Professor Dr Muhammad Anwar Chaudhary is one of the finest and most experienced neurosurgeons in Pakistan. He is a man of many talents. Besides serving as a professor of neurosurgery at Postgraduate Medical Institute & Ameer-ud-Din Medical College/Lahore General Hospital, Lahore, he has represented Pakistan in many international conferences and symposia. In addition to being a neurosurgeon blessed with consummate skills, Prof Chaudhary is the Chief Editor of a medical journal published by the Pakistan Society of Neurosurgeons. Recently, in recognition of his meritorious services to the medical profession as well as his social service, the Government of Pakistan has nominated him for Sitara-i-Imtiaz.
In an exclusive conversation with Jahangir’s World Times, Prof Chaudhary shared his thoughts on various issues faced by the field of neurosurgery in Pakistan and the way to improve the prevailing state of affairs.
Jahangir’s World Times (JWT): Our readers would be curious to know about your journey to becoming one of the most successful neurosurgeons of Pakistan. Would you like to share your memories with us?
Prof Muhammad Anwar (MA): I actually belong to a humble background and like many other people, I too faced a number of hardships but with what you may call an extreme dedication to achieving my goal, I braved them and became what I wanted to be.
I actually come from a middle class family of a village in District Sargodha. Though my parents were not literate, they did everything they could to educate their kids. And, I made all-out efforts to fulfil their dreams and by the grace of Almighty I am proud that, with their blessings, I have been successful in all my endeavours. Overall, it wasn’t an easy journey at all but I think when you make dedicated efforts, success becomes your fate.
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JWT: As you have been recently nominated for Sitara-e-Imtiaz by the Government of Pakistan, so what were your achievements that won you this prestigious honour?
MA: Actually, as I said in response to your first question, I have been a highly dedicated person all through my educational and professional career. I won’t care if I had to work even for late hours. When I was posted as a Medical Officer at LGH, instead of living in the hostel room allotted to me, I would stay in my office which I used as office-cum-residence so that I may spend maximum time in the service of the patients. Even after my official duty hours, I would voluntarily join the next team of doctors to perform surgeries. I remained so vigilant in the service of people that I would never mind if the hospital management had called me even in the dead of night.
In academic arena, I have been the Managing Editor of “Pakistan Journal of Neurological Surgery” — country’s most prestigious publication on neurosurgery — for the past many years. I am also an active member of international institutions and regularly participate in international conferences. Besides this I have more than 55 publications on my credit and have won many gold medals in my field.
I think it is due to all these sincere, selfless services to the medical profession that the government has decided to confer upon me this honour.
JWT: You are actively involved in social service as well. What are the major projects you are currently involved in?
MA: One thing I would like to mention here is that in 1988 when Lahore witnessed the worst flood in its history, and areas like Sheikhupura, Shahdara and their suburbs were inundated, we were directed by the government to launch a one-day vaccination campaign in these areas. However, with a mission to help the people, I decided to continue this service on my own. And with the assistance of Lahore Chamber of Commerce and Industry, I along with my team kept on providing medical service to the people.
My passion for social service kept me prodding on doing more and more and in 2003 I established a medical facility in my native village where a large number of people get free medical treatment. The network has been expanding since then and at present we are providing medical service in various parts of the country.
JWT: You have made a lot of efforts to establish the Institute of Neuroscience at the LGH, what is so special in this project?
MA: I have been endeavouring for the establishment of the Institute since 1998. It is Pakistan’s first — and with 500 beds, probably world’s largest — institute solely dedicated to neurosurgery. This project did face a lot of bureaucratic and all sorts of other hurdles, so much so that the then Chief Justice of Pakistan had to take a suo moto notice of the situation. Nevertheless, with our unrelenting efforts and persistence, we got it approved and I am thankful to Mr Shahbaz Sharif who accepted our legitimate demands and ordered the establishment of the Institute and also allocated funds for the purpose.
JWT: How the government is supporting the neurosurgery departments in the hospitals of the province, and what are the major impediments to making those fully functional?
MA: I would appreciate that the government has provided the requisite facilities for the establishment of neurosurgery departments at the District Headquarters Hospitals (DHQs). But, the biggest impediment to making them functional and delivery-oriented is the attitude of young doctors. Most of them do not want to go to hospitals in rural areas or small cities. Another factor behind this problem is that they want to go for specialization. However, I’m sure the government would be making policies to ensure neurosurgeons’ presence in far-flung districts of Punjab.
JWT: As we have very few neurosurgeons in Pakistan, why it is so? And, are you satisfied with the level of training the fresh neurosurgeons are being imparted to?
MA: Not at all. Although the CM Punjab, Mian Shahbaz Sharif, has directed a lot of efforts and energy to resolving this issue, yet the situation is still far from satisfactory. Lack of ventilators at the neurosurgery institutes is a big problem which requires immediate attention of the authorities. I have personally requested the CM, and he has assured that the issue will be resolved soon.
JWT: As you know in rural areas, especially South Punjab, there is an acute paucity of trauma centres and whenever some person suffers from head injury, he is referred to Lahore. Why it is so and how the situation can be improved.
MA: Well, it is unfortunately true that a number of such patients are referred to Lahore General Hospital. There are neurosurgery departments at hospitals in Multan and Faisalabad as well, but the facilities they have are no match to those at the LGH as here patients are provided best possible treatment. We direly need to establish more neurosurgery centres in various cities in order to reduce the burden on LGH. Going further, I would recommend that besides neurosurgery, the government should also establish cardiology institutes in all major cities of the country.
JWT: At present, many young boys and girls especially those in their teens are increasingly contracting Bell’s palsy. What are the reasons behind its dangerous rise and how can it be prevented?
MA: Bell’s palsy is actually a paralysis or weakness of the muscles on one side of the face. It damages the facial nerve that controls muscles which results in drooping of one side of the face. I think the main cause behind the rise of this illness is growing usage of junk foods in our teens. They should avoid using such foods and instead should go for a healthy diet.
JWT: What, in your opinion, our youth should do in order to be safe against neurosurgical disorders?
MA: First of all, I would strongly recommend that wheeling on bikes must be curbed with full force and no one should be allowed to indulge into this dangerous, life-threatening activity. Young boys should also keep away from it. The traffic police must also ensure that no biker comes on the road without wearing a safety helmet.
I hope this would lead to a substantial decrease in the neurosurgery cases.