KemUnited Interview: Professor Dr. Imran Akram Sahaf

Written by Laiba Khalid, Moeed Ahmed & Taroob Latef

Professor Dr. Imran Akram Sahaf
The Pride Of KEMU’s Eye Department

Chairperson of Eye (Unit I)
Assistant and then Associate Professor in KEMU from 1997 -2005.
Professor KEMU (2010-2015)

Pioneer of numerous surgical procedures, Professor Sahaf is the Gold Medalist for the year 2014 of President of Pakistan OSP Novel Christy. He is the father of 6 children, 4 sons and 2 daughters. 3 of them are doctors, 1 is a Kemcolian.

Famous for his generously dealt slaps and affectionate names of “gadhay jaisa” and “bandarya jaisi”, Professor Sahaf is unconditionally loved by students and colleagues alike.

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A man with the most modern mind and even modern ideas for his department, Professor Imran Sahaf gave KemUnited a hilarious 3-hour interview, directing and rejecting selfies from his own phone, giving his uncensored take on any individual we asked him about and taking a break from the session only to lead Zuhr Prayer in Eye OT.

Imran Akram Sahaf: The Person Inside

Best vacation spot?
Although ab vacation mushkil hogayi hai, mein lar raha hota hun tu ghar walay kehtay hain k nahi ab us k paper hain, ab isk hain. Abhe nathia gali gaye huya thay, bari mushkil se do bachon ko tyar kya.

Favourite meal?
Bohat simple. Shorba aur roti.

"Mujhay ati hai cooking lekin ghar mein nai karta. Jamaat mein jata hun tu karta hun. But i do help my wife in daily household chores. Aik dafa itna dhair laga hua tha dishes ka, although servants bhe hain but it was so late at night and she was like i dont feel like it and went to sleep. Meine saray dho dye. Subha uthi tu itni khush the. I feel these gestures strengthen your bond. Baatein tu sab kar letay hain. Zarurat mein kaun kaam ata hai."

Memorable moment in KE?
I was a very naughty kid.

Once a teacher was passing by my house. He saw me and asked: “Imran wo konsi shararat thi jis pe bohat shor macha tha?”
I said: “ Sir, shararaten to boht sari thin, pta nahi ap ko kis ki khabar pohnch gyi”.

But I was never disrespectful to teachers or played any prank with them.

Tell us about your personal life, marriage etc.
Shaadi wohi jis tarah hoti ha. It was an arranged marriage. My wife is a doctor. She didn't work because it wasn't a custom then but now I feel I should have let her work. Ideas change over the years. 
My daughter just became a doctor and I think she should serve. 

I am not against working of the women. What I stand for is that why not give jobs to them which are more suited to their nature. Why not give them more privacy, more independence. The idea of recruiting women in air force knowing that they will never go to combat only for the sake of equality is sheer stupidity ! There are some qualities that Allah has given to the women only. She can handle 6 children at a time. Only she can have such a big heart. There is no comparison ! Men and women are created to compliment each other.

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What do you like the most about your wife?
If she could, she would spend my entire wealth in Allah’s way. Whatever amount she has, she donates it to the needy. 
Uper uper se dantta bhi hun k kal to paisay diye the kahan kharch kr diye saray but ander se khush hota hun.

Are you strict as a father?
I don't know what you mean by strict but I am of the view that every mind should be allowed to work independently. Just tell them a path, a limit that they need to stay in, some norms of life, mannerism, at least pray 5 times a day, but individually never interfered in the lives of my children, before or after marriage. They can live however they want. I had been completely independent all my life, had my own thinking,did what I felt was right and stood against what I felt was wrong irrespective of what others said. I am not bothered by what others say.

"Mein ye sab kuch dekh chuka hun, pant coat tie, i don’t care for them. In logon ne abhe shuru nai kiya tha jab meine pehanna chor di theen, aur jab pehanta tha tab mere se achi koi nai pehanta tha. But then I changed ways, grew beard no matter what people said. Take stand for what you feel is right ! If you make a mistake then always admit it. Never defend a wrong move only because you did it."

What do you do in your free time ?
Books. Used to play games once upon a time but now books, books and books. I have a big library with all sorts of books.

Why don't you write a book on Ophthalmology?
I have a plan in mind, have material too but never got  time. Now that I have it hopefully I will.

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What are your interests in sports?
I love squash. I'm also the staff president of the squash club at KE.

"Cricket ko ma auraton ki game kaha krta hun." :P

Were you a topper?
Not me, Dr Cheema used to top. Un ke hotay huay aur koi top nai kar sakta tha. Though I got 2nd position in Medicine and Surgery.

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If I was not a doctor, I would have been a teacher. Allah ne mujhe dono bana dia.

