By Dr Kiran Firdous
Please tell us briefly about your journey in the dental world, your education, achievements and events that led to your appointment as Associate Professor at Bolan Medical College Hospital (BMCH).
Dr Asma Kakar: I was born in Lahore and had my education from the same city, and graduated in dentistry, from d’Montmorency College of Dentistry ( BDS / hons with medal). I did my FCPS in Oral & Maxilofacial surgery from King Edward Medical College/ university as an honor of first fellow from King Edwards in this field. I then started my career as Assistant Professor in Lahore. Now, I am working as an Associate Professor (Supervisor) in Bolan Medical College, Quetta. I have done research work on Oral cancer, which has been published in various national journals. You may ask; How a Pakka lahoree (Purely Native Lahorite) became a Bolanian? This happened because of my marriage with my colleague (FCPS /oral surgeon) who belongs to Bolan (Balochistan).
Dental News: What was the main purpose behind the establishment of a separate Oral & Maxillofacial Unit at BMCH?
Dr Asma Kakar: It is government policy everywhere to extend health facilities to the people, In Balochistan, the province is in dire need, as we have only one medical college in the public sector. Dental section is part of this only college. We as dentists always support new units in dental education and dental health, not only in Quetta but in all districts of Balochistan.
Dental News: What are the challenges being faced by students and patients in Bolan, adjoining localities and Balochistan, in general. In terms of quality oral healthcare, disease prevention and access to medical facilities/professionals?
Dr Asma Kakar: Dental section at Bolan Medical College have a history of 15 years, in previous years, the situation was not encouraging. Our students face problems like; shortage of teaching faculty, specially at basic level. Bolan College is a very spacious college, but the dental students have a narrow space. Class rooms, labs, teachers, offices, all are still in need.
Dental patients in Quetta, especially in rural Balochistan have numbers of problem in their dental health. I have seen a large number of teenage dental patients, who lost 50% of their dentition because extraction of teeth is the only solution they know of controlling toothache, except in Quetta the restorative dentistry, prosthodontics, orthodontics facilities are not available across the whole province in the public sector.
After all, we are hopeful, because of joining of young, energitic, competent people to the dentist squad, starting of post graduate training, establishment of preventive dentistry, awarness of dental health. No doubt, government efforts in this regard are factors, that create hope for higher standards of dentistry in Balochistan.
Dental News: How does the newly established Oral and Maxillofacial Unit at BMCH aim to address these challenges and what are the positive changes that you are anticipating?
Dr Asma Kakar: Maxilofacial surgery unit at BMCH has a very short history, it has started work at minor oral surgery and major maxilofacial surgery under general anesthesia unit has potential of expansion in other spheres of dentistry, like; restorative dentistry, orthodontics and prosthodontics. Our team under the leadership of senior Professors, is determined to enlighten the minds on our part and we hope for good contributions from other relevant spheres.
Dental News: Do you feel that the governing authorities are implementing measures or planning reforms for the development and improvement of medical/dental education in Balochistan?
Dr Asma Kakar: Yes, the government is trying its best for provision of 30 to 40 dental units in the civil hospital, BMCH, besides the up gradation of dental section of the dental college in the coming years. But still, it calls for further measures to organize the efforts. Not only in dental, but also in the medical field. If interconnected and organized efforts are made, I am sure the current resources are enough for solving our problems. The problems need immediate measures. We must prioritize the engagment and hiring of young energetic and competent people. I am very hopeful for a brighter future of dentistry in Balochistan.
Dental News: Tell us about the prominent facilities that will be made available for patients, as well as students, in training, at the Oral & Maxillofacial Unit BMCH?
Dr Asma Kakar: As i have mentioned earlier, the dental ward is new in BMCH. The prominent facilities provided to patients are, 6 days OPD per week, 2 days for minor oral surgery and 1 day for major surgery under general anesthesia. In coming days, we hope the 3rd year students and the house officers’ duties are diverted to BMCH. For students training, we have 10 dental units, a 10-bed ward, highly qualified teaching faculty, etc.
Dental News: Enlighten us on the prevalence of oral diseases and other related conditions in Balochistan? What steps do you feel should be taken to develop the profession further in the province?
Dr Asma Kakar: Balochistan has its advantages. The people are religious in orientation, Maswak is in common use among the illiterate segments of society. People are very simple and take natural food. Balochistan’s water is rich in minerals including; flouride. These are the factors helping the people in maintaining good dentition.
On the other side, illiteracy, no awareness of dental problems, lack of treatment facilities, cultural symbols like naswar (snuff) are in common use; not only in men, but also in females especially the older females. These are the negative aspects we face.
As i have mentioned earlier, organized efforts from government side and team work of the province’s dentists may overcome these problem in a very short time.
Dental News: Does Pakistan, at present, have adequate teaching and treatment facilities to cater to the training needs of Postgraduate Surgery students?
Dr Asma Kakar: On the national level, Pakistan has a number of famous institutions. Punjab dental college, Meo hospital, AFID, etc. have their rich academic atmosphere, along with their practical exposure. In Balochistan, we are very new to post graduate training, it will take time to florish. Here the young dentist are highly energetic and show great potential.
Dental News: What advice would you like to give to the young dentists in the country so they can fulfill their duties to their full potential towards humanity?
Dr Asma Kakar: I have a message for young dentists as said by Mother Teresa: which is; Do it, Any way…… People are often unreasonable, irrational and self centered. Forgive any way…..If you are successful, you win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed, any way….If you are honest and sincere, people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere, any way….. What you spend years creating, other could destroy overnight. Create, Any way….. The good you do today, will often be forgotten…. Do good, Any way.
In the final analysis, It is between you and God. It is never between you and them, Any way.