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Last month (16-19th April), I had the incredible opportunity to attend world largest healthcare event, TEDMED 2013, as a Frontline scholar at John F. Kennedy Center, Washington DC, USA. This was my first ever TED experience and I am extremely grateful to ISIF ASIA and APNIC to have provided me with the financial support to attend this remarkable and amazing event.

TEDMED

Being a person who always thrives to offer innovative healthcare solutions using technology in developing part of the world, I had so many expectations from this event. I wanted to learn about the exciting innovations in healthcare, new possibilities for future and connections/networking with right kind of people from all over the world. To my Luck, I achieved maximum of my expectations. The theme for this year TEDMED was “Making unexpected connections” and guess what, the delegates were connected even before the conference through social media (fb, twitter and linkedin) as well as an easy to navigate mobile app called “TEDMED Connect” (I absolutely loved it) .

TEDMED is a unique platform which brings large number of doctors, nurses, entrepreneurs, students, researchers, business leaders, policy makers, armed service personnels , artists, media and athletes from all over the world to share the ideas and mutually contribute to make healthcare better. This year TEDMED was attended by over 18,000 stakeholders from healthcare industry and was streamed live to 100,000 participants at 2,700 hospitals, universities and other locations worldwide. (amazing isn’t it ?)

Unlike many conferences and networking events I have attended, TEDMED comprised of blend of activities including stage talks, stimulating real stories, Hive session and great challenges of healthcare. All of these activities had one thing in common, “KEEP INNOVATING”. Attending these activities not only helped further broaden my knowledge about the smart use of technology to solve health related problems for doctors and patients alike but at the same time helped me explore diverse perceptive on from different parts of the world.

TEDMED TALKS: What made TEDMED talks unique was the speaker’s style of communication. Instead of delivering regular presentations, the speakers openly shared their ideas, solutions, motivation and personal life experiences with audience. They encouraged and inspired participants to learn from their ideas and work to innovate, take risks and revolutionize healthcare industry and whenever possible convert the data into wisdom. There was great emphasized on making patient’s data valuable for both doctors and patients. Furthermore, it was stressed that innovative ideas must be welcome from within local communities in a bottom-up fashion rather than a top-down approach. We must not forget to include the people in healthcare process who are most easily able to identify their actual problems and offer potential solutions. It was very inspiring to learn how personal tragedies of few presenters led to amazing discoveries in healthcare.

TEDMED Talk

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HIVE : My most favorite activity was to visit HIVE Tent. Basically HIVE was a platform where over 50 startups companies/ideas showcased their solutions. HIVE also served as an open space to meet and interact with people from various projects and backgrounds. It was really fascinating to learn about the innovative solutions that are on-demand and are easily making real-time data accessible to medical professional and patients. What impressed me the most was the kind and amount of data patients themselves can view in just one click. Majority of these solutions centered around mobile technologies and are harassing the power of data in cloud.

HIVE Session

20 Great Health Challenges.:- The 20 major health challenges were hosted at George Washington University GWU, during which 20 teams of around 25 participants gathered for discussion, hands-on exploration and discovery on the challenge assigned to them. The major challenges included role of the patient, managing chronic diseases, the obesity crisis, the caregiver crisis, eliminating medical errors, achieving medical innovation, reducing childhood obesity, end of life care, preparing for dementia, whole-patient care, making prevention popular, medical communication, faster adaptation of best practices, addressing healthcare costs, impact of poverty on health, promoting active lifestyles, inventing wellness programs and causes of sleep deprivation. IMG_1924 The challenge I was selected was “inventing wellness programs”. I actively participated in the discussion and shared the concept of wellness program in developing countries as well as the ways to improve it especially through mobile technologies. It was astonishing to see the variations among the wellness programs in developing countries and in States.

Great Challenge

Few Lessons Learned:

– Adopt bottom-up approach to create maximum healthcare impact at community level. It is critically important to make patients leaders of their as well as their community health. This is approach we have always adopted for our tele-healthcare, “Jaroka” project and we find is super successful.

– Add meaning to patient data to improve patient care. In order words keep working to convert data into wisdom.

– Our daily electronic related activities leave a digital footprint known as your social pulse. We must start using this information in health care, giving people back their small data.

– Monitor different patient’s activities in real-time e.g shopping trends, eating pattern etc to identify the pattern changes in patients’ health.

– Transparency of the data is a MUST at every stage.

