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The making of a university

Karachi, Aug 16, 2008: At the time of the Partition in 1947, there was just one medical college in Karachi Dow Medical College (DMC). Besides being the oldest medical college in Sindh, DMC also enjoys the distinction of being the second oldest medical college in Pakistan; the oldest being King Edward's in Lahore.

The increase in population created a demand for more doctors and thus Sindh Medical College (SMC) came into being in 1973. But the population kept on increasing at breakneck speed and the two medical colleges proved to be insufficient. Hence Karachi saw the birth of many medical colleges and universities in a very short span of time. This, in no way, lessened the importance of DMC and SMC, as these two colleges, affiliated with the University of Karachi (KU), were the only option for students belonging to the middle and lower middle classes who could not afford the extravagant tuition fee of the private universities.

In 2003, Dr Isharatul Ibad, an alumni of DMC, assumed the governorship of Karachi. One of his very first acts was to upgrade his alma mater, DMC, to university status. The two medical colleges, DMC and SMC, and Ojha Institute of Chest Diseases came together as Dow University of Health Sciences and Dr Masood Hameed Khan was appointed as the first Vice Chancellor of the fledgling university on January 14, 2004.

This was the beginning of a revolution; the new VC, along with his dedicated and highly motivated team, has done wonders within the short span of four years. Starting with three institutions, DUHS has now 34 institutes under its belt. Also, the BDS degree course has started in SMC. The need for this was felt when the university was created but there was no space to start the dental college. On his maiden tour of the SMC, the VC, Dr Masood Hameed, noticed this abandoned, ancient derelict of a building. Upon inquiry, he found out that orders had already been given to have this relic of the 1800s demolished. He cancelled the orders and brought in experts to report whether the building could be salvaged or not. The report stated that the building was very strong and just needed some renovation work. Well, now the same derelict proudly stands as Dr Isharatul Ibad Khan Institute of Oral Health Sciences. Those beautiful, sloping roofs with amazing original brickwork are back in their old glory! The interior has been done keeping in mind the Mehran Valley culture with beautiful kashikari on the walls and floors. Not only has our cultural heritage been protected, the students studying BDS, too, have a college that they can be proud of. The latest instruments have been provided here, and dental x-rays which are done for thousands of rupees are done here for as low as Rs100 to Rs200. Hygiene is another factor that is considered to be of utmost importance. All instruments in the dental clinics here are autoclaved (sterilised) before use and the poor finally have access to facilities at par with Karachi's best oral health facilities. Although it has been operational for the last two years, the facility looks new, attesting to the fact that it is being well maintained.

But that is just one of the new additions to the impressive array of institutions of the DUHS; Dow University Artificial Limb Centre (DUAL Centre) is providing limbs to the disabled for Rs5,000, along with a rehab plan which aims at streamlining the patients into the day to day life with ease and dignity. Although this department has not been officially inaugurated, 730 limbs have already been fixed to the disabled and about 70 patients are treated daily. It should be noted here that before the DUAL Centre, such patients had to travel to NWFP, and spend about Rs80,000 per limb.

The Institute of Medical Technology (IMT) is another notable achievement, offering a bachelor's programme which ensures lucrative employment at the end of four years, as a trained technician earns about Rs20,000 to Rs25,000 per month. The students, however, have the option to exit after 2 years with a diploma.

The most impressive and ambitious project undertaken by the DUHS, is the Medical Research City at the premises of the old Ojha Sanatorium. Medical research is being done here by doctors and students alike in every field. For virtually every department, there is a well equipped laboratory with the latest state-of-the-art machines, along with some that no other hospital in the city possesses; some of these machines are capable of carrying out 900 tests at one time! DUHS is hopeful of getting the ISO15189 accreditation this year. Samples are sent from the USA and the results are checked and verified by the labs there. Dow Lab is already providing quality investigations at very economical rates. At present, they have 3 collection points for specimens, and DUHS means to create 50 more collection units.

Also under construction is the Dow International College for foreign students, along with a 400 bed hospital and an array of operation theatres and clinics. At present, the college is housed in a temporary building provided with all the facilities the students from the USA and other countries are used to. The revenue generated from the international students is also used for the various developmental projects aimed at expanding the university.

Another notable addition to the institutes under the DUHS is its institute for training nurses. The training being imparted is so good that a visiting USA programme director who saw the training in process offered jobs to all the nurses in the batch - on the spot.

Revolutionary methods of teaching are fast replacing the old ways. Where previously patients were used as guinea pigs for experimentation, mannequins imported from the US are being used. It is on these mannequins that different processes and operations like giving injections and delivering babies and minor operations are taught. The mannequin bleeds and screams when a mistake is committed by the student. A digital library connecting all the campuses of the university is available to the staff and the faculty; they can even access it from their homes. It offers more than 22,000 books and research papers to students.

All this amazing work seems to be in jeopardy now with the Sindh government wanting the whole pie. The recent disclosure that they wish to appoint a Vice Chancellor of their own choice bodes ill for the numerous projects already underway in the Medical Research City. If anything needs to be autonomous, it is this university which, if left unimpeded, will soon be among the best medical universities in the world, and a source of pride for this city by the sea. Good luck, Team Dr Masood Hameed! The News

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