I have no recollection of why I named my literary startup ‘Walking Thoughts’. Maybe because I had always associated thoughts as a cosmos of our views and opinions and likes and dislikes and social norms and, of course, the stranger things in life called emotions. And I always imagined them walking leisurely, sometimes alone, sometimes with a friend, sometimes hiding from the monster called pessimism, and almost always avoiding the dark alley of stereotypes. It also sounded intriguing and cute. So Walking Thoughts it was and is and will always be, InshAllah!
As I pursue my MHPM, I’m scaling up Walking Thoughts as a side hustle, but with all the dedication and love. What does Walking Thoughts have to offer now? 🔹️ Entrepreneurial and Innovation Consultancy for small-scale businesses, especially women-owned 🔹️ Editing, reviewing, proofreading services for research papers, manuscripts, personal statements, resumes 🔹️ IELTS | OET courses & masterclasses 🔹️ Spoken English (conversation) 🔹️ English Creative Writing 🔹️ O and A Level English Language 🔹️ ECFMG and PLAB CV REVIEWS 🔹️ Narrative Medicine (story-telling in medicine)
Walking Thoughts is a labor of love and a commitment to make English Language learning easier for all, especially the talented folks whose personal and professional growth is hindered because of lack of fluency & proficiency in a language that is proclaimed as ‘international’.
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The A’ Level student who started this blog as a means to practice her writing skills has long since been left behind. For those who of you have been following me since the inception of this blog, the new paths that I have taken up may not come as a surprise. But for all the new folks here, thank you for choosing to be a part of my journey!
I am currently pursuing my Masters in Health Policy and Management at Aga Khan University; running my literary start-up, Walking Thoughts; and volunteering (non-profit board service) as a member of the Board of Directors at the Amana Hasnain Health Foundation (AHHF), a non-profit organization.
I did my M.B.B.S. from Ziauddin University in 2019, and completed my house job (medical internship) in December 2020. In 2021, I was doing an Innovation Fellowship at the Critical Creative Innovative Thinking (CCIT) Forum at Aga Khan University where I was trained to ideate low-cost health care solutions for lower and middle-income countries using the tools of design-thinking, innovation, creativity, business management/entrepreneurship/incubation, technology, public health, research, grants, and leadership skills.
As a primary health care provider and health innovator, I am passionate about creating a global impact via a career in health policy and hospital management, health entrepreneurship, humanistic medicine, and medical education using the relevant innovation tools. For a doctor to want to specialize in kidney diseases, they have to pursue a nephrology residency. For a doctor to specialize in health policies and the management of a system that holds together the different areas of healthcare service delivery, they have to specialize in health policy and management. And I chose to specialize in HPM because this remains to be what I passionately feel about: redesigning the structure of our health policies and systems to make it more humanistic, to make healthcare affordable and accessible, to include health literacy as another strong pillar of the health infrastructure, and to ensure the care of everyone involved. AHHF is the brainchild and a dream of twenty years of Prof. Dr. Hasnain Syed, a distinguished medical scientist, and very dear friend’s father. When I took up the voluntary board service at AHHF, I saw how rewarding it felt to be able to design a system to accommodate the comfort of both the healthcare staff and the patients while including health literacy. I enjoyed policy-making, strategic and operational planning, and institutional management. My background as a medical graduate helped me see both sides of the coin, my empathy helping me address the limitations of the healthcare system. I simply saw the dots connecting. It simply made me happy.
And there is a long, long way to go. But at least the path exists, and I have access to it.
As a side-hustle, I enjoy my entrepreneurial experience at Walking Thoughts, a literary and educational house that I founded in 2018, during my fourth year of medical school. We offer online English speaking and writing courses; specializing in IELTS and OET; reviewing and editing for personal statements. We also provide Entrepreneurial & Innovation Consultancy to small-scale businesses, especially women-owned. With a distinction in AS Level English Language across Pakistan, and my love for reading, writing, and teaching, I am lucky to have had students who have enjoyed learning with me, who have helped this little start-up make its mark. If you or anyone you know would like to avail any of the services being offered at Walking Thoughts, you are welcome to inbox me or on the page!
And, this blog remains to be my favorite place, a tiny time capsule capturing the different seasons of life, forever keeping me grateful and excited for all that God has in store for me.
