By: Dr. Ahmed Zaidi
Prof. Dr. Navid Rashid is one of the most renowned Dental Surgeons in Pakistan. He has done his FDS RCS from London, and MSc. from Leeds. Dr. Navid has been involved with PDA Karachi for a number of years and has held roles of increasing responsibility. He is also the member of the PMDC Central Council. Prof. Dr. Navid Rashid is currently the Principal of the Liaquat College of Medicine and Dentistry in Karachi.
Q. We will be highlighting the two most important matter during today’s session – PMDC and PDA Karachi; what would your initial comments be on both.
A. Firstly, I would like to express my gratitude to Dental News for the opportunity to voice my opinion on your platform. Well, both the stated topics are very important and I would like to start with PMDC.
Q. Recently the PMDC body has been dissolved by the President, what is your opinion on this?
A. I have my serious concerns and reservations on what has happened. I just cannot understand the thought process that goes into such decisions; what solution or what betterment would this bring and how? The ordinance of 2012 dissolved the PMDC body, and now again, after the ordinance of 2014, the body stands dissolved. You need to understand that there is no democratic process in PMDC. The presidential order is against the very essence of democracy in the first place; this will not solve anything. If there has to be change, new rules must be implemented in due time; and for that the required resources must be provided.
Q. Do you think that PMDC has done justice to its role?
A. Certainly not, PMDC could have done a lot more, and only then could justice be served. PMDC has made efforts in short stints but that has been restricted to a certain level. As a premier controlling body, the role of PMDC is quite diverse; but sadly, I can see that PMDC herself has limited understanding of her role.
Q. How do you compare PMDC with the bodies in the West or across the border?
A. There just is no comparison, neither with the West nor with India. They are far ahead in terms of services, healthcare, policy, execution, education, training and more. Look at how India is now becoming the hub for Paedriatics, Cardiology and Urology. I can see India becoming the world’s center for HealthCare, and at the pace that they are growing, they might well surpass the West.
Q. What do you think is the reason for the stagnation of PMDC?
A. I think it is a system that is bound to fail. You see, the PMDC Council has 60 Members and 7 of those members constitute the executive committee. The council meets twice every year; and even in those there is hardly any agenda to be discussed. I have gone through instances where 2500 page agenda file was sent to me either a night before the meeting or served at the meeting table. Can you please explain how can you expect a human to go through that file in a few hours or even less? The agenda usually is flooded with College Inspection reports; colleges where most of us would never even go. We are led by the advisor here, when he says OK, we say OK; and when he says no, we say no.
I have voiced my opinion several times that reviewing college inspections on such an important meeting is just a waste of time. College inspections can be taken care of by third party evaluators. They don’t even need to be doctors or dentists; in fact they don’t even need to be associated with the profession. We can hire third party control organizations who offer professionalism and quality in evaluation, such as the ISO. These organizations can certify whether or not an institution has the capability to impart medical/dental education.
During the meeting, we should discuss the real problems at hand. The curriculum, the policies, the regulations and their implementations. Sadly, none of these are ever discussed.
Q. If given a chance, what would be your agenda?
A. I will keep it simple, because we just do not need more complications. My first focus would be curriculum. We don’t have a uniform curriculum in Pakistan. A college in Karachi is expected to have a more advanced curriculum than some of the remote areas, why? Then again, the curriculum needs to be updated and revised regularly. Medicine is growing at such a fast pace, and we must keep ourselves abreast with the latest trends and technology.
I would also have PMDC members at local councils. It is the locals who understand their situation best. I understand that 60 people cannot meet more than twice a year, and that is because the cost associated with travel and lodging, the time required, the arrangements and more; but if we can have a local council, members can meet more often.
Q. Can you please elaborate more on your idea of a local council?
A. The idea is that PMDC should be a central body; and then there should be provincial and city level councils representing the territorial spread. This will allow PMDC members to meet more often, and hence discuss and resolve issues more efficiently.
The list of short listed issues should be escalated to the National level. The agenda must be handed over to the participating members at least a month before the meeting, so that they can suggest the required changes and set their priorities.
At present the 7 member executive council run the regulation for the entire nation for a term of two years; but the system is such that the same faces are re-elected time and time again. Further, the members meet once every month, which means that they are not synchronized. The members are all voluntary, hence they are not able to justify the time required by the position. I would suggest that we must have full time executive members, so that they can run the affairs efficiently.
Q. Do you think that the mushrooming of Private Colleges has also led to the deterioration of medical and dental education in Pakistan?
A. I don’t think so. It is the system which must be blamed. Even today, we are short of Dental and Medical Colleges; but the system is such that the Medical and Dental Professionals are not good enough, or that they are not exposed to the professional skills required. Our people are so talented that despite the limited resources, they are still able to lead the world; imagine how much better we would be only if we have a proper system in place.
If you take India for example, in 2006 they had 280 Dental Colleges with an average of 80 students per college, while we had 10. Today they have more than 500 Dental Colleges; but what they have done well is the fact that they have updated and upgraded their curriculum and their facilities. Today you can see a huge difference between the standard of India and Pakistan; this is something that wasn’t present a couple of decades back.
I truly believe that real culprit for the downfall of the medical and dental profession in Pakistan is the poor system. Look at what the West has done, they have a perfect system in place. It is the system that prevents wrong doing, and it is the system that ensures that things are followed in proper order.
Here the entire power is in the hands of the registrar. I must clarify that I am not trying to blame anyone at this point in time; it is the system that has made the registrar such. He is the eyes and the ears of the panel, whatever he supports is considered right, and whatever he rejects is considered wrong. We would need the system to change if we are to improve.