Why did you come back to Pakistan from abroad?
I worked in England for five years but came back for a very simple reason. I never wanted to be a second grade citizen in my life. This is beyond my dignity. The worst thing that happens with us there is the treatment our children receive in school. I can’t bear that.

I had gone to England to take my Part 1 exam. A friend of mine took me to the university. An English passed by and threw a few abuses at us. I ran after him and said, ‘’How dare you?’’ My friend stopped me and said,‘’In ko kuch nahi kehna. Ye sab tumhare khilaaf ho jayen ge.’’ I decided I don’t have to stay here anymore. You don’t get the same love and respect there that you get here. Yahan patients ap k agay peechay phirtay hain. Ap bachay hamaray bachon ki tarah ham se pyaar karte hain. This is our achievement.

How do you compare working in Pakistan to working abroad?
The main thing is that when you are working in Pakistan, you are working for your own house, your own country. When you are working abroad, you are achieving everything for others. If you realize this, you overcome the difficult environment here. I think the major difference is the system. There, you are working to strengthen the system and here you are working to strengthen the individual. Policies have to be governed by your priorities.

Experience from foreign countries is in my opinion, extremely important. It broadens your vision and helps you learn newer techniques. It gives you stimulation to compete and bring back home a competitive spirit. I feel that the time i spent abroad was worth it, wo aur baat hai k mein un se kuch zyada mutasir nai hoya :P

Did you aim for Ophthalmology from the beginning?
Not really. All my life I was thinking to be a physician just like my father. I got second position in Medicine and Surgery in KE but at the time of housejob, I was not here. I had gone for tabligh. One of the Ophthalmology professors demanded for my induction in Ophthalmology. I was informed about it when I came back .

The merit of ophthalmology was very low then but I had so much respect for my teacher that I couldn’t say no. I asked my father and he convinced me that it's a very rapidly developing field. My father’s word was all that mattered.I joined eye. Alhamdulillah I was able to do something unique in this field so I made the right choice.

Receiving the President of Pakistan Novel Christi gold medal

Tell us about your life at KE.
I had a chance of working with a class which was unique in itself. The environment makes a lot of difference. Out of 134 , 70 did service and 23 persons from our class became professors; 11 in KE itself - Dr. Arshad Cheema and Dr. Sadaqat Ali (Surgery), Dr. Fatima and Dr. Junaid Akram (Medicine), Dr. Bilal Zakriya (Cardiology), Dr. Naeem (Neurology), Dr. Bajwa And Dr. Zafar ullah (Urology), Dr. Qazi Yaqoob (Paediatrics) and Dr. Moaz (Community Medicine). 4 of us became generals and 1 being surgeon general in the army. We were a unique class with outstanding results and high standards . Our class was great in extra-curricular activities. (our cricket team was the best ) We loved our teachers and they loved us.  We worked hard with our teachers and they worked very hard with us. We had the honour of being taught by dignitaries like Dr. Akhtar Khan, Dr. Khawaja Sadiq, Dr. Gardezi, Dr. Masood and Dr. Khurshid Qureshi - all legends in their specialities.

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Is the standard of KE better now or was it better then ?
Things have changed. But basic values can never change like honesty will always be appreciated. A well behaved and helpful person will always be respected. These are some universal values that are engraved in human beings and are same all over the world. Presently we are being affected by our society. Now you don't respect people for their qualities but for their status. Students have changed in this way as well. They run after short cuts. Our professors’ aim was to teach us and were content with living a modest life.

When I came from pindi I stayed at my uncle's place in Shadman rather than staying at hostel. My father didn't allow me to keep a motor bike so I came daily to college on bicycle. I wasn’t ashamed of it as people are now. Teachers have changed too. There were times when we used to go to medical ward to see our professor waiting for us with benches all set for class outside the ward. Priorities have changed now…

This difference is most probably due to teachers I feel. Students are still students and they love you when you teach them. I scold them harshly but they realize it is for their own good.

We feel deeply for them k ye kuch ban jayen, in ka time zaya na ho. Its the prime time of his life and he shouldn't waste it. So I call it aggressive teaching. Zabardasti pakar pakar k her ek ko me dekha krta tha. 

I ask everybody to come forward one by one and see the patient. Having said that you need a dedicated teacher. Scientific teaching is in vogue these days, workshops are being conducted and programmes are designed etc I asked all of them one question: what is the basic ingredient in efficient teaching ? That is a dedicated teacher ! who takes pride in being a teacher. Without it all programmes are useless.

What are your plans after retirement?
I want to rest for a while now. The greatest thing I will miss is my students. Haven't planned anything yet but will continue my private practice and maybe write a book.

*shows us his inventions /discoveries on his laptop*

What is your inspiration ? What makes you so dedicated?
What is a person’s long term motivation ? Ideology !

