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HomeApril 1-14, 2024A commendable academic initiative by PAMI was eventful in many respects

A commendable academic initiative by PAMI was eventful in many respects

By Shaukat Ali Jawaid

LAHORE: The two day International Medical Conference held on March 7th and 8th preceded by Pre and post-conference workshops on March 4th to March 8th hosted by Superior University and University of Lahore at their respective campuses was eventful in many respects. While the main conference on March 7th and March 8th 2024 was hosted by University of Lahore at its campus, the Awards ceremony was hosted by Superior University on March 6th which was attended by a select gathering and invited guest speakers besides PAMI members. This was the first academic activity by Pakistan Association of Private Medical & Dental Institutions (PAMI) which ever since its inception has been working as a pressure group to safeguard and promote the interests of its members.

Prof. Salim Razi from Turkiya and Prof. M. Ashraf Rector UOL receiving Memento
from Prof. Mukhtar Ahmad Chairman HEC during the IMC 2024.

The conference was the brain child of Prof. Dr. Chaudhry Abdul Rehman President PAMI who is also chairman of Association of Private Sector Universities of Pakistan. It was thoughtful on his part to have invited management of University of Lahore to be the other sponsor which has rich experience of organizing such academic activities and also have the required logistics and other facilities. They have a trained team looking after different aspects of such conferences, hence this was the first joint collaborative efforts by University of Lahore which has emerged as one of the most prominent leading private university of Pakistan with student’s enrollment of over forty thousand in numerous disciplines and Superior University which has taken many important initiatives and is on road to progress. The collaboration of PAMI as an institution also enabled the organizers to keep interests of all the stakeholders. Hence in a country where we are used to work in silos this first academic collaboration between different institutions deserve to be commended for which credit goes to President PAMI and management of UOL.

Prof.Saima Chaudhry from UOL was chairperson of the scientific committee who along with other members of the organizing committee was able to put up an interesting scientific programme. Rectors of both the Universities i.e. Prof. Sumaira Rehman from Superior, Prof. M. Ashraf from UOL, Principal of both the medical colleges, Prof. Mahwish Arooj, Prof. Farrukh Iqbal, Prof.Aslam and Prof. M. Akbar Chaudhry Dean Faculty of Medical Sciences from Superior University also actively contributed to the programme. It was fascinating to listen Rectors from both the universities acknowledging the contribution of each other’s university which played a vital role in the success of this academic event. It was yet another unique feature of this event which is seldom observed in Pakistan. Governor Punjab Mr. Baleeghur Rehman was the chief guest at the Awards Ceremony held at Superior University while Chairman of HEC Prof. Mukhtar Ahmed graced the inaugural ceremony at UOL as Chief Guest.

Photographed during the IMC 2024 from (L to R) are Prof. Mughees Baig, Prof. Parveen Kumar, Mr. Shaukat Ali Jawaid and Prof. M. Akbar Chaudhry.

It is after a log time that Punjab has been fortunate to have an intellectual as Governor of the province who always talks sense whenever he gets an opportunity to speak to the medical profession and gives useful suggestions and advice which is quite contrary to the political chief guests who often fail the impress the participants who most often are never wiser after listening to them. Prof. Mukhtar Ahmad Chairman HEC is a distinguished academicians and listening to him has always been a pleasure, hence this was yet another unique accomplishment of the organizers.

Artificial Intelligence has taken the world with storm and it is being increasingly used in medical education and healthcare. Numerous AI tools, software’s are being developed hence it was again commendable initiative by Prof. Ch. Abdul Rehman to have selected the most relevant theme for the conference these days i.e. “AI Horizons in Medicine and Dentistry: Navigating the Future”. Carefully selected speakers and experts panel shed highlights on various aspects of Artificial Intelligence and its use. They not only highlighted its benefits but also talked about the harm and disadvantages it can lead if not used intelligently. It was the unanimous view by the speakers that AI is not going to replace the physicians under any circumstances who will remain important but it can do a lot to help and assist them. However, training of the faculty and healthcare professionals is extremely important to ensure its effective judicious use.

Group Photograph of some of the speakers and members of the Experts Panel of IMC 2024 photographed after the concluding session held on March 8th 2024.

While the salient features of the document on use of AI prepared by different experts after deliberations at various meetings held all over the country were shared by Prof. Lubna Baig Ansari Chairperson of PhD programme at UOL, the eminent guest speakers the conference attracted included Prof. Dame Parveen Kumar Prof. of Medical Education from London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queens Marry University of London, Dr. Jabeen Fayaz from Toronto University Canada, Dr. Salim Razi from Turkiya, Dr.Sohail Chughtai from London, Dr. Zarrin Siddiqui from Australia, while Dr. Ken Masters delivered his presentation through Video link. Numerous distinguished speakers from Pakistan also enriched the scientific programme and most of the workshops, scientific sessions, panel discussions had lively interactive discussion.

