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HomeJune 15-30, 2024“The Manufacturing Fault”

“The Manufacturing Fault”

Shaukat Ali Jawaid

An eminent physician, a dear friend and well-wisher recently told me that I should be a bit careful as many people particularly the organizers of medical conferences and professional specialty organizations are annoyed with me since I keep on highlighting that such academic activities should be organized at medical institutions. Yet another physician for whom I have tremendous respect since he has helped promote the cause of medical journalism a great deal, conveyed me the same sentiments few days ago and then hastened to add that “I have some manufacturing fault which perhaps cannot be corrected”.

I admire his diagnosis and there is no denying the fact that there exists some manufacturing fault in me. It is because I was born in not so well off family, I had to struggle throughout my life, and I have lived in poverty for quite some time and seen what poverty is and what it means. How the society treats the poor. God was very kind to me and rewarded much more than I deserve and I moved from lower middle class to middle class and then upper middle class. This journey has been quite eventful, I consider myself the luckiest person in the country but I always think about the poor.

In Pakistan, a vast majority of the people don’t have access to even basic primary healthcare. The scarce resources allocated for healthcare is most often spent on building tertiary care state of the art healthcare facilities. The country has yet to control communicable diseases but now even Non-Communicable Diseases like hypertension and diabetes are becoming an epidemic. We as a country are surviving on Aid and financial assistance from our friends and well wishes and have to go to IMF quite frequently. We as a Nation has never learnt any lesson from our past mistakes and are not at all prepared to stand on our own feet and spend keeping in view our resources. The gap between the rich and poor is widening with every passing day and it could prove very dangerous.

In view of all this I just cannot imagine the necessity to organize such academic activities like seminars, symposia, workshops and medical conferences at Five Star Hotels. Even if it is essential due to some security concerns, even then all efforts should be made to minimize the conference expenditures as it is all sponsored by the pharmaceutical trade and industry and they all pass it on to the poor patients most of whom cannot afford expensive investigations and high cost of drugs. Medical profession I feel should become part of the solution rather than becoming a part of this problem and contributing to make the healthcare cost more expensive.

Academic activities at medical institutions offers many advantages apart from providing academic environment. There are some institutions like University of Lahore, Shalamar Medical & Dental College, Rehman Medical Institute just to mention a few who always organize their conferences at their campuses which are always very well attended. On the contrary attendance in scientific sessions at most of the medical conferences (of course there are a few exceptions) is very poor and often the organizers have to request the pharmaceutical industry to arrange for the audience as well or request some medical institutions to send some medical students to provide some audience.

These conferences at Five Star Hotels are attended by many “Stalwarts” who are most of the time seen sitting at the pharmaceutical stalls at the exhibition and some “Outstanding delegates” who are most often seen standing in the corridors busy in social networking while inside the hall where presentations are being made the attendance is often very thin which of courses improves at the time of lunch and dinner. Conference venue itself presents the scene of a Pharmaceutical Bazar and the number of people from the pharma trade and industry seen on the conference venue outnumber the actual number of delegates to the conference in many cases. I hate attending a conference at hotels but have to be present to cover these event since the medical profession is fond of having such functions at Five Star Hotels, vast majority of them are least interested in any community work, prevention of diseases and promotion of health. None of them is seriously interested in promoting Life Style Medicine for obvious reasons though people like Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed Akhtar keep on highlighting the benefits of preventive measures and life style modifications which greatly contribute to decrease in many medial disorders.

However, there are a few conscious members of the medical profession who have similar feeling that I have and keep on advising the healthcare professionals to uphold professional ethics while organizing such events but so far it has failed to have any impact. When we organized the first ever conference on medical editing under the leadership of Prof. Maj. Gen. Muhammad Aslam the then Principal of Army Medical College in 2007, we had over three hundred thirty five participants and seven invited guest speakers from overseas. The funds that we saved from the conference were used to renovate, equip and furnish one of the lecture halls of the college. We organized the EMMJ5 Medical Journals Conference at CPSP Campus at Karachi from December 8-10th 2010. It was attended by thirty four foreign delegates from eighteen countries. We arranged lunch boxes for the delegates which at that time cost us just two hundred fifty rupees each, there was running tea and coffee and of course we had dinner which was not so expensive either and it was paid for by our friends in the pharma industry directly to the caterer. CPSP was kind enough to provide us all the logistics, audiovisual arrangements and IT support.

I coordinate the Continuing Medical Education activities of Pakistan Aspirin Foundation for the last over two decades and we always organize our conferences at medical institutions except once when it was arranged at a hotel and that was very poorly attended. We in Pakistan Association of Medical Editors (PAME) always organize our conference at medical universities, even workshops and training sessions are held at medical institutions. The idea of narrating all this is to show that if there is a will there is a way and it is all possible. Members of the medical profession are of course overburdened and do need some relaxation and pleasure time too to avoid burnout and such events at hotels do provide them such opportunities but my only request is to keep the cost low and do not demand millions of rupees for stalls, sponsoring a session and make money on hotel bookings. Ideally the hotels hosting the conference should reduce their room rent to facilitate more people to come and attend but in practice, it is the other way round.

The room charges are increased with the connivance of the conference organizers with the help of event organizers and one is forced to book rooms through them at a premium price. Just remember on the Day of Judgment, we all will have to answer for all this. Pharma industry is also fed up with ever increasing demands from the conference organizers but since they are vulnerable, they just keep quiet. A few months ago Dr. Zafar Mirza former Advisor on Health to the Prime Minister in PTI Government told me that the people from Pharma industry had come to him and requested to save them from these conference organizers but before he could call a meeting and discuss this issue, he was asked to leave and replaced by Dr. Faisal Sultan an eminent infectious disease specialist from Shaukat Khanum Cancer Hospital and Research Center, Lahore.

More recently I had a chance to attend the Research Day function at Peoples University of Medical & Health Sciences for Women (PUMHSW) at Nawabshah on May 15th 2024. The temperature was almost 45 and to add to the miseries, WAPDA had stopped electricity on that day for some repairs. The organizers had to make emergency arrangements for a Generator. However, the hall was full of postgraduates and faculty members who were keen and interested. It was also a fascinating experience as one comes to know under what circumstances and difficult conditions the students and faculty have to work in small town and cities which one just cannot imagine while living in metropolis cities and enjoying the luxury of Five Star Hotels which are venue of such conferences. All of us need to think and contribute our share to make the environment conducive for all of us and above all let us practice what we preach.

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