Eleventh DOGANA Retreat in Philadelphia a Resounding Success
By Iman Sultan
The Dow Graduates Association of North America met for their eleventh spring retreat at the Hyatt on Penn's Landing, overlooking the picturesque Delaware River in Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love. Philly proved the ideal location as friends reunited, enjoyed entertainment, delivered heartrending, personal speeches and contributed to the common cause of preserving and recreating Dow's legacy and supporting its vast community of graduates. The hotel stands on the edge of the waterfront with the streets, shops and restaurants or Philly lying on the other side for the idyllic, three-day retreat, starting on Friday of May 23 and ending on Sunday.
The first action on the agenda of the retreat was a four-hour-long Continued Education Meeting (CME), marking DOGANA's devotion to the discipline of medicine and established doctors' willingness to increase their knowledge. A General Body meeting set the program in order and filled the community on important updates. The evening entertainment was a welcome respite from these official duties. The program commenced with everyone rising for three national anthems, the songs of America and Canada, and the Qaumi Taranah, the anthem of the Dow graduates' country of origin. The theme for this retreat shone a light on the women of Dow and their myriad accomplishments. This initiative counteracted gender quotas in the history of Dow University and showed female Dowites the appreciation they deserved. Nasreen Jamal, an alumna who passed away in a bomb blast in Afghanistan while serving humanity, was memorialized in a speech. Samira Zubeiri, the former general secretary of DOGANA, was also remembered, having tragically passed away in terminal illness. Awards were distributed to the dedicated and deserving alumni of Dow and their families.
The organizers of the event invested in high quality entertainment that revealed the creative side of Dow alumni. Pakistani cultural and literary history was celebrated in a Tamsili Mushaira ("Tableau Poetry Performance") wherein the actors and participants portrayed renowned poets. Leftist poet Habib Jalib, humorist Dilawar Figar, and feminist Kishwar Naheed were all featured in the fictional mushaira. Naheed's famous, critical slant fostered under the Zia years was discernible in the play and fit the retreat's theme of honoring women. The play also included Obaidullah Aleem, Shabnam Shakeel, Parveen Shakir, and the legendary Ghalib. Every poet gave a little anecdote of their life history and then recited their poetry. Mashoud Qadri portrayed Jalib and stole the show with his tongue-in-cheek "Musheer." Nadeem Ahsan played Khumar Barabankvi, who moderated the mushaira. The Tamsili Mushaira garnered strong praise and popularity. Afterward, singer Asad Abbas took the stage and sang renditions of Rahat Fateh Ali Khan. The evening ended on a light-hearted note with the Dowites doing bhangra dancing.
The next day, the retreat's bazaar was standing and ready for business. Stalls with gemstone jewelry, calligraphy art, South Asian art, and Pakistani clothes were up and running. Doctors and their families made bargains on the exquisite products sewn, manufactured and painted by Pakistanis. A drama written by Dowite Mujrim Koan premiered in the afternoon, entitled "Awam ki Adalat" ("The People's Court"). In the play, a terrorist and a corrupt army general alike are tried for their crimes against the Pakistani people, the police officers they bribed standing surly in the background. The drama provided cutting social commentary and inspired many laughs in the audience. More compelling, however, was the real life APPNA presidential debate. The candidates went head to head with each other, vying for the most powerful position in the Pakistani diaspora of North America.
The women of Dow were formally recognized and awarded in the evening ceremony, just before dinner. The Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Umer Daraz Khan. Wamiq Sultan, the architect of the retreat, was awarded a plaque for his efforts. Dr Azra Raza was the keynote speaker for this year. Dr Raza took the podium and graciously thanked DOGANA for giving her this honor. She then attested, "If I were in Pakistan, I might have been killed. Because I'm not just a doctor, I'm a Shia doctor." Dr Raza bravely spoke out against religious persecution in Pakistan and the targeting of Shia professionals. Her words resonated with wisdom and power. She urged doctors to utilize their power and influence to protect sectarian minorities from violence. Dr Raza's speech proved devastatingly relevant. Just recently, Dr Ali Mehdi Qamar, a graduate of Punjab Medical College, was killed in Lahore for being an Ahmadi Muslim.
The evening concluded with a fashion show and music. An open mic transformed the event into a karaoke show and doctors became carefree, enjoying time with the friends from the pinnacle of their youth on the last night of the event. The eleventh DOGANA retreat was a success. Old friendships were revived, new friendships were made, and attendees enjoyed a strong sense of community. The retreat also provided important lessons. Female Dowites were recognized and celebrated for their triumphs and struggles, and Dr Raza reminded Dow alumni of their responsibility towards religious minorities in Pakistan. It is the responsibility of Pakistanis to give back to their communities and stand against injustice. Fortunately, that's exactly what DOGANA is doing.