Showing posts with label Aga Khan University Hospital. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aga Khan University Hospital. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

First Coronavirus treatment in Pakistan recalled

By Mukhtar Alam
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Admitting the first COVID-19 infected patient of the country at the privately run Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) in Karachi over a month back was not any cumbersome action by its team of doctors, according to a communication of the hospital on March 31, when the overall tally of corona positive patients raised to 1,938, with 26 deaths, for the country.

Pakistan’s first case of Coronavirus infection, a 22-year-old, presented at the hospital on February 26 as he felt unwell and wanted to be tested for corona. 

“Although he had COVID symptoms, he seemed healthy and calm,” Dr Faisal Mahmood of AKU Infectious diseases department recalled. 

According to him, at a time when spread of the virus in many of the countries had become inevitable, he too was anticipating a healthcare emergency in Pakistan and as such he and his colleagues rapidly assessed the preparedness position and started coordinating with the Sindh and federal governments. 

The health authorities confirmed its two maiden Coronavirus cases on February 26. The youth of Karachi in question, a student of the University of Karachi, had a history of travelling from February 6 to 19 in a group of 28 people to Iran, which was already in the grip of the in question virus, which originated from Wuhan city of China in the mid-December 2019.

“Once he (the KU student) tested positive, we admitted him immediately,” Dr Faisal Mahmood further said that since he and his team members were all prepared to deal with local corona patients, “it was an easy decision for the team: isolate him and go for supportive treatment.” 

Not giving the in question patient’s stay at the hospital, the AKUH communication said that the man soon recovered. 

“It was a memorable day for the patient, his family and the healthcare team when he was discharged from the hospital,” Dr Faisal Mahmood added. “He is now doing well, talking to the media, and spreading the message that being COVID positive is not a death sentence. You can get well.” 

Referring to the increased number of corona cases in the country, Dr Faisal Mahmood remarked that this was not a fight that could be won through health workers or government measures only. 

“This is a fight that every individual has to fight for themselves: reduce the risk of getting infected to reduce the chance of others getting infected from you to win the war against the virus going viral,” he remarked. 

According to AKUH, the father of the patients had written a letter of appreciation to Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, praising the provincial government for its timely response and the AKUH for the excellent care. 

When contacted, a hospital’s personnel did not reveal the cost of the treatment in question and by whom it was borne, but mentioned that majority of the Coronavirus cases were being referred to the hospital by the Sindh government as their sponsor, while the remaining, who report to the hospital for treatment, either pay the cost by themselves or they are managed through the welfare fund of the hospital. 

According to official data, there were as many as 1,938 confirmed COVID-19 patients, including 676 each in Punjab and Sindh. Sindh, where a total 51 patients have recovered from Coronavirus, recorded 49 new infections, all from Hyderabad involving tableeghi jamat members, while total death tally reached to eight. 

The Sindh Health Minister, Dr Azra Pechuho confirmed two more deaths on March 31. She revealed that the deceased persons were aged 70 and 74 years respectively.

Wednesday, March 27, 2019

New evidence about post-miscarriage infection

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

New international guidelines on how to provide treatment for women having miscarriage surgery are needed after a large-scale international trial has provided new evidence.

The trial, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, involved thousands of women at hospitals across four low and middle income countries, including the Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi and 12 other hospitals across Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. 

The findings of the study show that administering antibiotics prior to miscarriage surgery had a possible benefit when pelvic infection was defined by global standards. 

“Before the trial we had no idea what the right thing was, to reduce the serious complication of pelvic infection. We finally now have the highest quality evidence that a single, cheap, preventative dose of two commonly available antibiotics was not only safe but also appeared to reduce pelvic infection if the infection was diagnosed using strict international criteria,” lead researcher Dr David Lissauer of the University of Birmingham, remarked. 

Infections following miscarriage surgery are more common in low and middle income countries like Pakistan versus higher resource countries.

“In Pakistan, access to resources to care for women who do develop complications after miscarriage surgery is poor. The findings of this study will lead to improved treatment outcomes for women,” Dr Rahat Qureshi, associate professor, department of obstetrics and gynaecology at AKU, and one of the authors of the study along with Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, the founding director of AKU’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, stated. 

“Globally there are concerns about the irrational and widespread use of antibiotics which can fuel antibiotic resistance. 