My father was very dedicated. He contributed in Pakistan Movement. He was so dedicated and selfless that in his life he never told me what he had done for the country. His friends told me later about his services. When he was a student in KE, around 1945, whenever there were some riots in Bihar, Amritsar the Muslim students of KE went there to treat the wounded, even brought them to hostel . Punjab Govt bailed them once when they were caught. This was probably treason in British Law and they could have been hanged for it ! Such dedicated doctors they were ! So I think it is ingrained in me, the passion to serve the country.  My home is not just where I live, my country is my bigger home. My home will survive as long as my country lives. I am nothing without my country.

The other reason is that we have got the best religion of which we should be proud of. Not saying it because I am a Muslim but if you study other religions you realize we have got a complete religion that tells you everything. I didn't realize it until I came to KE where members of tableegh told me that Islam is a complete code of life, it tells how to eat, walk and talk, manners of marriage, family etc. When I started studying it I was amazed at how scientific it was. Other religions are all whims. Islam has prohibited usury. Today when we see the chaos arising because of its practice we realize why it is prohibited. The West is now considering to end it. The written rights of parents, children, husband and wife exist in no other religion.

We were once teasing a friend getting married, I asked: “ Do you know your wife is not supposed to cook for you?” He was stunned. I told him that he was supposed to provide food to his wife. Similarly I told him that your wife was not supposed to look after your parents, YOU are supposed to look after your parents. If she does so its a favor !

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Whom did our prophet loved the most ? Her daughter. These Westerners don't even know about their daughters and they teach us women rights today !
What are we ashamed of then ?
We love our mothers, they don't even see their mothers for ages ) I can't imagine my life without my mother. The time I spend with her means the most to me. It is an act of worship. I tease her like a kid. She enjoys it then scold me. This is the most fun part of my life.

My biggest motivation was that Muslims should have some contributions to their name too. Hence I made implants and devised instruments, procedures etc. I feel everybody has potential which should be utilized. I don't become angry on students for not knowing any thing but on not using their minds.

Allah has given you a brilliant mind, use it ! Potential na ho to theek ha ma kahun Downs ka case hai, I don't expect anything from him, KE ka student ho aur kahay menu nahi anda, how is this possible ? You have got the best brains. You are not using them. Self confidence, believe in yourself, ma kisi se kam nahi hun, yaqeen kro phir dekho.

What are your views about Imran Khan?
1st I think he is a sincere person. No doubt about it . But not competent enough to be the Prime Minister of Pakistan. I dont have the slightest of doubt about his sincerity but competency is different from sincerity.

Which political party do you support ?

I support the party which serves us as they are supposed to. PML atleast has got a team now which the others don’t have. Their intentions and sincerity is another thing. I dont agree with most of their programmes or whims I’d like to call them like Metro. This could have been done in a better way by broadening the roads and improving public transport facilities. Programmes should be viable and not a burden on the Govt like Metro is. But they have a good team.

Imran Akram Sahaf: The Professor, The Opthalmologist

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Which time was better? Life as a student in KE or as a Professor ?
Both had its merits. As a teacher I contributed more. As a student we were just gaining knowledge for ourselves. As a teacher I tried to create an atmosphere, a different method of teaching. So that when your time comes you have a choice to choose between different methods. I developed a system, we have a curriculum to follow now. We touch every aspect so that you have a feel of the department.  Its purpose was not just teaching but also a change of mind for the better. I stress on the basics and reasons not cramming. If you know the basics well you can invent new things. You can never fail if you know basics of anatomy, physiology , medicine and pathology. You also find application of physics and chemistry in eye.

Do you agree with the curriculum of Ophthalmology for MBBS student ?
I differ from it that is why I teach in a different way. ¾ of the knowledge input into your brain is facilitated through your eyes which will end if anything happens to the eye. 100% of your jobs are done with the help of eye. Without it you are paralysed. Almost all other body systems are linked to the eye. Major cranial nerves are associated with it. Blood vessels are visible in the eye. You can diagnose different diseases of the vascular system by simply examining the eye. Kidney , heart, autoimmune and lung diseases are reflected in the eye . So you need a good knowledge Ophthalmology for complete understanding of Medicine and Neurology. I don't agree with our syllabus.

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Eye as a field for girls?

I believe, from an Islamic point of view, that it requires a lot of interaction and close contact with male patients e.g during fundoscopy so until newer instruments and methods become common use, i think girls should opt for fields better suited to their gender.

Sir,your talk with final year was very moving… 

It was all from inside. I had not decided any of it. If you talk straight from the hearts the message gets across. I always feel that we should talk to the outgoing final year. You may not agree with what we say but when 5,7 teachers will talk to you about their life experience you may gather a pearl or two of wisdom.

