I have had the pleasure of knowing Adnan Ali Hyder (MBBS, Class of 1990) for the last 25 years. At AKU, he was 3 years my senior and at the time our interaction was very polite. Fast forward 5 years later and he opened up his home to me when I first moved to Washington DC. During that time Adnan arranged the first AKU Alumni Association Reunion at former Dean James Bartlett’s house in 1996 and his contribution to our Association has been constant.
Adnan has prospered over the last two decades and as I understood more fully his sphere of influence, I felt that he would be a perfect candidate for our Featured Alumni section at AKUAANA.org. As you will read, Adnan has reached the pinnacle of academia in the world yet when you meet him, your interaction will leave you inspired and proud of this AKU graduate.
Faisal G. Qureshi
AKU Alumni Association of North America
Give me a quick summary of what you do exactly.
I have many titles and responsibilities so I am just going to list them for your readers.
- I am a tenured professor of International Health at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, USA.
- I am the Director of the Johns Hopkins International Injury Research Unit (JH-IIRU), a World Health Organization Collaborating Center for Injuries, Violence and Accident Prevention. I helped establish the unit in 2008 at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to respond to the growing burden of injuries worldwide. We work to identify effective solutions to the growing burden of injuries in low- and middle-income populations, influence public policy and practice and advance the field of injury prevention throughout the world through research, collaboration and training.
- I am also the Director of the Health Systems program, within the Bloomberg School’s Department of International Health. The principal goal of Health Systems is to improve the capacity of communities to deliver the best possible preventive and curative care to their respective members. Our multidisciplinary faculty work with local governments / community leaders, ministries of health, community-based health and human service agencies, universities, and research institutes to achieve this goal.
- I am also the Associate Director for Global Bioethics at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics. In this position I provide strategic guidance for global engagement for research, education and service in bioethics. This position allows me to continue my passion for bioethics – one that I have had since doing Community Health Sciences (CHS) rotations at AKU! I also co-direct the NIH/Fogarty sponsored African Bioethics Training program which has been running since 2000.
- Finally, I have been a consultant on public health, strategy and research for international organizations such as the World Bank, the World Health Organization and the United Nations.
What aspects of your education at AKU helped you the most in deciding your future trajectory?
My first response is to say the entire AKU experience – all 5 years with the rotations, calls and interactions – has shaped me and my thinking. Of course, within that sphere of experiences some affected me more than others – the revealing visit to a katchi abadi, the first patient I clerked, the anxiety of a medical rotation with Dr. Vellani, and the stress in surgical rounds with Dr. Muhstaq – stand out. The mentoring I received from our faculty taught me discipline, attention to detail, and handling stress (this last point is a really important task). However, the single most important impact on me was the influence of Professor Jack Bryant, our chair of CHS. Through him I imbibed the love for causal analysis, social justice and population based inquiry – and eventually public health.
People may not know that my first job out of medical school (1990) was with Aga Khan Health Services in Gilgit, Northern Pakistan, as manager for a primary healthcare program. This experience – where I was responsible for upgrading a medical centre for surgery, a staff of 20, and even the architecture (we developed a soak pit for the refuse) – influenced me to think about a career where clinical and public health work might co-exist. That thought evolved later but it was a great goal to chase for my early career. Living and working in a remote area and being an independent decision maker in a micro-health systems helped shaped my interest in systems of care for populations.
What type of work do you in Pakistan? With AKU?
I have been fortunate to work in Pakistan since I was a doctoral student – and have worked with both public and private health sectors – in public health training, research and service. For example, I have helped the Pakistan Medical and Research Council, the Health Services Academy, and the Ministry of Health in various research studies and programs over the years. These efforts have helped with curricular innovations in the masters of public health in Islamabad; analysis of the first national health examination survey of Pakistan; and developing terms of reference for a national ethics committee in the country.
