Dr. Sabah Khamisha is a young graduate doctor from Ziauddin Medical University – whose dream it was to help the less fortunate and poverty stricken population with healthcare needs. A committed and resolute individual, Dr. Sabah believed there was a large number of doctors working in the private and public sector – but wanted to break the pattern by opening a facility that caters only to those who are needy of the basic right of health. Subsequent to completing med school, Sabah was adamant to work at a Government facility so that she would get much more exposure, and subsequently completed her medical residency at Jinnah Post Medical Center, having been working in the trauma/ER section during her medical residency, is when she realised how badly the city needed a good quality health care clinic. She believes that the essential quotient to contributing to improving the health sector is by providing the people at the bottom of the pyramid a more sustainable and cost- effective solution to primary and preventive care. Intervention at this point of the pyramid would help track life threatening diseases and provide suitable prevention methods for the same.
Ayesha Health Center is an exquisite model for primary health came, while also being cost effective – as this was one of the clinic’s main appeal – catering to the underprivileged and un-affording population in Karachi.
Rare is the impetus to do great things for the marginalised and poverty stricken population in Pakistan. Dr. Sabah Khamisha and her efforts to provide free health care to the needy, pledges to bring free of cost healthcare to the masses in Karachi. Her first endeavour to make this possible has been through her clinic facility, namely, Ayesha Health Care Center named after Hazrat Ayesha (RA) who was known as an incredibly resilient and caring woman in Islamic history) The facility provides the impoverished and marginalised population of Karachi and those who come from other towns and villages in Sindh with state of the art equipment & top level doctors and specialists.
It also strives to provide outreach programs in the form of specialised and general health camps which include information on specialised diseases and health scares with awareness, prevention (vaccination etc) and screening.
Most recently, Dr. Sabah’s campaign at the Ayesha Health Clinic gained increased traction for Cervical Cancer – where awareness was followed by free of cost screening, testing for female patients in and around Karachi. Screening and treatment for hepatitis B & C has also been completely free of cost along with the screening and treatment of Tuberculosis. Two major diseases which plague a large population of the country.
We at Edition talk to the marvel woman herself, as she brings Pakistan closer to a healthy country and works tirelessly around the clock making this possible:
Edition: Dr. Sabah, it’s so great to have people on board who do the kind of work you do. Where did you come up with the idea of having a clinic which would offer healthcare to the masses in low prices or even free of cost? How come you decided to step out from the traditional philosophy of working at a hospital or starting your own practise, which with your qualifications would have been quite lucrative?
SK: When I was young I wanted to become the Prime Minister of Pakistan but sadly that was not possible. I love my country and I knew I wanted to do something in life with a much bigger impact to the society and especially for my country. I decided I wanted to become a doctor and not a lot of people know this but I got in to one of the most prestigious programs at Stanford University but I decided to stay back and cater to our people. This has always been my goal in life which is why this project is very close to my heart. While working in the healthcare set up especially at JPMC I realised that quality health care should be free for all but unfortunately it is not so we have to play our role and do something about it.
Edition: How can you make this venture more sustainable and how would you say it would more different than other healthcare not for profits?
SK: So, recently we changed a few things around to see how we can be more efficient in helping the community whilst also making our endeavour more sustainable so we have started charging a Rs. 50/patient (non zakaat) fee structure. This is still a little challenging as the tests and the medicines are expensive and need external funding. We have collaborated with JSMU which is the most subsidised laboratory after DOW and their results are quite accurate since we try to keep regular random checks by sending results to other labs so that average accuracy is insured. We don’t want to compromise on quality no matter what. We have a few camps every month which are free of cost and by doing those we have realised that patients might have the fee for the doctor but they don’t have the money for medicines so that becomes challenging as not everybody is eligible for zakaat and we don’t want the patients not to start treatment. Our non zakaat funds are low as we were personally funding this project but have now decided to start taking donations and provide free of cost medicines or at least give them at half price.
Edition: We have learnt that the clinic is not just a static function, as an entity, it provides camps and outreach programs to the masses. How effective are those and which in particular have been of prominence since the opening of the clinic?
SK: We have had multiple camps every month. We have a huge number of patients coming in during our camps around 300 patients in each camp. So far we have worked on anemia in women And children, growth in children, ENT camps, Gynaecology/Obstetric camps, screening of cervical cancer by doing free pap smear tests, etc. The most prominent one was our very first camp on hepatitis B and C. We screened and treated around 550 patients for hepatitis completely free of cost and was so happy to see that most of our patients are doing perfectly fine now. We also believe in education and awareness as that is key to prevention so we hold monthly seminars and workshops for everyone and anyone on different topics. Now, we have collaborated with FRIP which is an organisation of DOW alumnis who work on training you for emergency situations and CPR exercises.
Edition: There is no doubt that social media and word of mouth between young people today enables people to actually know and learn about endeavours such as the Ayesha Health Center, so it is inevitable that this would gain a lot of traction – however, what are your hopes for young people keen on working and joining the philanthropic setting of healthcare? How sustainable is it if is not a salaried option and how can we make it so?
SK: We have interns coming in all the time. We have students helping us with camps and it’s a lot of fun for both of us. It also helps us promote our centre. As it is non-profit we don’t have enough to give proper salaries which makes it so important to focus on campaigns and external donations to make our goal possible!