– Patients want to learn as much as possible about their healthcare and it is very important to find best possible way (through technology) to disseminate this information to them.

– “Crowdsourcing”, a big buzz word is actually being used for many healthcare applications for disease diagnosis.

– Keep INNOVATING in healthcare otherwise you stand nowhere.

– Technological transition is leaping forward. We need to get better at translating these technologies and the empowerment they bring, to health.

– The sooner we start identifying and tracking communicable diseases, sooner we can take steps to cure them.

– We need Multi-disciplinary people e.g engineers, patients, designers, artists, marketers, medical professional etc to create promising healthcare solutions.

– Try to introduce the healthcare solution that inculcates positive attitudes among patients.

– Face the problems and diseases with courage and whenever possible create opportunities out of them.

Trip with KDF

I feel profoundly humble that I had been provided with an opportunity to volunteer with Karwan Development Foundation (KDF), a non-profit that is strongly committed to provide full sponsorship for the education of orphan students in Muzzafrabad and nearby villages. It was incredible to see the strong impact KDF is creating on the lives of so many children who otherwise have little or no sources to attain quality education. I salute Mr.Abid Gallani, Chairman KDF, for his relentless effort to being KDF this far.

This time the purpose of the project was to organize a two days field trip of their students to Neelam Valley, one of the mesmerizing and scenic locations in Kashmir. So our team consisting of eight volunteers and mentors headed off to our destination and were assigned duties related to our expertise. As a volunteer, my responsibility was to design and conduct range of learning activities for the students both males and female between the age of 7-18 years. On our way, we were told that 98% of these students would be attending the first-ever field trip of their lives and rarely traveled outside of their own villages.  At that moment, I could image the joy, pleasure and memories this initiative of KDF would bring to these students.

One 14th July 2012, we picked up the students from various villages.  I was amazed to see that as soon as they were seated in their vans, they started enjoying their journey by doing fun activities such as singing, reciting poems and cracking jokes. Later when we stopped at the rest house for snack break, they introduced themselves by telling us their names, about their school and hobbies.  After reaching Neelam Valley, the students were divided into groups and each volunteer was responsible to prepare his/her group for the program activities. It was great to see their enthusiasm and energy while participating in all of the activities. The group (4 Students) I was handling called themselves “Mr.Bean”, because they believed that Mr.Bean achieved every possible thing he thought of. He acted promptly to complete his tasks rather than ONLY talking about them. I loved their idea and faith in practically trying things. Each member from the group was assigned a task, which they had to complete in front of other students belonging to other groups. I was amazed to see their talent and skills while performing tasks. They inspired me with their extra-ordinary performance on stage and team coordination skills.

Next day, we went for hiking in a Neelam Valley Village. It was again a fantastic experience to hike with these students and to learn from them about their villages, their experience and future aspiration. Later the day, KDF conducted award ceremony where the students were awarded with cash prizes, books and other accessories. I truly acknowledge that trip and activities session were well organized and no complains were received from any students or staff.

I must say that this was one of the best experiences I ever had in my life. It was difficult to say good-bye to the students who are now our friends, but KDF promised us that they will keep initiating these kinds of projects and will give us another opportunity to visit our little buddies.  I wish KDF team a prospering future and many prayers for their act of kindness.

Book Title: Talash
Author: Mumtaz Mufti
Pages: 260

Words about author: Mumtaz Mufti was considered a non-conformist writer having liberal views

“TALASH” (search, to look for), is a book in which the author quest for the definition of a true and simple “Muslim”. He is startled to find out that despite of being born in a Muslim family and raised in a Muslim country, the meaning of his own identity is vague to him. The book convinces reader to discover his inner-self and expresses the liberal views of the author about the so-called molivis and their preaching to our younger generation. It also highlights the true spirit of Quranic teaching in our daily lives. BUT WAIT, this does not mean that Talash is a book full of lengthy mystic lectures? Not at all,  rather it is free from rhetoric and is simple to understand.

The First point the author tries to accentuate is the rapport between Allah and human. He strongly criticizes the Illiterate and so-called tranditional Islamic teacher ( molvis) as they are relentlessly depicting a negative and strict image of Allah-man relationship . They are molding the Islamic laws as per their wishes and benefits, due to which there always exists discrepancies in all Islamic issues. This is one of the most obvious reasons that are stopping our younger generation to develop their interest in understanding the real meaning of this balanced religion. Younger generation have clung to the belief that Allah is very strict and is ready to punish us for our every single misdeed. Where as in reality, this is most reliable and strong relationship then any other. He is with us in all the moments of grief as well as joy, he acts a friend and at sametime as a mother, he is always listening to you and no matter what you do he always loves you all time and is always ready to forgive you . Instead of being of scared from him (as molvis tell us) it is better to respect him and in order to create a good relationship with Allah we need to take him with us in every single moment of our life.

