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Quackery is the biggest issue of the dental community in Pakistan; Prof. Dr Nasir Ali Khan

Professor Dr Nasir Ali Khan is Secretary-General, Pakistan Dental Association (PDA). and Head of Department of Oral Biology, Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC).

-By Dr Muattar Hanif

After completing BDS from Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences, Jamshoro, Pakistan in 1992, Prof. Dr Nasir joined as House Officer in Liaquat National Hospital. He, later on, performed his duties as Resident Medical Officer (RMO) in LNH from 1994 till 1997.

He formally started his career as a demonstrator in 1997 at Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC). In 2002, Prof. Dr Nasir was promoted to Assistant Professor and later on was appointed as Head of Department of Oral Biology in KMDC. Later, he served as Associate Professor and went on to become Professor in 2007.

Prof. Dr Nasir is currently serving as Incharge Dental OPD, Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC). He is also Convener, Department of Oral Biology, University of Karachi.

Among many feathers in his cap, Prof. Dr Nasir was also a member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PMDC) in 2015. He was also Vice President, PDA Sindh Zone from 2012 till 2016.

Dental News recently spoke to him about his contributions to the dental profession and his struggle for the betterment of the field in Pakistan.

  • Briefly tell us about your background in dentistry. Take us through your journey from dental school to your current position.

I started my journey in Jamshoro at the Liaquat University of Medical and Health Sciences and graduated in 1992. That was followed by a house job in Liaquat National Hospital and a two-year residency under the supervision of renowned Oral Maxillofacial surgeon, Dr Marveyn Hussain. I joined as a demonstrator in Karachi Medical and Dental College (KMDC) in 1997. Later, I did my post-graduation from CPSP in 2001, along with a post-graduate diploma in Public Health from Karachi University. I got promoted as an Assistant Professor and Head of Oral Biology in 2002. In 2008, I became the Associate Professor of Oral Biology and got elected as a member of the Pakistan Medical and Dental Council in 2015. I was the only member of the dental board from Sindh. Finally, in 2018, I got promoted as a Professor of Oral Biology in KMDC. I am working as the Secretary-General of the Pakistan Dental Association since 2018, in addition to being the convener of Oral Biology at the University of Karachi. 

  • What are the recent advancements in the dental field and technology?

We all know that necessity is the mother of all invention. Speaking of dental research, there is a huge shift towards evidence-based dentistry and clinical-based research. This leads to clinical implementations and so on. As far as technology is concerned, there are new advancements such as digital X-ray and CAD/CAM. Then there is a technology that can detect any issues pertaining to the oral cavity. In addition to that, invisible aligners are replacing conventional braces. There is a scope, that can detect oral diseases such as oral cancer by emitting special light. Furthermore, there are intraoral cameras and X-rays. The latest advancements in dental X-rays consist of technologies that emit less radiation as compared to the conventional ones and are faster. Similarly, there are whitening options that give better results in a single sitting. Nitrous oxide (laughing gas) is gaining popularity as an anaesthetizing agent, as it allows patients to remain conscious and interact with the dentist. Moreover, there is a new diagnostic tool that can detect any dental caries in the mouth. These are some of the interesting advancements I have come across with.

  • You have recently been appointed as the in-charge of OPD, any plans to improve it.

It has been a few days since I took charge of dental OPDs at KMDC. To be honest, there are issues everywhere including the dental OPDs. These include problems with infrastructure and finance. You will be surprised to hear that despite earning millions, we do not have the authority to spend that money. There is of lack of dental materials, equipment, and dental units along with poor maintenance. I would like the administrative department of KMDC to join hands in my effort to build a better system and infrastructure. I am ready to cooperate in every way possible and hopefully, things will go in the right direction. I would like to suggest an upgrade in the status of a dental OPD to a Dental hospital, as it holds more than 8 dental specialities.  

  • Would you like to enlighten us about PDA, its core objectives and your achievements as its secretary-general?