This practice is rampant in Pakistan as well which is why quality processes within our health system must be initiated to prevent infections. In addition, a balanced use of antibiotics will improve practices and reduce the risks of emergence of resistant bacteria,” she added. 

Prior to this study, there were only four trials conducted on antibiotic use in women undergoing surgery for miscarriage. These trials were conducted at single centres, used different antibiotics and assessed different outcomes. This study, however, was a multi-country, multi-centre randomised trial, the findings of which will call for a reassessment of international guidelines on the use of antibiotics in miscarriage surgery. 

A miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy, the loss of a baby before 20 weeks. However, sometimes not all the residual pregnancy tissue is dispelled through the womb after a miscarriage so often a surgery is required to remove it. Miscarriage surgery is one of the most common surgical procedures carried out around the world. 

The study’s findings have implications for global efforts to achieve targets under goal 3 of the Sustainable Development Goals which call for specific measures to reduce the maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births. 

The study was funded by Medical Research Council UK, Wellcome Trust and UK Aid, and led by researchers at the Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, the Institute of Applied Health Research, and the Health Economics Unit at the University of Birmingham.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Modern medicine saving lives in Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Shahmeer Khan was born with Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare and complex congenital heart defect in which he had a combination of four heart defects. A congenital heart defect, it is often called the blue baby syndrome because it causes the skin to turn bluish in color as a result of deoxygenated blood in the baby’s system. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is one of the most common developmental defects, occurring in one per cent of the population world-wide.

All babies who have Tetralogy of Fallot need corrective surgery. Without treatment, the child might not grow and develop properly. Untreated cases usually develop severe complications over time, which might result in death or disability by early adulthood. 

Shahmeer is among the growing ranks of children born with CHD, who are surviving, thanks to life-saving pediatric cardiology programmes such as the one at the Aga Khan University (AKU). 

“Life is a gift and due to some very specially trained people and people who take what they do seriously. Thanks to advances in treatment and care at AKUH, by the grace of the almighty, my child is still here and doing very well,” Shahmeer's mother said. 

Shahmeer was celebrating the success of his life-saving open heart surgery at AKUH with sponsors of the University’s Mending Kids’ Hearts campaign. Supporters of the campaign came together over a game of golf and to learn about the impact of their gift. 

The three-year effort to support CHD patients has raised over Rs 247 million from community partners, local corporations, private individuals and support from AKUH’s income allocated for welfare to offer enhanced services to the children in Pakistan. 

Each year, the congenital cardiac programme team at AKUH performs more than 400 paediatric cardiac procedures, including for the many miracle children like Shahmeer whose families could not afford the cost of these complex procedures. 

“Seeing the level of support Aga Khan University Hospital provided to us in our scariest and darkest hours makes me want to make a difference in the lives of other families facing the tough road,” Shahmeer's father said. 

As a leader in paediatric healthcare, AKUH remains passionately dedicated to its core purpose, providing access to healthcare for every child. 

"Increasing access to pediatric cardiac care is not an impossible goal. It is an achievable goal. AKUH remains committed to the well-being of our children," Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH, remarked. 

Since the turn of the millennium, child deaths in Pakistan have been declining thanks to improved public health and poverty reduction efforts. More children need to be saved by 2030, the year that the UN Sustainable Development Goals call for the world to end preventable child deaths. 

“This target will not be met without addressing congenital heart disease, and we need to assist CHD patients who cannot afford this care” Dr Muneer Amanullah, an associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, added.

Monday, May 22, 2017

AKUH teams up with provincial tuberculosis control programme

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Sindh Provincial Tuberculosis Control Programme (PTP) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) to establish it as a Treatment and Referral centre for patients suffering from tuberculosis (TB).

TB is a contagious disease and an untreated patient can infect up to 15 people over the course of a year. Although treatable, the disease is widespread across Pakistan due to factors including delays in its diagnosis, inappropriate and unsupervised use of medicines and an absence of social support programmes for high risk populations. 

These issues have not only failed to contain the disease but have also lead to the emergence of drug resistant forms of TB, as patients fail to the understand the importance of follow-up doctor visits and continued treatment. 

The TB Treatment and Referral Centre at the AKUH had been established to address this alarming health concern. 

The AKUH has the largest group of Infectious Diseases specialists in the country who will be working in collaboration with the Pharmacy Services at the AKUH, to dispense quality TB medicines. 

