Medical Education programmes, academic activities but let us use this assistance judiciously improving, expanding services and facilities at healthcare facilities, providing scholarships for research to the young scientists and postgraduates rather than spending it for lunches and dinners at Five Star Hotels. National Bioethics Committee in its Guidelines on Healthcare Professionals interaction with Pharma Trade and Industry has covered all these issues but what is lacking is its implementation by the authorities concerned who are in deep slumber. When will they wake up, is not known?
- WHO and World Bank Report. 400 Million people do not have access to essential health services Pulse International 2015;16(14):2