I have also been privileged to work with AKU since 1998 – when I did my first joint research on child health – through the Geneva based Global Forum for Health Research. Since then I have been lucky to have maintained an active portfolio of work with AKU. I have worked with AKU to conduct research on ethics and run short term training programs; and served as advisor to the development of the masters in bioethics program at AKU. I have worked on child injuries, analyzed information collected in emergency rooms all over Pakistan, developed an injury hazard assessment tool, and helped pilot test a home injury prevention program.
Research capacity development in trauma and injuries has been the core of my work in recent times; and this has involved close collaboration with the Department of Emergency Medicine and my friend Junaid Razzak (MBBS’94). This Johns Hopkins-AKU collaboration that we run is now 9 years old and has been continuously funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s Fogarty International Center – and helped us conduct sentinel research on emergency care and train a cohort of professionals at AKU. In fact we have 5 trainees this year (2013-14) in our program and to-date they have been a majority of very smart young women health professionals.
What advice would you give medical students in choosing a career in public health?
I prefer to brainstorm with people and not “give” advice – but I believe that medical students have an array of opportunities in the 21st century. Medicine is not a single field but a composite of several disciplines and professions that work together for human health – one individual at a time. It is therefore critical for students to appreciate that medicine is based on evidence – and the collection, analysis and interpretation of evidence is a vital skill and the sooner they acquire it the better. Second, medicine is a set of technical skills which can be used for multiple types of careers such as medical practice, clinical research, public health, human rights, bioethics, genetics, bioengineering, m/e-health amongst others. Medicine gives us the “opportunity” to access these pathways, explore them and focus our energy to one or more of them for a lifetime. And finally, there is no short cut to hard work – putting in the hours, perseverance, dedication – these are hallmarks of future success, irrespective of the specific career.
I hope young professionals think about these issues and appreciate that they are privileged and with that status comes responsibility – to themselves, their families and society – and public health allows one way to fulfill these goals. Public health can be a career, or a part-time job, or a passion – in all cases our contributions should be high quality and exemplary.
Success in academics is often associated with publications. You seem to have developed a good mechanism to continuously publish. Is there a secret?
There is no secret, but two things are needed – putting in the time and the necessary hard work. I tell my junior faculty and colleagues to work on a paper every day; to put aside some time (even 30 minutes) every single day (nearly!) to work on a paper or a proposal – both are critical for academic success. Two other ingredients help – collaboration and diversity. Collaborate with colleagues and professionals in your field; help them write and they will help you publish – define “win-win” partnerships. And diversify the types of papers you write – original research is a must, but add systematic reviews, policy papers, teaching experiences, and enrich your portfolio. Write at all times and learn to enjoy it.
For me, writing is a moral imperative – I see it as an essential and ethical way to share knowledge, learning, lessons and experiences with colleagues around the world.
If an AKU grad wanted to get involved with your work, what should they do? How do they prepare and how can they reach you?
I have had a long history of engaging AKU grads and have had the privilege of having many of them work with me or on my projects. I am always interested in collaboration if it is a good fit. Younger colleagues should carefully review what I do, read the materials on our websites, and flip through some of my papers. Then formulate a brief and succinct email which clarifies who they are, what is their goal and why they are approaching me. Ask a specific question or ask for specific assistance. I travel extensively, and that means that I have little time and often check emails at airports or in hotels – so I truly appreciate a focused email which I can quickly review and then respond.
What personal traits do you think have helped you succeed?
This is a tough one – one can never be sure – but I suspect that dedication, attention to detail, hard work and intellectual curiosity have helped. Passion helps a lot – and I am truly passionate about my work – I get up every day excited that I can conduct more research or teach a class or travel to another field site – this ensures sustained and (I hope) life-long effort. Scientific integrity is also vital – a commitment to quality and scientific rigor – and willingness to apply strong criteria to my own work always allows me to do better next time. Public health is not a job for me – it defines me – and I love being part of this global health movement.
The AKUAANA website features an AKU alumnus every quarter. We want profiles to highlight various aspects of alumni careers/lives – academic and research, clinical, private practice, political achievements, social activism, philanthropy etc.
Profiles of other alumni highlighted on the website over the time can be viewed under the “Featured Alumni” category.
In order to nominate someone or self-nominate, email your nomination and information by email to .