The TB Treatment and Referral Centre also plans to educate the public that TB is not a silent disease and can be recognized by its evident symptoms (persistent cough for more than three weeks, low grade fever, coughing up blood, night sweats, loss of appetite and weight and perpetual fatigue) and be treated with antibiotics over a course of 6 months. 

At the ceremony, AKU’s Professor and Service Line Chief, Dr Bushra Jamil commented on the importance of this Centre and said, “The AKUH is delivering high quality care utilizing established best practices for patients of all ages with all forms of tuberculosis according to international standards for tuberculosis care. 

The AKU Mycobacterial Laboratory is the only Supranational Reference Laboratory for TB in the country. The role of National and Provincial TB Control Programs in engaging private institutions through Public Private Mix (PPM) strategy is commendable”. Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that most commonly affects the lungs. 

However, it can also affect any part of the body such as the kidneys, eyes, joints, spine, and brain. TB is a curable disease but can be fatal, if not detected and treated properly. TB poses a major public health challenge in Pakistan. 

In 2015 Pakistan was ranked fifth amongst TB high-burden countries worldwide according to the World Health Organization (WHO) and accounted for 61% of the TB burden in the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Region.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

HIV Testing, Treatment and Referral Centre available at AKUH

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The National AIDS Control Programme in coordination with the Sind AIDS Control Program has established the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) as the HIV Treatment and Referral Centre.
The public-private partnership aims to encourage HIV-affected individuals to get tested and seek appropriate treatment for HIV in a private and confidential manner. 

Karachi alone has the highest number of HIV patients across Sindh, as revealed in a report by SACP. This is primarily attributed to the lack of awareness regarding the disease and its treatment, as well as the unavailability of HIV screening and a shortage of medicines. 

AKUH has the largest group of Infectious Diseases specialists in the country which makes this Centre unique as it will provide treatment to both adults and children infected with HIV, as well as offering facilities for the prevention of parent to child transmission all under one roof.

At the same time the Centre will also serve as a referral site to manage complicated cases referred from other Centers around the country. 

Given the long history of education and research at the AKUH, the Centre will provide hands on training to other HIV care providers on the management of this complex disease and serve to coordinate HIV research in the country. 

Utilizing the vast network of the AKUH laboratory collection points, and with the help of the Global Fund, the AKUH will provide viral load testing (lab test that measures the number of HIV virus particles in a millilitre of your blood) for HIV patients and free of cost medicines throughout the country. 

The Centre aims to treat 600 patients in a year. At the inauguration ceremony, AKUH Professor and Chief, Dr Bushra Jamil gave special thanks to Dr Abdul Baseer Khan Achakzai (National Programme Manager, NACP), Dr Muhammad Younis Chachar (Programme manager, SACP) and Dr Sofia Furqan (Senior Programme Officer, NACP) for their continuous help and support in making this HIV Treatment and Referral Centre possible. 

Speaking on the need to pay attention to the rising numbers of HIV-affected population, Dr Bushra said that trained health care professionals in both government and private settings will have to put in a concerted effort to prevent the situation from escalating through a multipronged approach. HIV compromises a person’s immune system and restricts the body’s ability to fights organisms that cause diseases. 

HIV can lead to the development of AIDS, which is a chronic, life-threatening condition and is the final stage of infection causing eventual death. Pakistan is one of the few countries where there is a lack of awareness regarding HIV/AIDS. 

People have been hesitant in getting themselves screened or treated as the disease is considered culturally taboo and is associated with a stigma of shame. However, with increasing access to medical care, this trend is slowly changing.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

AKUH, KSDP collaborate to provide one-stop Health Solution for Down syndrome families in Pakistan

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) has collaborated with the Karachi Down Syndrome Program (KDSP) to offer the first of its kind, ‘one stop health solution’ having made it easy for parents to bring their children to conveniently see different specialists at AKUH, in one clinic.

Up until now, parents in Pakistan would struggle to find the appropriately trained specialists to treat separate health challenges faced by their Down syndrome children, often fleeing from one hospital to another, and finding it’s all a wild goose chase. 

A team of internationally trained and experienced child specialists practicing at the AKUH, led by Dr Salman Kirmani and Dr Babar Hasan, joined forces with the world renowned Down syndrome expert, Dr Brain G. Skotko, as well as the founder of KSDP, Ali Allawala, and staff, to share best clinical practices for Down syndrome management at a session held in the AKU auditorium. 

