the Editor: Akhtar
APPNA Qissa, an Inspiring Story
There are several indicators to mirror a country’s
progress - GNP, per capita consumption of electricity,
number of patients per doctor, rate of industrial
expansion, expenditure on health, and so on and
so forth. Yet, while some countries pride on these
well-known denominators of development, they cannot
claim ascendancy in professional excellence or academic
A vivid indicator of all-round progress and professionalism
is the quality of publications - primary and secondary
journals documenting Research and Development (R&D)
advances, popular scientific magazines spotlighting
the multifarious spin-offs of R&D successes,
popular journals mirroring group strivings in various
disciplines, and books delineating the march of
dynamic organizations. They make up a treasure trove
APPNA Qissa is one such publication. It faithfully
documents the train of events that led to the formation
of the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North
America and spotlights the important developments
that took place to transform the organization into
a catalyst for wholesome change in Pakistan.
In quite a few ways, the Qissa of the strivings
of Pakistani doctors in North America is the story
of Pakistan nuclear scientists who gave Pakistan
a singular distinction. Both represented the quintessence
of academic excellence. Both were driven by a compelling
urge to achieve the highest standards of professionalism.
Both were motivated by an unflagging desire to serve
Pakistan. Both demonstrated the best of both the
worlds - Western education and Eastern values. Both
exhibited the verve and the zest acutely needed
to accomplish daunting tasks. Both treaded a tortuous
path strewn with untold obstacles. Both ultimately
triumphed and produced tangible results. Both, unarguably,
are destined to play a role in the future of Pakistan.
A pilgrimage to one of APPNA’s annual meetings
in Chicago three years ago rekindled memories of
the past. The meeting was strikingly similar to
the annual International Summer College on Physics
and Contemporary Needs held in the idyllic surroundings
of Nathiagali and graced by Nobel Laureates and
outstanding physicists like the late Professor Abdus
Despite ethnic and political undercurrents, the
post-election debate at the APPNA meeting was truly
inspirational. Ingrained discipline. A free-flowing
question-and-answer session. No deliberate falsehoods.
Effusive arguments. “Sometimes APPNA’s
maturing led to growing pains that produced dissension
among members. But throughout its growth and maturation,
the organization has continued its commitment to
be a democratic, grassroots organization.”
(Page 58). Democracy could work in Pakistan if the
PML-Q, PML-N, or the PPP demonstrated the tolerant
spirit of APPNA members.
APPNA Qissa is told in a language that is coherent
and palatable. At times, the diction tends to be
poetic, reminiscent of the Dickensian world. A sampling:
“As the present recedes ever so slowly, gently
and seamlessly into the past, it gets covered with
the dust of time. With every succeeding moment it
loses clarity and becomes more blurred and obscure.
Eventually, it ends up as a vague memory in the
hidden recesses of our mind.
“History is important because it helps us
find our bearings in a vast ocean we call present.
Without understanding and knowing the path we have
traveled and the storm we have weathered, we cannot
navigate the present nor, for that matter, chart
coherent future…” The editors - Dr S.
Amjad Hussain and Barbara Floyd - expatiate eloquently
on the growth of the organization - from the formative
phase to gradual maturation and deserve the best
superlatives for their painstaking scholarship.
The raison d’etre of the organization is clearly
spelled out: “… many Pakistani physicians
who settled permanently in the US struggled with
guilt over abandoning their homeland. While the
United States needed their talent so too did Pakistan.
Physicians were desperately needed as Pakistan tried
to establish itself as a stable nation. In 1978,
a group of Pakistani physicians who had lost their
country for a better life in the United States decided
it was time to repay their obligation to their homeland
by organizing an association to provide aid - particularly
in the form of medical assistance - to their native
country. Thus was born the Association of Pakistani
Physicians of North America.” The organization
is the brainchild of Dr Zaheer Ahmad, a gastroenterologist,
who as early as 1976 envisioned APPNA.
Thanks to the steadfastness of its leaders and the
unstinted support of the members, APPNA has come
to live up to its promise. It has successfully launched
several well-meaning schemes in various parts of
Pakistan to strengthen the health and education
sectors. With the passage of time, the schemes have
gained momentum and multiplied almost with a chain
reaction effect. APPNA SEHAT, PAK-PAC, winter CME
meetings in Pakistan, APPNA/KEPGE program and the
Human Development Foundation are some of the initiatives
that need special mention. “As APPNA celebrates
its 25th anniversary, it continues its projects
to empower the poor of Pakistan through increased
literacy, enhanced education, grass-roots economic
development, and improved health care. Through such
progress it is hoped that the social unrest that
fosters terrorism in much of the Muslim world can
be obliterated in Pakistan,” APPNA Qissa reports.
A noble undertaking.
The book is studded with pictures and endnotes that
serve to describe the formative years of the organization
and its subsequent growth. APPNA’s constitution,
role in rescuing Foreign Medical Graduates, are
duly described. Also included are the perspectives
of past presidents. They supplement, rather than
upstage, one another’s efforts in spotlighting
the gradual expansion of APPNA’s activities.
In the post 9/11 period, APPNA, according to Dr.
Muhammad Suleman, 23rd President (2002), is seized
of a pressing responsibility: “We have played
a key role in representing Pakistan to the American
public, and to the American administration in Washington.
In the coming years, this role will increase, especially
given the heightened attention that Pakistan received
after 9/11.” In fulfilling this role, APPNA
shouldn’t feel shy in owni ng and supporting
the fledgling Pakistani-American media, especially
community newspapers, that strenuously endeavor
to highlight the strivings of Pakistanis at home