An orthopedic teacher once told me his story: When he was in FSc he didn't have money to pay for tuition so his teacher told him to join in with a session with son of Deputy Commissioner on a condition that he will only listen the lecture but not ask anything. He got admission in Nishtar but didn't have enough money to pay for fee even though it wasnt much. The teacher came outside his house on cycle one day and without getting off the ride he handed over the money saying “ I knew you didnt have the money, jb honge tb wapis krdena…” and went off .

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Any favorite student?

We teach so many students and its hard to remember names. 

Kisi ek ka naam yaad rakha to sb k rakhne par jayn ge. I try my best not to give a specific treatment to a specific student. Every student should be equally stressed upon. When teachers favour some specific students I think it is unfair to neglect the rest. Just like I believe parents should not prefer one child over the others.

I remember the paper of a student who had solved all answers in only 2 sheets but every answer was correct and I awarded 19/20 in each question, even clicked pics as an example.

I have met a lot of exceptional students and some of them really impress me. Recently, a girl from current fourth year gave me an answer about squint and I was so surprised to hear it that i thought to myself “ye tu mera koi post graduate ka student bhe na de sakay”. (He wouldn’t disclose the name,no matter how much we insisted :P)

Students pray to get Unit I for wards and NOT Unit I for Prof?
Mere khayal se jitnay mein number deta hun, utnay koi deta he nai.
Think:  Aik banday ne pura zor laga dya tmhe parhanay mein, wo tmhara result kharab karay ga?

One prays for the success of a market that you invested in. One is least bothered with the success of the market that you didn’t invest in.

Strict marking is another word for poor examiners, jinhon ne apko parhaya nai hota, jo apkay kareeb nai aye hotay.

Right now, I am an advocate in KE for giving extra numbers to students. Because you get compared to students from UHS who are very leniently examined in their Professionals.
My question is when a student has written everything that he/she was supposed to write, why do we still mark him 16/20. I am the only examiner who gives such students 19/20.

Gar bar kartay hain examiners jo bahir se atay hain. They come to me and say “Doctor sahab apkay bachay baray achay hain, aik ko tu meine 23/30 de dye hain.” It makes me furious. They destroy our results.

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I believe that a man should be modern, modern ideas, modern knowledge. In logon ka apna mind he nai hai. Wo baat unka wohi chota kar deti hai.

My ideal is that Hindu who goes wearing a dhoti to bring home a Nobel Prize. Maza hai na yaar? Apni zubaan mein bolta hai compelling people to translate his words so that they can understand. Aur baki log english me bol k atay hain, neechay se parh parh k and nobody gives a dime to what they are saying.

I like people who are open minded and non political. Our dignity is to be good in our profession.
KE mein akar masjid se taaluq acha hogaya. The Imam of the mosque in boys hostel was a great man, I was very close to him. He named his son Imran (now the current Imam of the mosque) because of me. I also became close to tableeghi jamaat, a very non-political party.

Na vote na note.

What do you think about VC ?
We need to strengthen him being in the academic council so that he could face all sorts of adverse problems and pressures.

Why didn't you ever serve on an administrative post ?
Administration is an art as long as it is done honestly. The problem is that most of the people in administration are in it for corruption. We have an outlet, we can practice and earn, they can't. I did get a chance to help administration.
I became in charge of LGH drug supply once. I devised policies regarding drug purchase and dispense and during my tenure every single drug was supplied to the hospital; even the most costly drugs and I was amazed at the amount of funds available. There were so many funds that we didn't know how to spend them. Similarly when I took charge of the new building of LGH I was amazed by the low quality of material used and I refused to sign the contract. So a little bit of honesty makes a lot of difference. We need honest individuals who cannot be corrupted.

Are you happy with your tenure as a Professor?
No. I wanted to achieve much more. I wanted to change the teaching methods. For postgraduate teaching, twice weekly presentations, teaching in Out-patient, teaching in theatre, posting a question of the day on the notice board, written ward-tests formed the tiers of my teaching program.
An emergency room has been set up in the ICU of the ward complete with all emergency kits. We try to keep a system. All personnel are authorized to admit urgent patients. This prevents all kinds of delay. We have devised a ward phone for the duty doctor, just like a mobile, so that anybody can contact the ward at all times instead of finding people on duty in the ward. I wanted to take all this to the next level.

Message to students?

The relation between a teacher and a student was purest realtion ever. We have now made it commercial. I admit that the fault is more in us teachers than the students. Mein itna aggresively parhata hun I know k kabhi kabhar zyadti bhi krdeta hun but bachay boht pyar krte us ko achi tarah lete han. Is ka matlb ha bachay nahi badlay. Ustaad badal gaye hain.

Ma buri tarah dant deta hun kabhi lekin jb bachay chup kr k sur jhuka k chalay jatay han to dil se un k liye dua nikalti ha k Allah us ko jaza de us ne meri izat rakh li. Agay se bol parta to ma kia krta.

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