It’s true when they say that the dots eventually connect, and one day, we know why what happened.
Having been on both ends – as a caregiver/attendant at a hospital and as a doctor – I have had the opportunity to closely observe the different problems that the healthcare system is the unfortunate victim of. Access to, and quality health care; coordination issues between the administrative staff, the health care personnel, and the attendants of the patient; limited resources; and lack of health literacy, to name a few. And, of course, the unempathetic system playing puppet with everyone involved. My interests in leadership roles, the multi-disciplinary experience that I had gained at my Fellowship, and my passion for helping doctors become better doctors by exploring a humanistic health system and policy, empowered me with the confidence to pursue a career in this field and continue to dream about managing a hospital and a team of health care professionals of my own. Which, thanks to Amana Hasnain Health Foundation, is an opportunity that I am genuinely grateful for. My knowledge as a medical graduate and the experience I had as a practicing physician further lent me a deeper understanding of our health maps, giving me a perspective stemming from empathy. The dots connected and I saw the perfect picture for myself: a master in health policy and management.
The MHPM Programme at the Aga Khan University aims to empower the professionals from the developing world to mitigate the various challenges typical to the health system in their countries, through strategic and operational planning, policy analysis, institutional management, and health systems research and development.
For a doctor to want to specialize in kidney diseases, they have to pursue a nephrology residency. For a doctor to specialize in health policies and the management of a system that holds together the different areas of healthcare service delivery, they have to specialize in health policy and management. And I am truly grateful and humbled to have been selected to pursue my post-graduation at Aga Khan University, one of the most prestigious healthcare institutes in the country. And as I embark upon this journey, I am excited to learn and to understand how I can curate a system to deliver health care that focuses on the care and delivery of everyone involved.
Looking forward to a ‘new year, new me’ is exactly as overhyped as it sounds, and, yet, I happily indulge in preparing for the occasion. This year, however, the newness lies in my enthusiasm to remain as content as I was in this past year. Content, happy with the flow of life and the seconds ticking by, and fully focused on relishing that happiness for all its worth. And for not losing trust in the paths I have chosen and continue to.
With the successful completion of my Innovation Fellowship at the Critical Creative Innovative Thinking (CCIT) Forum, this year is about setting the final sails to my professional goals, my ikigai. And as I do so with my association with Amana Hasnain Health Foundation, I am also very happy to relaunch and revamp my start-up, Walking Thoughts, as a side-gig that I have always found immense joy in. A very special feature that now accompanies the spoken English, creative writing, editing, and proofreading services (for research papers, literary manuscripts, personal statements, and professional resumes) that Walking Thoughts provides, is the inclusion of an exclusive Narrative Medicine course. Having started my journey in Narrative Medicine from the third year of medical school, I find myself more passionate about it than I ever was. Maybe because I now see the immense value that it carries for the implementation of humanistic medicine and the several ways in which it can help out the healthcare community. With so many other doctor-writers around, I am truly excited to see the impact that we are capable of having.
So there’s that, but, there’s also more, so stay tuned to this cozy digital diary which shall now be hopping across your newsfeed more!
May the pages of these journals be full of tasks that are meaningful and bring ease into our lives. May the days of this new calendar be ticked off with gratitude, contentment, and kindness! Amen.
While writing my personal statement for the CCIT fellowship, I remember passionately stating that I’m looking to use the fellowship as a stepping stone to help me explore and pivot my vision for humanistic medicine. That was a year ago. Fast forward to now and I find myself ending the year with gratitude and joy at having accomplished what I set out to – a clear road map for integrating humanistic into our health policies and management systems.
Truly grateful and happy for the warm memories, mentors, and friends I’ve made along the way.
When I chose to pursue medicine, I did so with the shared universal dream of wanting to help people. But alongside that common dream was also the passion to be a catalyst of change that our health care system is so in need of. While we have intelligently infused technology into our health systems and are working to polish its efficiency, we must also give equal – if not more – importance to propagating a culture of empathy and holistic care as we strive to practice humanistic medicine: and that is the change that I have been a strong advocate of and wish to diligently bring about. And when I got a chance to do so at Amana Hasnain Health Foundation (AHHF), the brainchild and a dream of twenty years of Prof. Dr. Hasnain Syed, there was no turning back.