Important topics which came under discussion during the conference and at workshops included Future of Medicine, Undergraduate and Postgraduate admissions in the age of AI, Certification of Healthcare professionals in Simulation, Developing academic writing skills in the new age of AI, Healthcare Simulation, Revolutionizing Healthcare: Harnessing the Power of AI for improved medical practice, (Prof. Ashfaq Khokhar from USA participating in the workshop through Video Link), Virtual Patients and Simulated Clinical Experiences, AI and computer aided diagnostics, Application of Large Language Models in Healthcare, Integrating AI with wearable technologies for real time health monitoring and disease prediction, Designing AI solutions for medical and dental problems, Changing Face of Medicine, AI and Healthcare Simulation, Focus on People: Let AI do the clinical documentation, AI and Surgical management, Role of AI in Clinical Approach, Creating readiness for AI in Healthcare Diagnostics, Delivery and Management, Power of Thinking: How to Think, Role of Technology in Higher Education, Ensuring research integrity in the new age of AI, Academic Writing and Publishing in the age of generative AI, The Pulse of Trust:

Trusting the AI Tech behind educational and clinical decisions, potential misuse of AI platforms in the selection tools for undergraduate and postgraduate admissions, The Synergy of Intelligence: How AI enhances undergraduate education besides AGIs implications for health professions education: How to prepare?. Master class on Transforming Teaching and Assessment through AI was yet another salient feature of the conference scientific programme. The pearls of wisdom from different speakers and panelists in panel discussion and facilitators in the Workshops did generate lot of interest among the participants. Conference events throughout were quite lively, interesting and informative. All this auger well for the medical institutions and the medical profession in Pakistan who it seems are aware of their responsibilities to keep themselves abreast of latest developments in the field of medical education and healthcare.

It was not at all difficult to identify some of the shortcomings in collaboration between both the universities, communication among them could have been improved but this being the first collaborative effort must be appreciated and commended. There is always room for improvement. Perhaps the time since the conference was conceived was too short, the organizes had certain limitations. One hopes they will have a post conference analysis, critically analyze different aspects of this academic collaboration and its outcome, accomplishments and failures if any. Will try to learn and one may see much better accomplishments in future. It is always better to welcome constructive suggestions, feedback which helps in improvement of future activities. Transport and accommodation arrangements as well as audiovisual facilities at workshop and conference venues were excellent and one did not notice any major mishap throughout the conference.

Universities, it must be remembered are supposed to create new knowledge. It is the quality of faculty, research and publications which enhance the image and prestige of any institution nationally and globally. Hence, it is extremely important that some of the owners of these private medical and dental institutions should invest in the faculty development, take initiatives in the further growth and development of the faculty through CPD so that they have belonging and loyalty to these institutions. It is high time that they give up the “Seth mentality” of earning quick profits and running their institutions as” close door shops” functioning as just factories producing ill equipped, ill-trained medical and dental graduates. It is evident from the fact that most of their graduates are keen to get house job training at public sector hospitals which have a large variety of patients which is not seen in hospitals affiliated with private medical institutions.

The owners are always keen to invest in buildings, physical infrastructure, equipment and instruments which is of course essential but it is the investment in human resource which will pay them rich dividends. Don’t forget the nurses, paramedical and all other allied healthcare professionals which are important part of the healthcare team who also deserve due respect and recognition. Medical institutions must have adequate allocations for faculty development, repair and maintenance of equipment and instruments, work in the community, uphold professional ethics at every stage. While some of the private universities have done well and deserve to be appreciated, there are many private medical institutions which needs lot of improvement. It is not uncommon to observe the use of “Agents” who arrange the needed equipment, instruments and even the patients at the time of inspection by the regulatory bodies.

It is high time that they start working in the community in their surrounding areas, help improve healthcare, take initiatives for prevention of diseases, immunization, become patient friendly healthcare facilities. Once they can accomplish this they will find many friends and well-wishers from within the community which will themselves take care of their critics. It will also force the government and regulatory bodies to listen to their genuine problems, grievances and help them find solutions. During the conference both Governor Punjab and HEC Chairman had emphasized on one thing, collaboration, sharing the resources and facilities, urging the government and private sector to sit together and try to find an indigenous cost effective solutions to our problems in healthcare and medical education. The help and assistance provided by the PAMI and UOL through Prof. Mahwish Arooj in particular to the PM&DC in getting WFME recognition was acknowledged and appreciated. It is a wonderful example of how much can be achieved and accomplished once we start working together which is in the National interest.

Honouring healthcare professionals for their devotion and dedication in establishing medical institutions, putting lot of investment supplementing government efforts was commendable. While some of them really deserved this appreciation, others were also accommodated under political compulsions which is quite understandable.

Finally, it is also a wakeup call for the public sector universities. It they fail to improve; they will find themselves dependent on the private sector for everything in the days to come. Too much political interference, murder of merit while making selections for Vice Chancellors, Principals, Deans, appointment and promotions based on nepotism, favoritism, highly prevalent intellectual corruption has not done anything good to them. They lack any mechanism and system to benefit from the talented, experienced faculty after their retirement. Professional jealousy comes in the way of Honouring some of them by making them Professor Emeritus, benefiting from their rich experience. World is changing fast, institutions also need to change and improve their functioning and Governance.

Just look at the University of Lahore which has emerged as leader in the field of medical education because they attracted talent from everywhere, is always keen to benefit from experts within the country and overseas. Public sector universities also have the potential provided they have some long term plans, continuity in administration and ensuring that policies once framed are not changed with the change of government.

Prof. Salim Razi from Turkiya facilitating a workshop on Developing Academic Writing Skills in the new age of AI during the IMC 2024.

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