This session was attended by medical professionals and students, Down syndrome parents and families as well as supporters of the cause. Speaking about the launch, Dr Salman commented: “The new Down syndrome Clinic at the AKUH became possible because of conversations with KDSP. We have been informally working with KDSP for three years, and now spreading the word so the medical community is aware and can guide these individuals to the Down syndrome clinics where all their healthcare needs can be met.” 

On the occasion, Ali Allawala said: “I am proud to see the formal launch of the Down Syndrome Clinic at the AKUH, which will not just give people with this condition the treatment they need, but also enhance the skill set of doctors responsible for their care.” 

While speaking live from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, on this occasion of the first Down Syndrome Clinic launch in Pakistan, Dr Brian Skotko observed: “According to a research study by the American School of Medical Genetics about self-perceptions from people with Down syndrome, about 99% expressed being happy with their lives”, and even though it is challenge and adjustment for families, 99% of the parents, and 97% of the siblings, love their child/sibling with Down syndrome.” 

Around the world, one child in every 1000 is born with Down syndrome. Down syndrome is a condition in which babies are born with extra genetic material from chromosome 21. At first many parents are in denial and then those that find acceptance and have the financial means, begin to seek help, only to find that resources in Pakistan are few and far between. 

The KSDP, officially launched in 2014, is run by parents for parents to provide a network of support, information and promote the acceptance of Down syndrome in society. 

Children born with Down syndrome are at increased risk of certain medical conditions such as congenital heart defects, respiratory and hearing problems, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood leukemia, and thyroid conditions. 

The degree of these conditions varies greatly from child to child. However, many of these conditions are now treatable, and early medical intervention can help people with Down syndrome lead long and healthy lives.

Friday, March 3, 2017

AKUH laboratories earn CAP accreditation

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The College of American Pathologists (CAP), an internationally recognized standard for clinical laboratories, has accredited the Aga Khan University Hospital’s Clinical Laboratories, the first laboratory in Pakistan.

With 3,000 CAP requirements, accreditation is a rigorous process. A team of nine CAP inspectors, practicing professionals qualified through a CAP training programme, visited Pakistan last year to audit the laboratory’s quality records, staff qualifications, validation of tests, equipment, facilities, safety programmes and overall management. 

The University Hospital’s CEO, Hans Kedzierski, stressed that clinical laboratory testing is an essential part of a quality healthcare service. “Since most of the decisions regarding a patient’s diagnosis and treatment are usually based on laboratory test results, for patients, this means timely and more accurate diagnosis.” 

“Striving to meet patient satisfaction drives the hospital to constantly review itself for improvements every day,” he added. 

AKUH is also the only teaching hospital in Pakistan that is accredited by the Joint Commission International, a gold standard in healthcare delivery. 

“The CAP accreditation is an attestation that AKUH Clinical Laboratories has achieved the gold standard in laboratory medicine,” Shagufta Hassan, Chief Operating Officer, Clinical Laboratories and Outreach Services, remarked.

“AKUH Clinical Laboratories has always applied the highest standards of quality and this certification is a manifestation of the same.” 

At a debriefing after the audit, CAP inspectors expressed how they were impressed with the standards already applied, which made their work much easier. 

“I would like to congratulate Aga Khan University Hospital for being the first CAP accredited laboratory in Pakistan,” said the CAP President Richard C. Friedberg in his message to the Hospital community. 

“We know that the journey has been the long one, but we are sure and certain that the benefits of our accreditation and your continual desire to improve your services, your performance, your accuracy, your reliability, and your precision, will benefit the patients in Pakistan”.  
“From its founding, the Aga Khan University and its hospitals have aimed to achieve international standards in our teaching, research, and care for patients,” Firoz Rasul, President, Aga Khan University, said. 

“Validation of our practices through international accreditation gives patients the assurance that standards match the best in the world.”

 AKUH Clinical Laboratories is the largest laboratory network in Pakistan. Besides the main clinical laboratory in Karachi, there are 250 regional laboratories, medical centres and specimen collection units in over 100 cities around the country. 

With a highly trained team of over 50 faculty and 250 technologists, supported by state-of-the-art automated equipment, the laboratories offer over 700 types of testing overall, 10 million tests annually. For the convenience of patients, the laboratories also offer online reports, SMS alerts and detailed multi-column reports. 