These past few months have seen me working with Prof. Hasnain on the strategic and operational planning, policy analysis, and institutional management of AHHF. AHHF is a non-profit organization committed to providing low-cost quality health care and diagnostic testing services, research and educational opportunities, and disease prevention and awareness to the community at large. Our vision is to help Pakistan achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal of good health and well-being for all. To achieve this goal, we are working under three main domains:
ADMRC, Amana Diagnostic, Medical & Research Center: providing low-cost OPD consultation and laboratory testing
ADPAC, Amana Disease Prevention & Awareness Centre: to create public awareness regarding the most prevalent diseases in Pakistan
AAACC, Amana Allergy & Asthma Consultation Centre: providing low-cost consultation for allergies and asthma
For me, AHHF is not merely a philanthropic project, it’s more than that. As part of my deep interest in humanistic medicine, the capstone project for my Health Innovation Fellowship at CCIT has been modeled on Amana Diagnostic, Medical and Research Centre (ADMRC). Using the skills and knowledge that I have acquired during the fellowship, my capstone project is a prototype of a humanistic administrative model and is all set for implementation on ADMRC. This model focuses on research-endorsed, outcome-based strategies to promote a humanistic culture in any organization, comprising of a facilitative practice structure, organized activities, responsibility to role model, and supportive leadership. And, so, AHHF is also the beginning of a vision I had dared to harbor, the ‘innovation’ I have attempted to curate, the ikigai defining my choices henceforth.
Under the inspirational leadership of Dr. Hasnain, Chairperson of the Board of Directors of AHHF, CEO of ADMRC, I look forward to playing my part in promoting health equity, medical research, and disease prevention and awareness – tools for a healthy Pakistan.
Your support in any and all ways will mean the world to us!
Dr. Arfa Masihuddin Member, Board of Directors Amana Hasnain Health Foundation
Innovation for innovation – the CCIT MEDJACK Webinar Series!
What began as an effort to create and nurture the ecosystem of innovation, creativity, and entrepreneurship through a series of webinars has stemmed into something far more exciting. Moderated by the Director of CCIT itself, Dr. Asad I. Mian, the MEDJACK webinar series turns over each chapter of AKU’s first-ever e-book, MEDJACK, as the co-authors of the book, CCIT’s innovation champions, and other innovators and entrepreneurs get into thought-provoking conversations with snippets from their personal journeys. True to its word, the webinar explores the ICE (innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship) potential through healthcare and beyond, getting the like-minded together and helping others see the scope where there was none.
As a regular participant of these webinars, I have been inspired by the sustainability of the ideas that have been conceived via this virtual platform. With power-houses like the former President of AKU, Mr. Firoz Rasul; Carl Amrhein, Provost and Vice President, Academic, Aga Khan University; Lorne A. Babiuk, Former Vice President, Research, University of Alberta; Prof. Dr. Ather Enam, Department of Surgery, AKU; and a list of many more, the webinar series is catalyzing the conversion of ideologies into practical and sustainable innovative ventures in the lower-middle-income countries. The first step is always initiation of dialogue, followed by promotion of a culture that adapts as its support system – that and more is exactly what the webinars can proudly claim to have achieved.
There are some friends who become good colleagues. Then there are some colleagues who become good friends. There are also some friends who become family. Sometimes, family members also become colleagues. But very rarely do colleagues become family.
Somewhere along chasing deadlines, ideating and prototyping, co-facilitating courses, writing papers, doing assignments, we became the safe space that we had only heard of. Snuggled in our workplace space lit up by kodak memories of time well-spent and a warmth that is forever going to live on, we have shared our dreams and fears, the puzzles and the prizes, the laughter and the joys, the past and the future. And we truly have lived in the moment. Maybe that is what living the dream looks like…
In my previous post, I had talked about mentoring the medical students at AKU in creative entrepreneurship through health startups. Similar to that stream is another three-month course being offered to these students by the Critical Creative Innovative Thinking Forum: “Creative Innovation Through Human Centricity”. And as part of this creative team led by the CCIT Director, Dr. Asad I. Mian, and Co-Director, Dr. Mahreen Sulaiman, it is an equally amazing opportunity for my colleagues (Haseeb Sajid and Taha Ahmed Nasikwala) and myself to be co-facilitating this course as Innovation Fellows.
