Karachi, June 12, 2017 (PPI-OT):The last two years of medical school are when students face important choices about their career. The majority of students choose to pursue a specialised field of medicine but even though Taha Sabri, MBBS ’14, was keen on a clinical career in psychiatry, he ended up making a very unconventional choice. His decision was made in the backdrop of one of the worst terrorist incidents to hit his hometown of Karachi: the March 2013 Abbas Town blast which claimed over 40 lives. Jolted by the scale of the tragedy, Taha and his fellow AKU students organised a number of emergency medical camps in the area.
In the midst of the relief efforts, Taha noticed a wide range of conditions that could have been addressed through basic health awareness sessions, first-aid and commonly available medicines. He also noted a ‘hidden burden’ of mental health issues that needed to be addressed but the survivors were not aware of where to seek treatment.
Taha was moved by what he witnessed in Abbas Town and decided to focus on preventive healthcare by setting up his own NGO, the Humanity Initiative (HI). HI brings together volunteer doctors from across Karachi to conduct health screening drives, medical camps and health education sessions in areas with the greatest need. The autonomous, student-run organisation now has over 300 volunteers and since 2013 has served over 5,000 people through medical camps and provided 8,000 people with health education training. HI has also trained over 1,000 people in disaster response and first aid, and a further 1,500 people in CPR, providing the hope of saving lives.
He says: “Our goal is to serve communities through preventive medicine. By focussing on simple, high value interventions we are able to promptly treat and thereby pre-empt the onset of many common diseases and conditions. All our efforts are on a volunteer basis and by taking young doctors to communities we hope to remind them of the humanitarian roots of their profession and to improve access to basic healthcare.”
Taha is also keen to form partnerships that can help him scale up HI’s community initiatives. In January 2015, he collaborated with the Pakistan Association of Mental Health and CareForHealth to set up Taskeen (solace) to combat stigmas about mental health. He is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle on a Fulbright Scholarship and plans to return to Pakistan upon the completion of his degree. “My team members in Pakistan are managing HI in my absence. I am currently studying how developing countries can scale up high-impact interventions in the area of preventive healthcare and I can’t wait to put this knowledge to use when I complete my degree,” Taha added.
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