When you are “eager” to return to work in a hospital during a pandemic, it might be safe to say that you have found your calling.
That is the case for Dr. Mehdi Irfani, a trainee at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. Dr. Irfani, who graduated from Aga Khan University last year, and is an alumnus of the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Gilgit, is counting the days till the end of his quarantine period, having tested positive for COVID-19 after coming in contact with a patient while on duty.
Dr. Irfani is far from the only former Aga Khan Education Service, Pakistan student to be serving on the frontlines of the struggle against coronavirus. In the past five years alone, more than 600 graduates entered medical school, while another 300 opted for nursing school. These healthcare professionals are putting their lives on the line every day to treat patients affected by COVID-19.
Jamila Bahar did her schooling from Aga Khan Higher Secondary, Kuragh, after which she joined the nursing programme at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi. Having graduated just four months ago, she has been thrown into the depths of her profession by the outbreak of the virus. While she admits that work-related stress has increased, thanks to the personal protection trainings she and her colleagues have received, she says she is feeling confident going to work every day. She too was placed into isolation after contact with a COVID-19 positive patient, but thankfully tested negative. Jamila says that she would like to specialize in mental health nursing down the line.
While most of us are taking care to protect ourselves from the virus, doctors, nurses and other health staff risk exposure every day to keep us healthy. Dr. Samiya Kamaluddin Musani, a former student of the Aga Khan Higher Secondary School, Karachi and currently a doctor at Civil Hospital, Karachi, has been practicing medicine for almost eight years now. She says that the influx of patients at the hospital has doubled since the outbreak with many patients not only needing medical care, but a lot of moral support in the face of a positive coronavirus diagnosis, given the fear around the disease. “People come to us in a lot of anxiety,” she said, “and with the kind of pressures a public hospital has, it is not possible for us to practice social distancing.”
The workload has also increased, Dr. Musani tells us, as a result of doctors getting infected and unable to continue their duties. Nevertheless, she says: “Medicine is the only profession for me. I was born to do this work.” Meanwhile, she is keeping her distance from family members at home, and cooking and eating separately to protect them.
Every cloud has a silver lining and Dr. Irfani is confident that once the situation normalizes, the medical professional will be better off for this experience and its learnings. “Medical care will improve,” he said, “and doctors and hospitals will be more careful about infection transmission. People too will be more mindful of the connection between hygiene and health.”
For now, like his colleagues all over the world, Dr. Irfani is looking forward to going back to work: “Health practitioners are needed more than ever right now, and I want to play my part.”