Tell us about your foray into the field of medicine and anesthesiology. How did it all begin for you? I became a doctor to fulfill the dream of my parents. Being the only child, it was so much engraved in my mind since my childhood days that I couldn’t think of any other profession. This was the time when only two professions were offered to the girls; medicine or engineering besides masters in any subject. After doing my MBBS from Fatima Jinnah Medical College, I wanted to pursue my career by doing specialisation in surgery but I was told this is not appropriate for female doctors in Pakistan. Actually my idea of going into a discipline of surgery was to see immediate results because whatever procedure you do, shows immediate improvement in the patient. Didn’t want to stay in imaginations by prescribing medicines so the closest specialisation to my dream was anesthesia because this was one field to stay connected with surgery and fortunately, I got a very good boss for my training and I became an anesthesiologist. You are a highly qualified and educated professional. Acquiring a professional degree to pursue a field requires a lot of money. What would you have to say about the young and aspiring students in Pakistan whose parents don’t have the means to provide them with quality education in medicine? Do you think the government needs to step in and provide more scholarships for such students? I studied in a public sector medical college where education is highly subsidised. In those days, there was no concept of private medical colleges and tremendous competition for admission which is still there to enter into medical education in government sector medical institutions, so I would advise younger generation to study with full concentration and get free medical education on government sponsorship because private medical colleges are very expensive and beyond the reach of a common man. At the same time, the government should support hard working and intelligent students by giving them scholarships of substantial amount so that they can fully concentrate on their studies. What are you currently working on? Presently, I am chairperson of Kaul Associates Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management & Critical Care. I’m the Chief Executive of National Hospital & Medical Centre, DHA Lahore. Why did you choose to specialise in your current field of study? I worked in public sector hospitals to help the underprivileged patients because my mission was to build up systems in the specialty of anesthesia that makes it safe for all kinds of patients. Now anesthesia is not only limited to the operation theatre but pain management acute or chronic is also the responsibility of the anesthesiologist. Critical care units are part of the responsibility of this specialty and are managed by them. The moto of this discipline is, “Let there be no pain” so it’s very rewarding when you become a source of relief for a person in agony. ‘God has been very kind that I gained experience of working in a system and then came back to serve my country. I tell the same thing to my students also that you are first class citizens in Pakistan. Go abroad, get the degree and come back to serve your country and enjoy respect as first class citizens of Pakistan’ You will be surprised to know that I introduced epidural service for labour pain relief in pregnant women in Lahore when I came back from UK in 1986 after the completion of my training and qualifications. This part of work is very close to my heart and I worked so hard at that time 24×7 to make it a success. Actually these are the rewards of the medical professionals that gives happiness to the people in agony. My second mission of working as a medical teacher in the government sector medical colleges and attached hospitals after becoming a professor and head of the department was to train medical students by lectures and clinical demonstrations to become outstanding doctors. At the same time, training of the doctors for fellowship in anesthesia to become future specialists in this field, I wanted them to be safe anesthesiologists and good human beings. How much in your view does Pakistan lag behind in the field of anesthesiology as compared to the rest of the world? At the present time the facilities available in anesthesiology in Pakistan is almost the same standards as in the developed world with the exception of some equipment which is only required in highly specialised areas like some machines used in the highly sophisticated intensive care units otherwise our trained anesthesiologists don’t find any difficulty when they go to the UK etc for a super specialised training so we are not lagging behind in any way for the routine practice. What is your vision for Pakistan and what does it mean to be Pakistani for you? I am a patriot Pakistani. This country is everything for me. Whatever I am, it’s because of Pakistan. I always wanted to go to the best place abroad for my qualifications and training. God has been very kind that I gained experience of working in a system and then came back to serve my country. I tell the same thing to my students also that you are first class citizens in Pakistan. Go abroad, get the degree and come back to serve your country and enjoy respect as first class citizens of Pakistan. What advice would you give to an 18-year-old self? If I go back and think of myself as a teenager, I would still love to be a doctor and anesthesiologist. We at Daily Times consider you one of our national heroes. Who are some of yours? Thanks a lot for giving me this honour. I really feel humbled. For me, my role model was my late teacher Professor Sajid Kaul because the way he worked for the uplift of the specialty in Lahore was an uphill task at that time. I believe all people who are working in different fields and elevating the respect and honour of Pakistan in the eyes of people are my heroes especially the younger generation because they are the flag bearers and ambassadors of Pakistan working anywhere in the world. Recently, in the days of COVID19 epidemic, the way doctors and paramedics work and didn’t care for their own life are heroes, the philanthropists and social workers working in any field are the heroes. Achievements HELM OF AFFAIRS Dr Shahida Khawaja is the chairperson of Kaul Associates Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management & Critical Care. She is the Chief Executive of National Hospital & Medical Centre, DHA Lahore. ACE DOCTOR Dr Shahida Khawaja introduced epidural service for labour pain relief in pregnant women in Lahore when she came back from the United Kingdom in 1986 after the completion of her training and qualifications. She is a renowned and an acclaimed anesthesiologist. A ROLE MODEL Dr Shahida has trained many medical students by lectures and clinical demonstrations to become outstanding doctors.