An Inspirational Example for Dream Chasers
By Mohammad Ashraf Chaudhry
“I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor”. Thoreau
Born in a narrow and crowded lane of Haripura, Rawalpindi in the year 1980 in a modestly educated family, who would anticipate then that one day this little, anonymous boy would be walking in the corridors of one of the world’s most prestigious medical schools, namely Johns Hopkins, and rubbing shoulders with the world’s most knowledgeable and Nobel Prize winning people in the field of medical research. J. Hopkins since its inception in 1876 alone has produced 34 Nobel Laureates, and the latest, Carol Greider, in the year 2009 in medicine. The institution is known for consistently churning out some of the world’s best scientists and most talented doctors. That Mubashir would be a part of it is a matter of celebration for him, for his parents as well as for the Muslim community in this country.
Like a rare and expensive Lacoste perfume that singles out its wearer even in a crowd, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Oxford also have the knack to keep their graduates distinct. And rightfully so they let their Alumni boast of the branded logos on the credentials they earn from there.
The saying is that by perseverance even a snail can reach the ark. (Charles H. Spurgeon). Mubashar’s life in a way is a living proof of it. His selection for fellowship in ultrasound procedure, a comparatively new field, at J. Hopkins for the year 2011-2012 re-establishes the veracity of the fact that when hard-work, passion, single-mindedness of aim, confidence, and clarity of vision, combine with good attitude, modesty, respectfulness and luck in life then the sky becomes the limit. It is in my personal knowledge that Mubashar amply possesses these qualities. His frequent use of “Alham-do-lillah and Ma'shallah”, and his never failing to call us on special occasions contributed a lot to get him where he is now.
Mubashar’s journey to fellowship at the world’s number two best medical research school is basically a tale of his gradual transformation from the ordinary to the extraordinary. Shakespeare was right when he said, “Education should be as gradual as the moonrise, perceptible not in progress, but in result”. Education brought both mellow-ness as well as depth in him. I call his academic journey an eye-opener for all those young aspirants who on encountering the slightest setback in their studies or in life, either just give up or rush to burn the whole barn.
Setbacks are the turns in life and they often test the individual’s soul. They in fact are the spice of life. Mubashar also have had his share of them. He had to go to Ross medical school in the Caribbean because he could not get a place on the mainland. Second, notwithstanding his respectably high USMLE scores, accomplished in the first attempt, he still could not get into any residency program, not to talk of one of his own choice , which being residency in the EM (Emergency Medicine). At one stage the barge appeared to be sinking but for the strenuous efforts of his two cousins, Dr. Zulfiqar and Dr. Ahsan, and two ‘Aminas’ (one, his wife and the other, my daughter-in-law), who scrambled for him for about three hours to finally get him into an IM ( Internal Medicine) residency program in Nevada. He took this detour and spent one full year there, but did not abandon his life-dream till he got into the EM residency at Metropolitan Hospital Center, New York. Passion, hard-work and positive attitude brought to the surface his real talent there, and he rose to become the Chief of the ultrasound procedure in Emergency Department in his 3 rd year of residency.
Mubashar’s acceptance at J. Hopkins for fellowship conveys a positive message to all the young doctors and dream-chasers that minor jolts and failures should not serve as bottle-necks to them, nor should they inhibit them from applying to the top-notch institutions. Thinking rich is a ladder to growing rich, says Napoleon Hill. “Keep your mind closed against all people who depress or discourage you in any way. Desperately seek the company of people who influence you to think and act for yourself”.
Mubashar tacitly acted upon these principles. In his own words, “I definitely felt like being handicapped when I applied for residency. Graduating from foreign schools requires higher board scores…higher levels of proficiency… many people still have negative connotations with foreign schools…. But at the advanced level, these prestigious and Ivy League institutions just look for the rightly qualified, zestful and most committed people, regardless of where they had graduated from, or to what color, race or religion they belonged to”.
Besides who cares that once one had had a bad cold or that one moved about in diapers. Man is not a skunk that he should smell bad all his life. Nobody asks Bill Gates that he once flunked in his very first year at Harvard in the 70’s; or the great scientist, Isaac Newton whom his own teachers had declared as incorrigible and ‘clueless” because of his poor grades, or Winston Churchill who failed at Harrow in his 6 th grade. I have never seen anybody taunting Abraham Lincoln or the great inventor, Thomas Edison, that they both dismally lacked in formal education. Their sterling accomplishments speak loud and clear on their behalf.