“We are committed to the delivery of accurate results for our patients by providing highest levels of quality, service standards and transparency,” Dr Farooq Ghani, Service Line Chief, Clinical Laboratories, stated. 

The US federal government recognizes the CAP Laboratory Accreditation Program, begun in the early 1960s as being equal-to or more-stringent-than the U.S. government’s own inspection programme. 

As the leading organization with more than 18,000 board-certified pathologists, CAP serves patients, pathologists, and the public by fostering and advocating excellence in the practice of pathology and laboratory medicine worldwide. 

The CAP’s Laboratory Improvement Programs, initiated 65 years ago, currently has presence in more than 100 countries, accrediting nearly 8,000 laboratories and providing proficiency testing to 20,000 laboratories worldwide.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Children, doctors and architects pitch ideas for a new children’s hospital at unique hackathon

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Imagine a hospital designed by a child, for a child. Instead of white walls, there are imaginative paintings and vibrant images all around the hospital. Uninspiring waiting areas are replaced with kids’ entertainment zones where children play and learn, and the hospital’s atmosphere is specially designed to make children feel at home.
That’s what a children’s hospital of the future looks like; according to children, doctors, nurses, engineers, entrepreneurs, architects and other professionals who came together to design a kids’ healthcare centre of the future at the first-ever paediatric hackathon hosted by Aga Khan University (AKU), Hack Paeds 2017. 

The three-day event saw over 110 participants of all ages and a variety of disciplines collaborate to develop innovative proposals that could be introduced at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH)’s planned 12-storey Children’s Hospital. 

The participants at the hackathon, spread over three days, were assisted by 12 mentors with backgrounds as diverse as entrepreneurship, architecture and design, business, and paediatric medicine.

Divided into 16 teams, hackers developed a variety of ideas aimed at improving the hospital experience for children who are often anxious and uncomfortable. Some teams worked to adapt medical instruments like stethoscopes so that it would be easier to measure a sick child’s heartbeat. 

Others sought to create innovative designs for brightly coloured ‘medical flaps’ that would help doctors insert a cannula without alarming a child. Away from devices, other teams developed systems to improve child protection services for vulnerable kids and ways to help children keep up with schoolwork while admitted to hospital. Many hackers also worked on innovative designs for hospital waiting areas that would help young patients feel comfortable while in a new environment. 

“The world of a child is different from that of an adult. Playfulness is in their nature and their spirit isn’t burdened by responsibility. Children’s hospitals will always need to have the best facilities for healthcare but the atmosphere of a hospital should be centered on the needs and personality of a child so that they are open while speaking to doctors. The purpose of this multidisciplinary hackathon is to pool together different types of expertise to create innovative proposals for a state-of-the-art, unique, cost-effective hospital that will feel familiar and comfortable to a child,” Dr Salman Kirmani, chair of the Department of Paediatrics at Aga Khan University, remarked. 

Judges at the event scored each team’s solution on the basis of healthcare impact, innovation, business model, children-centricity and presentation skills. 

The following teams won the top prizes at the hackathon:

1. Stealth: a wearable belt that enables computer analysis of heart conditions. The device aims to reduce errors in the manual diagnosis of heart disease. 

2. Genesis: a system using virtual reality technology to entertain children admitted to hospital. 

3. Onco-Buzz: an application that provides information to families whose child is suffering from cancer to help them maintain the continuity of treatment. 

Speaking about the need for novel thinking in children’s healthcare, AKUH CEO Hans Kedzierski, said: “Creating a healing atmosphere in a hospital for children means that parents no longer have to keep their child occupied and distracted as they wait for the unknown procedures that might create anxiety. Children will feel comfortable in an environment that has been built just for them and this means that the recovery process will be less stressful for the parents too. 

“Hackathons are one of the most vibrant ways to create innovative solutions. The 16 teams had just two days to tackle real-world paediatric issues while ensuring that their solution would be received well by young patients. As a judge we all found it very difficult to decide the most innovative solution. However, Team Stealth’s pitch will make diagnosis for heart disease available to many more people thereby widening access to care. That’s why we choose team Stealth for the top prize. I’d like to congratulate all the teams on their hard work. It is great to see young people working hard to create a futuristic children’s hospital for Pakistan.” 

