off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Royal Colleges of UK’s
re-engagement with Pakistan


At the time of independence Pakistan inherited British system of medical education and most of our medical teachers and consultants in various disciplines were trained in United Kingdom.  Membership and Fellowship of Royal Colleges of UK are still considered the most prestigious postgraduate degrees as compared to other qualifications. Most of our doctors used to go to UK for higher studies and postgraduate training. Most of them until 60s, returned to Pakistan and joined as faculty members in various medical colleges in Pakistan. Though College of Physicians & Surgeons Pakistan established in 1962, started MCPS and FCPS  but even then they also used to invite overseas examines  from Royal Colleges of Physicians, Surgeons, Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pathologists and other disciplines as external examiners for many years to ensure that fellowship of the CPSP gets recognition and credibility.

It was in late 60s and early 70s that when the training slots became difficult to get in UK, Pakistani doctors also started going to United States but only a very few of them  returned to Pakistan after completing their higher postgraduate education and training with  membership of American Boards. Since very few people could get training slots in UK, hence only a very few of them returned to Pakistan after 80s and 90s and our links with the Royal Colleges of UK became weaker and weaker with the every passing day. It did affect the quality of teaching and training a lot.

Despite the fact that the Royal Colleges had named many distinguished medical personalities from Pakistan as their international advisors but none of them ever tried to create opportunities whereby Pakistani doctors who are trained in Pakistan could sit in an examination and earn qualifications of the Royal Colleges which were held in great esteem. It was Prof. Muhammad Akbar Chaudhry who when appointed as International Advisor took some meaningful steps to persuade the Royal College of Physicians London to start MRCP examination in Pakistan. After a number of year’s hard work and struggle as Principal of Fatima Jinnah Medical College he succeeded in convincing the Provincial Government of Punjab to provide facilities to re-establish Pakistan’s link with the Royal Colleges of UK. He managed to organize an international conference which was one of the regional conferences of Royal College of Physicians of London in Pakistan in March 2006.  Dr. Tanzeem Haider Raza the then Royal College of Physicians Director for Asia was also helpful in realizing this dream. Thus holding this first successful international conference which was attended by about half a dozen speakers from Royal College of Physicians of London paved the way for this re-engagement and restoring these links. The Government of Punjab assured all help and assistance for holding MRCP examinations in Pakistan and with the help and assistance of British Council, eventually the Royal College of Physicians started holding the Part-I and Part-II minus Paces exam in Pakistan. These exams were conducted successfully for many years and now about two thousand doctors who have cleared the Part-II are waiting to appear in the Paces exam but they cannot travel to UK because of visa difficulties and appearing in other centers in Asia like Sri Lanka and India are not easy either as it involves lot of expenditures in travel and accommodation.

Prof. Akbar Chaudhry has been trying to convince the RCP London leadership to start holding the final MRCP Exam (PACES) in Pakistan as well. To achieve this objective, negotiations have been going on for the last few years. Sometime ago Dr. Fraz Mir the current Director of RCP London for Asia also visited Pakistan and had fruitful discussions with Prof. M.Akbar Chaudhry and government officials.  A delegation from the RCP London also visited Pakistan a few months ago and met with Chairman of the Higher Education Commission in Islamabad as well as President of Pakistan and other government officials. Yet another international conference was planned but since after retirement from Fatima Jinnah Medical College, Prof.Akbar Chaudhry had joined a private medical college as Principal, it was not so easy. However, determined as he was, working against so many odds and despite opposition from “Friends” he decided to go ahead and succeeded in convincing the RCP London about the usefulness of having yet another regional meeting in Pakistan at Lahore. This meeting did take place at Lahore from February 26-28th2016 and proved a great success.  The inaugural session was graced by the President of Pakistan along with Governor of Punjab as Chief Guest and Guest of Honour respectively.  This was a no mean achievement. Attendance in the scientific sessions was quite good and the selection of topics by the delegates from the Royal Colleges of Physicians London like Rabies, Snake Bite, Endocrine emergencies, Thyroid diseases, The pituitary Median, Acute Medicine and Poly Pharmacy in the elderly  were very relevant which greatly enhanced the usefulness of this scientific meeting.  The RCP representatives also felt pleasure on this re-engagement with Pakistan and commended the efforts of Prof.Akbar Chaudhry. While Prof. Akbar Chaudhry and his team deserve appreciation for its tireless efforts, it would be unfair not to mention Prof. Javed Akram Vice Chancellor of Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Medical University who has also been recently appointed as one of the International Advisors of RCP London who was instrumental in convincing the President of Pakistan to be the Chief Guest at the inaugural session which went a lot way in enhancing the importance of this academic event.

British Council, it is learnt, has now expressed its willingness to hold the PACES Exam as well in Pakistan and once this proposal is approved by the RCP London leadership in UK, this facility will become available in Pakistan which will be yetanother great achievement. For Azra Naheed Medical College and Superior University which are still in their infancy, it was a great moment to have collaboration with Royal College of Physicians London which is five hundred years old. It is not a mean achievement either and all this became possible because of Prof. Muhammad Akbar Chaudhry the Principal of AZNMC because of his contacts and rapport with RCP London. One hopes the Superior University leadership also realizes this fact and its importance which have provided a unique opportunity to them which has definitely enhanced their standing and credibility to a great extent. In recognition of his efforts to further enhance and cement relations between Pakistan and RCP London, Prof. Muhammad Akbar Chaudhry has been re-appointed as an International Advisor of RCP London in Pakistan for yet another term which is also unique.

College of Physicians & Surgeons of Pakistan has also signed some Memorandum of Understandings (MOUs) whereby some of its postgraduates are selected for a few years training in UK. All these are positive developments for Pakistan and let us all be proud of all this.  It is in our national interest and a combination of local and oversea training, local fellowships by CPSP and Membership of Royal College of Physicians London all combined together will provide us a variety of competent specialists in various disciplines of medicine enhancing the overall standard of teaching and training in Pakistan thereby also improving patient care.

Tail Piece: A person’s eyes can reveal truth. They can disclose warmth, insecurity, insincerity or integrity if one simply takes the time to study them.

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