off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

How do you want to 
be remembered? 


Prof. Naseer B. Sheikh an excellent teacher and a renowned surgeon was one of the most effective and powerful Director General of Health we ever had in the Federal Health Ministry and it goes to his credit that he introduced some far reaching reforms since he had direct access to the Prime Minister bypassing all bureaucratic channels. It was in his tenure during the first PPP Government headed by Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto that Drug Act 1976 was enacted, the process of drug registration and licensing of drug manufactures were initiated. The government decided to promote 40% of doctors from Grade 17 to Grade 18, created the post of Associate Professor in medical colleges, undertook many other reforms as well in the field of medical education and has left his everlasting imprints, though his departure from the ministry was not a happy one for various reasons.

He did not enjoy good relationship with the PMA; hence he took some decisions which apart from affecting the PMA also affected publishers of other medical journals and medical newspapers. To resolve this issue, we had a meeting at the Federal Health Ministry in 1975 which was attended by few editors representing various medical publication and the federal health ministry officials. When the meeting started, I asked Prof. Naseer B. Sheikh who was chairing the meeting as DG Health, “You won’t remain the DG Health for ever, hence why don’t you take some decisions for which you are remembered with good words in the days to come.” He did not like this and shouted at all of us saying I have not come here to listen all this and left the meeting”. This was quite unexpected for all of us and particularly for me since I knew him for the last couple of years. He was very kind to me. We had a very friendly relationship so much so that he even operated upon me for appendix at midnight at Civil Hospital Karachi in 1969 when he was Professor in charge of Surgical Unit-III., (something very unusual for a Professor to come and operate on appendix at midnight in emergency). All the participants particularly the representatives from the FHM asked me that I should apologize to him so that we can have a meeting. I was also informed that he is very vindictive and I might have to face the music later. I refused to apologize saying that I had neither abused him nor said anything which can be termed objectionable. In fact his attitude was very strange for me but little had I realized that now it was a changed Prof. Naseer B. Sheikh, being the most powerful man in Pakistan after Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, power had gone to his head which usually happens with every one in Pakistan whosoever gets some authority. The meeting ended without any discussion and what happened later is yet another story but let me concentrate on the fact that even today my question to those in power has always been and I keep on asking them the same question, may it be officials in the health department or Principals of medical colleges, Deans of postgraduate medical institutions or Vice Chancellors of the medical universities. “How they would like to be remembered in the days to come.”
Honourable retirement these days is no less than a blessing. We should learn to thank God Almighty for the Honour He bestows upon us and also learn to pass on this honour to others and make a graceful exist after playing one’s innings. We should also promote the culture of giving a farewell reception to those who retire and welcome the new comers and all our energies should be spent on building a team rather than concentrating too many powers in one individual. This is essential for the institutions to ensure sustained growth and development. However, what we see most often is that those who occupy these coveted posts, get themselves surrounded by sycophants and praise singers, they have least regard for merit, incompetent and inexperienced people who are prepared to serve as “most obedient servants” are honoured, rewarded and appointed on various important posts as they are not considered a threat. Those who say “Yes” to every decision taken by the Boss are welcomed but those who dare to ask questions and want to have some meaningful discussions before any important decision is taken regarding the institution are sidelined. Some of these people heading various institutions do not train others and have no succession plan because they consider themselves “indispensible” without realizing that graveyards are full of those who once had the similar feelings. Those surrounding these institution heads also make them realize that the day they left, the institution would collapse, and hence they must continue.
We must realize that all of us have to retire one day from service and then leave this world when the final call comes to the other world. Hence, why not use this available time to pass on whatever we have learnt to others, train our juniors and subordinates so that once we are not there, there is some one to take over. Build and train team of competent, experienced people, uphold merit and professional ethics in all our actions and deeds. Promote the culture of questioning and getting feed back to identify our weaknesses and then turn them into strength by taking appropriate measures. It all depends on you “How you would like to be remembered by your friends and colleagues when you are no more in this world”.

Tail Piece: While talking at meet the Professor session at University of Health Sciences at Lahore organized for the postgraduates, Prof. Joachim W. Herzig an eminent educationist and researchers from Germany currently on a visit to Pakistan disclosed that one of the professors in Pakistan informed him that he never allows the students to ask questions after his lecture because it will mean they have not understood anything.{jcomments on}

© Professional Medical Publications. All rights reserved.