Dr Asad Mian, Associate Professor at AKU and one of the lead organisers of the event, said: “Innovation within a society comes from the bottom up – it is the work of individuals who, when faced with constraints, take it upon themselves to find solutions. This is particularly relevant for paediatrics as our children deserve to be the foremost recipients of resourceful and innovative healthcare. I’ve seen some great ideas at the hackathon that are sorely needed. The participants have made great progress in just a few days and I look forward to seeing how they build upon these ideas.”
A host of international speakers and local experts delivered inspirational speeches during the event to help guide the teams at the Hackathon. 

The speakers included David Arthur, dean of the School of Nursing and Midwifery at AKU; Kate Donovan, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital; Christopher Lee, co-founder of US-based drug delivery technology firm Recon Thereapeutics and Ayesha Khalid, a surgeon and one of the leading figures involved in MIT’s Hacking Medicine initiative. 

Supported by the Department of Paediatrics, AKU, and the Children’s Hospital service line at AKUH, the event was organised by the Critical Creative Innovative Thinking forum which is an educational, training and research programme seeking to foster creativity and innovation in biomedicine and healthcare.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Pakistan’s newborns face rising risk of non-communicable diseases

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

Stress, unhealthy lifestyle habits, and the prevalence of chronic diseases in adults are leaving Pakistan’s newborns more vulnerable to the threat of non-communicable diseases (NCDs), according to speakers at a recent event at the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi.

Experts at the International Conference on Stress and Conditioning: Impact on Maternal and Generation Health noted that economic, social and psychological pressures lead to stress and high levels of stress hormones affect the baby in the womb. 

These chemicals can trigger genetic changes which stall the development trajectory of the brain and heart of a fetus resulting in lifelong effects on the fetus’s learning capability, social functioning and ability to fight disease. 

Pakistan has approximately 80 million people who suffer from NCDs or life-style related illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, obesity, chronic lung and kidney disease and mental illnesses. 

The number of Pakistanis with these diseases is increasing by approximately 10 per cent a year and speakers noted that prospective parents with NCDs are also more likely to pass on their illness to the next generation. 

“Our healthcare system is geared towards treating those suffering from NCDs now. But there isn’t enough attention paid to the inter-generational effects of disease. By focusing on early interventions in the period between conception and birth we can reduce the lifelong risk of neurocognitive, metabolic and cardiac disease and ensure that every child achieves their full potential,” Dr Nuruddin Mohammad, director of maternal and fetal medicine at AKU’s division of women and child health, remarked. 

During the conference speakers shared how innovations in neurosonographic imaging, advanced ultrasounds of a fetus’s heart and brain, are enabling the early detection of delays in brain and heart development. 

New technology is also helping identify biomarkers (chemical indicators) that can predict developmental delays that may lead to disease in adulthood. This makes the first 2,000 days of a child’s life extremely important and investing in healthcare during this period could result in the greatest returns for society in terms of health and wellbeing. 

The speakers on the day noted that in many cases of NCDs, screening and interventions in adults was significantly less effective as irreversible genetic modifications have already taken place. 

Dr Rehan Ali, associate professor in paediatrics at AKU said: “The link between nourishment and lifelong health has been long established. Insights into the developmental origins of health and disease are clearly showing the importance of environmental factors on maternal and fetal health. This research is making a strong case for conducting healthcare initiatives earlier in life to help achieve targets under Sustainable Development Goal 3.” 

The one-day conference was preceded by three workshops which enabled the exchange of skills in areas relating to disease management during pregnancy and the sharing of knowledge on ethical issues in obstetrics. 

The other speakers at the conference included Dr Stephen Lye, Executive Director, Fraser Mustard Institute for Human Development, Canada; Marleen Temmerman, Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Aga Khan University’s Medical College in Nairobi; and Professor George Chrousos from the Athens University Medical School in Greece.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

AKUH gets advanced laser technology for vision-correcting surgeries

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH), Karachi, has launched an advanced refractive surgery suite equipped with the latest laser technology for vision-correcting surgeries. The suite will enable eye specialists at the Hospital to customise treatment to each patient’s needs with improved performance in terms of precision, safety, comfort and recovery.

“A refractive surgery is a procedure that corrects common vision problems to reduce or stop a person’s dependence on eyeglasses or contact lenses,” Dr Irfan Jeeva, Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Service Line Chief of Ophthalmology and Otolaryngology, AKUH, observed at the inauguration of the facility. 

