Pakistan - Johns Hopkins University-Pakistan Fogarty International Trauma and Injury Research Training Program (JHU-PAK ICTIRT)
The Johns Hopkins University-Pakistan Fogarty International Collaborative Trauma and Injury Research Training Program (JHU-PAK ICTIRT) is a partnership between the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health and Aga Khan University supported by a grant from the John E. Fogarty International Center of the National Institutes for Health, Department of Health and Human Services. The core objective is to build a strong network of professionals and help develop sustainable research capacity on acute care of trauma and injuries and emergency medicine in Pakistan and South Asian. The field-based student will serve as a research or teaching assistant to JHU and our local collaborators at AKU in Pakistan. Duties range from primary data collection to report writing and manuscript preparation. Students are expected to remain in Pakistan for the duration of their placement.
Having grown up in India, Pakistan held a deep fascination and curiosity for me. Indians typically have a wide range of theories and ideas about what Pakistan is like, with very few having the opportunity to actually visit and experience the country firsthand. I was delighted to learn that I had been given the chance to see a small, albeit important, part of Pakistan – Karachi – through the Global Health Established Field Placement Award.
Karachi felt like a combination of many Indian cities that I had been to, but with an indeterminable additional quality. Friends, including those from JHSPH, had given me a sense of what to expect. Still, with persistent media coverage of violence in the city, I wasn’t sure what I would be in for. No doubt, I had an underlying sense of caution about the security situation. However, my hosts were very thoughtful about making sure I was safe at all times, and soon after, I started to feel at home. Beyond that, it was fascinating hearing people’s opinions about the city and politics, and getting a sense for how the daily violence there has disrupted what everyone said was an easygoing city a few decades ago.
My hosts at the Aga Khan University Hospital, and also friends from JHSPH and other periods of life, made my stay extremely pleasant. I learnt right off the bat that Pakistanis were incredibly hospitable, and thankfully, I felt completely at ease in a place that I had never been to. The people I interacted with had a genuine and sincere curiosity about India, and were truly happy to converse and engage with someone from across the border. More than anything, I realized that our national interests – Hindi films, cricket, food and politics – were exactly the same. As someone from South India, I was also a little bit of an outsider, given that my Urdu/Hindi is not fluent. However, that did not stop people from asking questions or me from attempting to dive into a conversation with what Urdu/Hindi I knew. From conversations with friends to taxi drivers to research partners, I was constantly reminded that we shared so much in common, and there was always an excitement in knowing that I was truly lucky to have this experience.
Public health in Pakistan is at an interesting intersection. I had the good fortune of being based at Aga Khan, which is a highly regarded institution in the country, and also at the forefront of numerous public health studies. My hosts there provided me with good background on the situation there, particularly around my topic of interest, emergency care. There were some interesting similarities and differences to what I had seen in India, particularly around the role of government and the private sector. I felt the philanthropic sector was more active in the country than in India, and was trying to fill gaps where the government was unable to meet needs, such as in emergency medical services.
Overall, I am truly grateful for the opportunity to visit and work briefly in Pakistan. Through the JHSPH network, and through this visit, I believe I have made some lifelong friends and productive professional relationships. My hope is that this visit is the start of many to come going forward.