Q. What changes do you want to see in the system?
A. Firstly, a new presidential order should focus on the new system, rather than new faces alone. If the system is not changed, this entire exercise would be a mere waste of time.
Secondly, the structure of the PMDC needs overhauling. I strongly advocate that the PMDC should be a provincial subject. This is the only way we can ensure a smooth and synchronized PMDC, keeping in view the limited resources we have.
Thirdly, we need to have a National Health Policy; and that should provide the statutory provisions required to run the system efficiently. The Policy must also enforce the need to upgrade and update the curricula regularly.
PMDC should be the burning issue as far as the Health Policy of Pakistan is concerned. If you are unable to put a system in place here, nothing is going to change.
Lastly, I would want college inspections to be done by professional third parties. Only they can give a neutral assessment. Well, please understand that most senior people aspire for a job after retirement in one of the private colleges; do you think that they will ever go against the college management? Of course not! Again, it is the system that forces the PMDC members to go wrong.
Q. Thank you for such an elaborate discussion on PMDC; I would now like you to tell us a little about PDA Karachi.
A. PDA Karachi has been the only face of PDA for many years now. Even when PDA Central was unseen and unheard of, PDA Karachi was in full swing. I can proudly say that PDA Karachi has been the most active of the PDA branches, and often we have set positive precedents for others to follow. I believe that Dr. Arif Alvi did a good job in putting the activities together, and today the current panel of PDA Karachi is working actively for the betterment of the Dental Profession in Pakistan.
PDA for the last few years, has been dormant; while despite the limited resources PDA Karachi has been vibrant, always looking for new activities to engage the dental profession better.
Q. Are there any problems that you would like to voice at our forum today?
A. Yes certainly. PDA purchased two plots from the earlier activities; one in Lahore and the other in Karachi. The problem is pending with Dr. Arif Alvi for quite a while now. I fully understand that Dr. Arif Alvi is busy, and also that he has been trying to get this issue resolved; but unfortunately it is pending till date. The plot in Karachi should be used to create the PDA House, and this would serve as the center for education, professional development, welfare and more.
I would request Dr. Arif Alvi to kindly look into this matter, and have this resolved at the earliest.
Q. Would you like to highlight some of your recent activities?
A. PDA Karachi has been active in all areas; and recently we have introduced several programs that involve the Dental Auxiliaries. We have successfully conducted three programs so far and plan to do many more. We are looking forward to training 400-600 Dental Auxiliaries.
We are even negotiating with a University to professionally certify the Dental Auxiliaries, so that they may apply for better Jobs in Pakistan and abroad. The reason we are focusing on Auxiliaries is the fact that they have been the most deprived among the Dental Community. I would say that they are the unsung heroes of Dentistry. The problem that we are facing right now is, to establish a minimum entry criterion. I can assure that work is underway, and hopefully a program will be announced soon.
Further, we have successfully held conferences and programs across Karachi; reaching most Dental Colleges and students.
Q. What are the future plans of PDA Karachi?
A. We are working to have the Dental Curriculum improved. This would bring a huge transformation in the dental profession. We are also looking forward to collaborating with the Central Council of PDA for the said. Sadly, dental curriculum is something that has not been talked of anywhere; rather it should have been the most talked-about subject.
Further, we are planning more training programs for the unsung heroes of the Dentistry – the dental auxiliaries.
We are also negotiating with several health insurance companies, and would like to offer health insurance to the dental auxiliaries. We are actively working on this project. We are also trying to set a minimum wage level for Dental Auxiliaries.
We want PDA Karachi to be the voice of Dentists in Karachi. We are working to get all Dentists in Karachi on one platform, so that they can voice their opinions, concerns and problems. We want PDA Karachi to be their organization, one that they can trust and rely on.
Q. What are your view on the new PDA Central Council?
A. We are all great friends off the table, but here I am speaking as the President of PDA Karachi. Dr Saqib is, and will be always be, a very close associate and friend; but professionally I am obliged to represent PDA Karachi and bring forth our problems and concerns.
PDA Karachi believes that PDA Central must act as the elder brother. PDA Central should be involved with the National Policy making, enforcement, regulation; and all PDA Branches must seek permission of the Central Council in their matters.
Unfortunately if you look at the past two decades, what has PDA done other than hold conferences? Conducting a conference is not the job of the PDA Central; it is to be done by the local council. I would like to ask the PDA Central Members, what if a conference is announced in Larkana tomorrow? Would PDA central organize the conference? I believe not, and that is because they would leave the conference to the local authority, because the local people can conduct a local conference in the best way. Why is this not being done as far as Karachi is concerned?
Conducting a conference in Karachi is not the domain of PDA Central; it is the prime job of PDA Karachi, and we should be doing it.
I would like to pledge 100% support to PDA Central and assure that they will find PDA Karachi standing by their side on concrete issues; but we want PDA Central to clearly demarcate the roles so that we can all work in harmony and synchronization.
Q. Is there is anything further that you would like to add on behalf of PDA Karachi.
A. Yes, I feel very proud that PDA Karachi is one of the most transparent organizations in Pakistan. Recently, we have had our accounts audited and can present the audit report on request. We would like to see an audit report from all branches, including the PDA Central Council.
Q. Thank you very much for your time, is there anything that you would like to say at the close?
A. Thank you very much for the opportunity. I truly believe that Dental News is doing a brilliant job for the Dental Profession, I would like to convey my sincerest wishes for all your future endeavors.