Now one may ask why teach doctors “creative innovation”? Why the need to introduce them to “human centricity?”
Every new medical treatment and research that has made our lives better and has expanded the realm of modern medicine was conceived by the very same creative innovation that had honored the concept of human centricity. The users’ needs, desires, and abilities take priority over the users’ ability to adapt to an already engineered solution. In a field like medicine where the primary “user” and “product” is one and the same – the human body – how can an in-depth knowledge and understanding of these not be essential?
By introducing it to the student body as compared to professionals, we are aiming to nurture a thought process at the nascent stages and encourage our students to view problems through the innovative lens to design solutions with an appreciation for the afore-mentioned. Inculcating it as an elective course allows the students to enjoy the variance and novelty that the course has to offer while ensuring that it does not merely become a subject that needs to be passed for the sake of it. Be it healthcare or not, fostering creativity is another way to boost productivity, diversify the thought processes, improve our emotional intelligence, and experience the kind of growth that will only make us better versions of ourselves. And that is exactly what we aim to do.
With the world taking bigger and faster strides, it is becoming increasingly relevant to offer a more holistic and innovative curriculum to our professionals, one that will enable us to live in a better tomorrow!
According to the National Nutrition Survey 2018, around 80% of the population coming into tertiary care hospitals (read: “big hospitals”) can be treated at primary care facilities (read: “GP clinics”), and 70% of the population goes to the private hospitals. Why this unnecessary use of resources in a lower-middle-income country that already has a meager share in the national budget for its healthcare sector? Amongst the many other reasons circumambulating around loopholes in our health systems and policies, the fact that healthcare entrepreneurship has not involved the healthcare providers as much as it should do nothing to nullify the problem.
While healthcare certainly is a noble profession aiming to alleviate sickness, it is also an industry in itself simply because it requires a large capital to run – from the acquisition of knowledge (M.B.B.S, and then post-graduate training) to the establishment and maintenance of what we call a hospital. All of this requires investment and revenue for sustainability. Just like there are ‘dos’ and ‘donts’ for any organizational set-up, some are governing the principles of healthcare, too. Simply put, the establishment of a hospital or clinic was what we called healthcare entrepreneurship, which is now redefined as value addition to the (digital) health products or services, care-delivery innovation, or new business processes, services, or platforms.
The main providers of healthcare are not well-equipped with the basic knowledge of healthcare entrepreneurship. If they can be, then the establishment of innovative primary care facilities and other health startups can help share the load on our system, improving the overall health indices. A growing number of medical professionals are now seen agreeing with this concept and are striving to procure business and management degrees in healthcare. At the Aga Khan University, we have taken this a step ahead with the inclusion of an elective course on entrepreneurial innovation through health startups for the medical students at AKU, as a part of a series called “OTBT – Off The Beaten Track”!
This elective course is led by Dr. Hasan Nawaz Tahir, Entrepreneur-Mentor-in-Residence at CCIT and Senior Instructor, Health Systems & Digital Health, Department of Community Health Sciences at AKU; and Rafeh Ahmed, Innovation Liaison, AKU; facilitated by Dr. Asad I. Mian, Director of CCIT, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Emergency Medicine; and co-facilitated by myself, Haseeb Sajid, and Taha Ahmed, Innovation Fellows at CCIT.
Why should a doctor learn entrepreneurship? Because as service providers in the field, there is no one else who would better know the physical, emotional, social, cultural, and financial problems that appear as major road-blocks when patients seek care, is also aware of the overall limitations and strengths of biomedicine and our health system, and, hence, is an ideal candidate to lead healthcare entrepreneurship. Therefore, this course aims to equip these future doctors with a critical and introspective understanding of entrepreneurship and of the health systems of Pakistan, and how their resulting marriage can enable them to recognize the inadequacies and deliver impactful healthcare entrepreneurial projects to improve accessibility to and provision of affordable, quality healthcare using the 21-st century tools.
And as part of the team delivering the course, it is exciting to see how innovation in our medical curriculum can pave way for diversity in the healthcare arena and raise a more skilled generation of healthcare professionals as we walk off the beaten track!