“PLIGHT OF A MEDICAL EDITOR” a long-awaited addition to the medical writings


Book Review

A long-awaited addition
to the medical writings

It is indeed a privilege to get a copy of “Plight of a Medical editor” written by Shaukat Ali Jawaid (SAJ) Chief Editor of Pulse International and Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.  In addition to story of his life and personal and professional accomplishments in the field of medical journalism, this book is an interesting reading with full of stories, myths, hidden facts and personal recollections about medical profession in our country. I think it is more than an autobiography. It is history and more importantly collection of writings about some aspects of medical personalities who have played an important role in the uplift (or down lift!!) of our profession in Pakistan.

Dr. Afzal Javed

SAJ is a gifted and talented medical writer and we must admire his memory as well as his courage while documenting pieces of history that were his personal property but did have a big impact on our profession. It is true that his experiences are more about professionals working in Karachi and it could be argued that there may be some differences in practices and priorities in other parts of the country but I personally think there are many shared “characteristics” that can be generalised for many of our professional colleagues working anywhere in the country. His writings are simple, looks very naïve but at the same time revealing truth that sometimes looks very bitter and hostile.

Some of the stories revealed in his book are amazing. These are no doubt interesting, entertaining, amusing and curious at the same time showing the true (& hidden) picture of many of the renowned medical personalities. One can always differ with his subjective and personal impressions about such personalities but the fact remains that as human beings we are subjected to many biases and at times do things that may not be truly professional or ethical with of course a total lack of insight about our deficiencies or shortcomings. It is also interesting to note that though we may be known as highly successful clinicians in our respective fields but not necessarily can be remembered as skilled managers or accomplished administrators. I think this is an important inference from many of his quoted examples that medical profession in our country lacks training in leadership and does require inclusion of this particular topic in our curriculum both at undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

His column “Off the Record” has no doubt achieved an important place in medical journalism. I am also among many of the readers of Pulse International who first look at this column and see who is being “targeted “and is making the story. I do assume that these writings are based on factual knowledge and also make relevance (without any personal agenda) to our practice although we may have different viewpoints of some of his writings. There is certainly no smoke without a fire!

Beside many other contributions SAJ’s services will always be remembered for highlighting the importance of medical writings and as he narrated many stories of struggle, pessimism and opposition in this field but has also been able to come up with lot of successful endeavours. His journey from publishing a medical newspaper to bringing a peer reviewed journal is worth praising. Similarly promoting ethics in writing as well as its relevance in clinical and academic practices and emphasis on following the standards of medical writing has set an example that will have to be followed by many in this profession. Looking at the contents of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, it is evident that how our younger colleagues are encouraged and helped for having their names in the published literature.

At a personal level I must say that I know SAJ for few decades and our relationship have been fine-tuned by sharing some joint objectives and interests. His projection of many neglected sub specialities in Medicine and Surgery (including my own speciality – psychiatry) deserve a lot of praise as many of such specialities have been downgraded and demoted even by our own professional colleagues. In his newspaper(s) he always projected proceedings of conferences, seminars and educational activities of many of the specialities with of course some criticism that certainly helped us to improve our standards.His passion about highlighting ethical standards while working with Pharma industry is indeed a topic that requires a lot of endorsement from the State as well as professional organisations. Another admiring aspect of his career as a medical editor is his continuous struggle to highlight the role of Pakistani physicians working abroad. This certainly needed a vision but more importantly a challenge as many of us who work in the country do not consider the overseas professional friends even worth mentioning for their professional expertise.

I may also add that his book will not only be an asset for his children about their father’s struggles but will also give many of us a sense of direction and a desirable pathway to achieve excellence in our careers.

And last but not the least, I am fully convinced that SAJ’s book will generate interesting discussions as well as controversies in the coming days and hope his next book will even be more revealing, enlightening and informative.

Let me finish this write up with Munir Niazi’s famous couplets that fit very nicely with SAJ’ fight, struggle and work against many odds in our profession and also to keep the light of hope and optimism on!

Afzal Javed
Saturday, 01 August 2015

© Professional Medical Publications. All rights reserved.