Dr Irfan Qureshi is one of the most renowned and respected Implantologists in Pakistan. Dr Qureshi is a graduate of Baqai Medical University, Karachi and then went on to do his Masters’ in Prosthodontics from King’s College, London. He has also done his Certification in Clinical Implantology from UK, and is also the first Diplomate of the International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI) from Pakistan. He is also the ICOI ambassador to Pakistan and recently he became the first Pakistan based clinician to receive the qualification of Diplomate Implant Dentistry from the prestigious Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh. He is known both nationally and internationally for his drive for knowledge and professional development. He is a speaker at almost every event in Pakistan and has also lectured at prestigious events in UAE, South Korea and Germany. In South Korea, Seoul in 2011 he won a third prize at the young implantologist oral presentation competition at the ICOI world congress.
During the course of the interview, Dr Qureshi explains how the Clinical Masters’ changed the course of his professional career.
Q. What made you do a masters’ from the UK?
Like everyone, I wanted to excel in my career, and King`s College London is considered to have the best dental school in all of Europe. I considered the US schools as well, and looking back, perhaps I would have enjoyed quality learning in the US too at a lower cost, however, as clichéd as it may sound, I wanted to come back to Pakistan and teach youngsters and motivate them. Seeing that our PMDC and institutions seem to follow the UK system more than the US, I opted to go to the UK for my Master`s.
Q. What difference did you see in the teaching system of Pakistan and the UK?
You know, I am known to be outspoken among colleagues and friends and I say this with sincere regret, that medical and dental teaching has now become a business in our country and that is where I will stop, saying that when education is SOLD rather than IMPARTED, the essence of knowledge is corrupted.
Having said that, I must commend my teachers from Baqai, Drs Jaffer Jafri, Talha Mufeed, Kashif Ikram, Zia Abbas, Madam Shakila, Khalid Shafiq, Najib Sidiki, Asad Javed, Mahmood Haider, Kefi Iqbal and many others who I apologise to, if I forget to mention them here. Dr Mushtaq, Dr Indra, Dr Rehana Meher, and specially Dr Abid Mehmood, at JPMC where I did my house job, it is because of these people, that I am able to perform clean surgeries, complex surgical procedures in implantology with confidence and self-assurance. Last but not the least, Dr Saqib Rashid, my friend, my brother and my mentor who I have learnt so much from. I can confidently claim that this exposure I got at JPMC would have been difficult if not impossible to get anywhere else and I would like to, through this interview extend my heartfelt gratitude to these mentors who have contributed so much in my career.
However mentors like this exist despite the system, and not because of it. These are selfless teachers, worth more than their weight in gold in my opinion. The PMDC needs to take concrete steps to ensure that the faculty is given their due share of credit for their contribution and that the students get quality education worth the enormous amount of money they pay to private colleges these days.
I believe firmly that our clinicians are more talented than what I saw in the UK, however, the major difference in the UK and Pakistan in my opinion is ACCOUNTABILITY, MUTUAL RESPECT BETWEEN COLLEAGUES, and COMMITMENT TO PROGRESS WITH PROFESSIONALISM.
Q. What were your inherent fears when applying for the program?
You know i believe fear is your best friend and your worst enemy at the same time. Of course i had my fears, will i get in? What if i don’t pass? Will i be accepted by colleagues? Will i do as well as the rest of the high flying students? How will i live as a poor student in an expensive place like London? But if you can use your fear to your advantage rather than letting it consume you, all else falls into place. I made great friends, got extensive exposure, learnt from the best in the world, meeting people like Professor BGN Smith, David Garber, and Richard Palmer whose text books I read in undergraduate was a truly inspirational experience.
Q. Why do you think is it important for professionals from Pakistan to get foreign education?
Going to a place like London, living as a student, and roughing it out was a humbling experience, getting up early cooking cleaning running to catch the bus and then working all day in the clinics in classes and the labs, doing it day in and day out toughens you up. It opens your eyes to research, to progress, to modern ways of learning and ultimately there is that subtle change that makes its way inside you, the confident body language, and the self-assurance of knowing that you are finally a trained expert is hugely gratifying.
Q. What would be the best time for a student to plan a Masters’ Program and how should they plan the finances?
I learnt the hard way, I had no one in my family who was a dentist so i had to run around and find my way through trial and end error. I believe the planning should start early, and yes the education now is expensive! Very expensive!! but here i I would like to push youngsters to look at the royal college exams where they can validate their knowledge and skills with royal college qualifications after taking their exams and they don’t have to pay for full time taught courses.
Q. Tell us about your Implantology qualification from Royal College of Surgeons?
When I was sitting for the Diploma Implant Dentistry exam at the Royal College of Surgeons in Edinburgh, I was the first ever candidate to attempt the exam from Pakistan, let alone pass. And I was scared to fail of course, and it is also a very expensive exam spread out over 3 grueling days, and you have to travel to Scotland to sit the exam. But I had two main motivating factors, 1. The Royal College is a prestigious institution and to have my Implantology experience and work endorsed by the Royal College with their qualification would be a great honor, and 2. I wanted to make way for youngsters, blaze a new trail for them so they can do the same and put Pakistan’s name up there.
After the exam, I believe all the preparation I did and all I learnt, I now have an approach to Implantology which involves highest standard of care and immaculate protocol, my patients are satisfied and appreciate my commitment and I am thankful to Allah for rewarding my hard work.
Q. What would your advice be to the youngsters who wish to be the next implants master?
We all have a choice, to do average work, live average lives, and die as an average man. Or we can choose to strive towards progress, live in the pursuit of excellence, and work as hard as we can to achieve that goal and even if you don’t reach that goal, the vigor and strength with which you march towards your goal will be long remembered. BDS is only the beginning of what can potentially be an enthralling journey. I believe that the MSc at King`s College London and Diploma Implant Dentistry at Royal College of Surgeons, both world renowned institutions, helped me a lot to gain knowledge, develop confidence and most importantly, gave me inspiration to do more. Getting a Master`s degree, becoming an expert at your specialty, writing a thesis, defending that thesis in front of an international examiners panel, presenting cases and defending them, studying under renowned names…it is all of immense value in forging a well-rounded career. I strongly recommend youngsters to go for Master`s programs, rub shoulders with other high flying students, let the world witness the exuberance of Pakistani youth. Personally, I still believe that the Master`s is just another small step, there is so much more to do, I am prepared, and the sky is the limit.