We live in America where every thing is possible. And we live in a world in which a deaf Beethoven have had the potential to become the world’s best composer; a high-school basketball team drop-out, Michael Jordon carried the potential to become the world’s greatest basketball player, a mentally retarded boy, Albert Einstein, declared so by his own parents had had the ability to become the greatest theoretical physicist. Here even a lisping man can develop the ability to speak with pebbles in his mouth and become a great orator. The world is for those who do their best and keep trying and who never give up. Mubashar’s self-confidence in his own potential acted as his strength. Using that he turned the lemons in his life into a tasty toast of lemonade.
In my estimation, Mubashar always figured out as a somewhat slow-paced and easy-going boy, reticent and shy, never very articulate, never being the first to raise his hand that he knew the answer. I also held the view that Mubashar preferred to be led more than to being a leader himself. I am glad that I have been proven wrong because I mistook his modesty and humbleness as his negative traits.
“Why did you choose to be an Emergency Medicine (EM) doctor when ED is like a mad house where everybody is in panic and in haste?” I asked him so because not very many would-be-doctors opt for this field, and besides, I had excessively watched the TV “ER” program. His answer was interesting, “I look at ‘EM’ as a ‘gateway’ or ‘mouth’ of a hospital…I had an opportunity to work overseas in Kashmir after the earthquake in 2005; at that time I realized that a person with multiple skills could be a great benefit to areas of the world that have little contact with physicians. This basically solidified my desire to go into EM…EM, no doubt, is a fast paced, on your toes, rush-rush field that makes sure that you know your material well… it’s a quick hands on field…we do everything from fixing broken bones, reducing dislocated joints, stitching wounds, putting in chest tubes, minimizing traumas, even delivering babies, pulling out a stuck-marble from a kid’s throat, rushing relief to one bitten by a poisonous snake, even extracting a pop-corn from the nostrils of a grown up person etc”. In other words, an EM doctor is a ‘handyman doctor’, a ‘Fix-All Doctor’, ‘An All-in-One Doctor’ ”. Interesting.
“And what is this ultrasound stuff that you are going to specialize in?” I fired another question. “It is the latest technique of instantly peeping into a patient’s body and knowing there and then what is wrong with him/her. A radiologist reads the X-Rays and diagnoses the disease; besides, it is also a time-consuming procedure. We, on the other hand, not only diagnose the disease, but also administer the treatment on the spot in the ED. It saves time, and time means life. Apart from participating in one or two research projects throughout the year of fellowship at J. Hopkins, I will also be teaching how to properly use ultrasounds in the ED to oversea doctors and to the residents at Hopkins.” In other words, Mubashir will be a “Doctors’ doctor”, as well.
When in high school Mubashar once worked under my wife, Sarfraz, at one of the McDonald’s which she managed. His mother and my wife are sisters. When I asked her about Mubashir, she replied, “Mubashir was always unassuming, always focused on the assigned task, and always regular and punctual”. His father, Mohammad Anwar, opined, “Whenever I asked Mubashar how he did in his tests? Invariably his answer used to be, ‘Alham-do-lillah, it was OK’, I would instantly know that he did well”.
His wife, Amina, however, feels differently, “Mubashar’s unassuming posture sometimes becomes irritating. He just doesn’t feel the need to make a mention of any of his accomplishments”. His cousin and my son, Dr. Zulfiqar, views him as, “A God-conscious and God-fearing person… he is exceptionally hard-working and amazingly humble. He hates any show-offs. He is an ‘ad-libber’, i.e. has the ability to change ‘on the fly’, and is not afraid to make adjustments. Even after spending one year in the Internal Medicine, he did not give up his dream to be an EM doctor. He is tenacious without being stubborn”.
The motto at Johns Hopkins is, “Knowledge for the World”, and the part of the world that Mubashar hails from should not stay deprived of his expertise. His parents, Anwar and Rehana, both had suffered some health setbacks in the year 2009. Good news was what Mubashar’s family needed to hear most. The dawn of the year 2010 brought the much awaited good news for him as well as for his parents. God blessed him and Amina with very cute twins, Yusuf and Zayd, along with the news of his acceptance at J. Hopkins.
One need not remind Mubashar what Allah says in the Qur’an, “And swell not your cheek (for pride) at men, nor walk in insolence through the earth: for Allah loves not any arrogant boaster. And be moderate in your pace and lower your voice: for the hardest of sounds, without doubt, is the braying of the donkey”. (Al Luqman 31:19) This reminder may be unnecessary but it is always valid as we climb up the ladder of life. The risk is that “the taller the bamboo grows, the lower it bends”. Gratitude to Allah is the best way to celebrate good news. Well done Mubashar. We all are proud of you.