He described the most common vision problems as nearsightedness or myopia where distant images seem blurry, farsightedness or hyperopia where near images seem blurry, and astigmatism where close-up as well as distant images seem blurry. 

There are several types of refractive surgery and only a qualified eye specialist can advise what is suitable after evaluating and briefing a patient on advantages and anticipated side effects, if any. A laser procedure called LASIK is the most popular refractive surgery to correct refractive errors caused by irregularities in the shape of the cornea. 

“The first thing we check is the evaluation if a person is a good candidate for LASIK. Then we provide a consultation to help patients fully understand what improvements they can expect based on age, vision and lifestyle requirements. Patients who are not suitable candidates for LASIK would then be offered alternative solutions,” Dr Jeeva said. 

Dr Sharmeen Akram, Assistant Professor and Section Head of Ophthalmology, Department of Surgery, AKU, explained that all vision-correcting laser surgeries worked by reshaping the cornea, improving the eye’s ability to focus. 

“The laser portion of the treatment takes less than a minute and does not cause any pain. A person will usually be able to see well enough to drive on the day after the procedure,” he noted. 

“We at AKUH continuously seek innovative solutions that can solve local healthcare problems and also keep our institution current with advances in the industry. The new Refractive Laser Suite can help patients achieve the best vision,” Hans Kedzierski, CEO, AKUH, reckoned. 

“On top of that I would like to mention that our ophthalmologists will use protocols as per the best international practices. Training has been done accordingly and the protocols will be available on the Hospital website to support our patients,” he added. 

The AKU President, Firoz Rasul, thanked Bashir Dawood for generously gifting the suite. The facility was inaugurated by AKU President along with the donor, CEO Hans Kedzierski and ophthalmology faculty Drs Irfan Jeeva, Sharmeen Akram, Tanveer Chaudhry, Burq Maqsood and others. 

Ophthalmology or eye services at AKUH include assessment, diagnosis and treatment of a range of vision and eye conditions in both adults and children.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Walk for breast cancer awareness at AKUH

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

With approximately 40,000 deaths and 90,000 new cases every year, breast cancer is the most common cancer among women in Pakistan. The number of deaths can be reduced significantly with early detection and treatment, the participating experts at a walk to mark the Breast Cancer Awareness Month at the Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH) reckoned.

The walk was part of a series of events organized by the AKUH to raise awareness for an early detection of the disease. Clad in pink, the walk was attended by men and women, patients, survivors, breast surgeons, medical and radiation oncologists, radiologists, pathologists, nurses and the general public. 

“Breast cancer is an uncontrollable growth of abnormal cells in breast tissue. These cells can form a tumor that may be seen on a screening mammogram and ultrasound scan even before they can be felt as a lump. Currently, medical science doesn’t know exactly what causes the disease, therefore, early detection remains the cornerstone of breast cancer control,” Dr Adnan Jabbar, an assistant professor and section head of medical oncology at the Aga Khan University (AKU), observed. 

 “Although breast self-examination has limitations, it can be the first step to examine any developments in the breast, e.g., a new lump, swelling, an unusual pain or any change in the size, shape or skin of the breast. Such changes should be reported to a health professional immediately,” he said. 

“Since the disease is increasing among young women in the country, women in their 20s and 30s should have a clinical breast exam at least every three years. After 40 years, they should have a breast exam and mammograms by a health professional every year. Doctors may also recommend breast ultrasound, MRI or biopsy, if needed,” he added. 

Dr Shaista Khan, a professor of surgery at AKU, warned that women were at greater risk than men. Key risk factors could be overweight, old age and the disease in the family. 

“Women diagnosed with breast cancer can live healthy lives given the disease is diagnosed and treated timely. Treatment for early breast cancer usually involves surgery only or some combination of surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. The AKUH’s Patient Welfare Programme and Patients’ Behbud Society for AKUH provide financial assistance to women who are fighting breast cancer and need support,” she highlighted. 

While sharing her experiences, a survivor commented: “I am a proud mother, a wife and a breast cancer survivor. I am here to support those who are fighting the disease. Activities like this are always inspirational”. 

The AKUH’s CEO, Hans Kedzierski, was also dressed in pink to show solidarity with breast cancer patients and survivors. 