As you know, we joined as the office bearers at PDA in 2019 and most of our tenure was during the pandemic. We tried to deliver to the best of our abilities despite this challenge. 19 associations have been formed in various cities of Pakistan. We arranged for elections for the first time in Pakistan. Two national conferences and one virtual international dental conference were held in collaboration with Dental News. Achieving everything on merit is one of our goals. Two dental faculty members were sent from Pakistan, as foreign speakers to deliver lectures abroad. This could not be achieved earlier due to the presence of nepotism. There have been events pertaining to World Oral Health Day, including walks and competitions. Concerns regarding the PMC ordinance have been raised on electronic platforms as well as print media. We met with the honourable President of Pakistan, Dr Arif Alvi and spoke to him about the issues. The meeting went on for an hour and we discussed the involvement of stakeholders to compile the PMC regulations to avoid any problems. As secretary-general of PDA, I am trying my best to guarantee the effective running of the association. It is a pity that PDA never had an audit since its inception in 1962. We are the first cabinet to organize a comprehensive audit for 2018, 2019 and 2020. Efforts are being made to streamline the registration process. The tentative date for APDC has been confirmed for 2022, after a 17-year gap. I would request Dr Arif Alvi to support us and declare it a national event.

  • What are the benefits of joining PDA for young graduates?

PDA being a national level association provides fresh graduates with a platform to highlight their issues. They can voice their concerns regarding the newly introduced exit exam by the PMC. Secondly, they can participate as a PDA member and avail many opportunities in international conferences. We are also trying to introduce insurance policies and grants for them to open up clinics, research etc. 

  • What are the biggest challenges that dentists face in the field of basic dental sciences?

The biggest issue that dentists are facing in basic dental sciences is the unavailability of supervisors for post-graduation programs. PMC and HEC need to play their part in this regard. Being secretary-general PDA, I have raised this issue at many forums and have provided possible solutions and suggestions for that. In lieu of this, I want to share some good news that KMDC, with the help of Karachi University, has started post-graduation in Oral Biology, Science of Dental Materials, Periodontology, and Oral Pathology. The post-graduation programs are available in MS and MD. PMC and HEC should have a meeting with stakeholders to highlight important issues and reach solutions.

  • • Do you think there’s a lack of a research curriculum at the undergrad level or lack of conducive environment, your comment?

Yes, I completely agree that there is a lack of a research curriculum and a conducive environment at the undergrad level. Does this raise questions about who is the regulator? The answer to that is the PMC. I would request them to establish a separate research department for the undergrad level. Final-year students should be encouraged to complete a research paper or two. The dental community department actively participates in these activities

  • • What do you think are the significant challenges facing the dental community today?

According to my understanding, quackery is the biggest issue faced by the dental community today. I believe that the government has not taken any significant step to curb it, despite having raised it many times. Another challenge that dentists face is unemployment. Hundreds of dental graduates are jobless. Inflation is yet another problem. Due to the current economic condition, only privileged patients are getting dental treatments, while the non-affording ones don’t even consult dentists. Also, there is a lack of dental-related policies on a national and provincial level. An oral health policy should be implemented. There is an imbalance in the doctor-patient ratio. Urban areas have a ratio of 1:3000 it has exceeded 1:20000 in the rural population. This is a huge discrepancy! Fresh dental graduates prefer working in urban areas instead of remote places. Therefore, I would request the concerned authorities to look into this matter. One way to resolve this is to encourage graduates to work in their native area for at least five years. They should be bound either by contract or some other means to work in their home districts for a few years.

• How is dentistry operating in COVID, any specific recommendations for Pakistani dentists during COVID-19?

COVID-19 has definitely caused a huge setback for the dental community. Regardless of everything, I request my fellow dentists to follow SOPs. They should stick with the recommended guidelines for COVID-19, released by the NHSRC. Patients should not be catered for without adhering to these. The World Health Organisation has shared a set of directions as well. Dentists should get vaccinated.

• Any message for young dental students?

I would advise all dental students to follow COVID SOPs. It is sad to see that many of them are not following these guidelines. Moreover, I would suggest the dental community use PDA as a platform to voice their concerns.

I also request students to maximize distance learning. Try to participate in conferences and webinars to stay updated about the latest advancements and developments. It is a golden opportunity for everyone to join these conferences within the comforts of their home. In the end, I want to thank Dental News for giving me this opportunity.

May 21, 2021

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