“We at the AKUH have successfully established a breast cancer team, a multidisciplinary group of specialists, that offers comprehensive care under one roof – an advantage for our patients,” he said. 

Other activities of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month included marking pink Fridays by wearing pink clothes or accessories, and organizing awareness sessions at AKUH as well as at educational and corporate institutions in the city.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Innovative app wins top prize at AKU’s first-ever Hackathon

By Abdul Qadir Qureshi
(Pakistan News & Features Services)

The innovators at Pakistan’s first-ever medical hackathon at the Aga Khan University, Karachi, have proposed new ways of tackling challenges facing Pakistan’s emergency rooms (ER).

HistorER, the winning team at the Hackathon, came up with a unique QR (quick response) code system to address a persistent challenge faced by ER doctors. 

Patients are often brought to emergency by family members or by bystanders who are not aware of their medical history. In the absence of critical information, doctors face delays in performing life-saving procedures. 

The HistorER team has suggested that every person carry a medical card with a QR code with vital details: blood group, allergies, current medication and previous operations. Scanned, the QR code would provide doctors immediate access to information and the ability to initiate treatment promptly. 

Speaking about the winning team’s solution, the lead organizer of the event, Dr Asad Mian, Associate Professor at the Department of Emergency Medicine at AKU, said: “HistorER’s idea can improve the efficiency of the ER and reduce errors caused by doctors not having timely access to vital patient data. Since the team’s solution involves their own storage and retrieval system, they can also ensure the safety of patient records and facilitate information sharing between doctors at different hospitals.” 

Besides the winning team, three other groups also received prizes and awards. JackED which developed a convenient, prototype ER gown or ‘JackED’ to boost the accuracy of ECGs, a test to determine whether a heart attack has taken place. 

TrICS who created an app enabling ambulance paramedics to relay vital data about critically ill patients to ER staff before they arrive at the hospital. 

Breath Hacks which developed a mechanical Ambu Bag device to provide emergency breathing assistance to patients waiting for a ventilator 

All pitches at the event were scored by a panel of healthcare, entrepreneurship and innovation experts in line with four criteria: health impact, innovation, business model, and presentation skills. 

The Pakistan Innovation Foundation founder, Athar Osama, one of the judges at the event, remarked: “Innovation within a society comes from the bottom up. It is the work of individuals who, who faced with constraints, take it upon themselves to find solutions. Emergency response is a very critical area for a volatile city like Karachi and I’ve seen some great ideas at the Hackathon that are sorely needed. The participants have made great progress in just a few days and I look forward to seeing how they build upon these ideas.” 

80 participants, worked over three days, and they were assisted by 20 mentors with a background in entrepreneurship. The participants from fields as diverse as medicine, information technology, business and engineering collaborated to find innovative ways to improve patient safety, boost the productivity of physicians and reduce treatment time. 

Speaking about the need for innovation in the healthcare sector, Aga Khan University Hospital CEO Hans Kedzierski observed: “Hackathons are one of the most vibrant ways to create innovative solutions. The 11 teams had just two days to tackle complicated problems. Even then we found it so difficult to decide the most innovative solution. However, the intelligent use of technology to boost patient safety meant that we choose HistorER. I’d like to congratulate all the teams on their hard work. It is great to see young people working hard to create a better healthcare system for Pakistan.” 

Besides Athar Osama, judges at the event included Dr Munawar Khursheed, Assistant Professor at AKU, Rumman Ahmed, entrepreneur and creativity consultant, Dr Talha Rehman, Operations Manager at the Elaj Trust, Hans Kedzierski, AKUH CEO, and Khairunnisa Hooda, Head of the 24/7 Emergency and Acute Care Service Line at AKUH. 

A host of international speakers and local experts delivered inspirational speeches during the event to help guide the teams at the Hackathon. The speakers included Firoz Rasul, AKU President, Dr Junaid Razzak, healthcare policy expert and serial entrepreneur, Dr Farhat Abbas, Dean of the Medical College at AKU, Dr Ayesha Khalid, one of the organisers of MIT’s Hacking Medicine event, and Hans Kedzierski, AKUH CEO. 

Supported by the Department of Emergency Medicine, AKU, and the 24/7 Emergency and Acute Care Service Line, AKUH, the event was organised by the Critical Creative Innovative Thinking forum which is an educational, training and research programme seeking to foster creativity and innovation in biomedicine and healthcare.