Next point highlighted by author is that in order for Muslims to prosper it is of extremely important to follow the characteristics (actions) of our Prophet (S.A.W). He have presented some really good examples in the book. Now a days Muslims are taking islam as a ritual or rather a source of identification. Following the characteristics (serat) of Prophet (P.B.U.H) is paramount way to create the harmony and balance in ones life.

Later the authors’ states that Talash (search) for knowing oneself doesn’t end here rather it is chronic process and one need to struggle for it through out the life. When one will struggle then one will search and this is the basic purpose of Islam. “To find, to discover the underlying secrets” and the only key to reveal these secretes is “HOLY QURAN”.

Title of the book: Pyar ka Pehla Sheher
Author:- Mustansar Hussain Tarar
Pages:- 262

“Pyar ka Pehla Sheher” is one of the most interesting romantic Novels. It is a story about pure and innocent love. The author tries to delineate two points through this novel. Love has never reserved itself for beautiful or physically fit people rather everyone falls in love once or many times in their life. It just happens and sees no boundary, country, nationality etc. Second, in today’s world we define a handicap person as “a person who is either physically or mentally unfit”, whereas in author’s point of view everyone whether he/she realize it or not at some point in their life become handicap. We all desire to mold the life in our own way but most of the time constraints such as culture, poverty, hunger, family, education, job etc make us handicap and we are bound to make the tough and unwanted decisions.

It is a story about a Pakistani tourist “Sunan”, who on this way to France meets “Paskal” , a handicap (lame) yet beautiful French young lady. Paskal seems to be in the complex of inferiority due to her disability to properly walk. Sunan decides to spend sometime with Paskal and help her in getting back to the normal life again. They spend some time together and soon they both realize that they are deeply in love with each other. Paskal on getting the true love becomes ready to sacrifice everything for Sunan and now Sunan due to the cultural and social constraints needs to make a decision. …….To find out whether Sunan marries Paskal or not , read and enjoy the novel………………

Mustansir Hussain Tarar not only did a wonderful job in expressing the feelings of novel’s characters with his magical words, but while reading this novel one can enjoy also enjoy the history and description of some famous places of Paris. I strongly recommend this novel to all Urdu literature readers.

Title: Raja Gidh
Author: Bano Qudsia
Pages: 406

Raja Gidh, a phenomenal and classical novel written by Bano Qudsia . This novel not only delinates the long-trem effects of “Rizq-e-Haraam” on the lives of human beings ,but helps in revealing some of the main reasons for dissatisfied and catastrophic life.

The characters in Raja Gidh are everyday characters (basically it’s us). The writer compares the ‘human nature’ with ‘Gidh’ (scavenger) and tries to convince the reader that humans are just like Gidhs (even worst then them). If a Gidhs eat meat of only dead animal so are humans, who always like to take advantages of weak /disturb and emotionally dead people. In trying to gain what is beyond his/her destination he often choose the forbidden path which leads him to earn Rizq-e-haraam. The writer comprehensively explains the adverse effects of Rizq-e-haraam on human’s genes mutation process. It could lead to insanity and abnormality which is then genetically transferred to next generations.

The second point which is strongly highlighted though out the novel is the concept of “Ishq–e-Lahasil” (love with no destination) . Love for forbidden desires always leads a person in earning rizq-e-haraam which in turn destroyes one’s life and at the end the person is left alone with nothing except his discontented life. In order to convince the reader on this point, characters of Qayyum and Semi Shah are introduced in novel. Qayyum, a middle class member of society falls in loves with Semi Shah, a liberal and beautiful women who had a true love for her other class fellow. Due to some circumstances Semi is unable to marry her beloved and this makes her emotionally upset and weak. During this time of depression and loniless Qayyum takes physical advantage of Semi Shah but as always remains unsuccessful in emotionally molding her love feeling towards him. This was Ishq-e- lahasil of Qayyum. He ran after someone who was never meant for him and his desire lead him towards the wrong path and he kept moving in the wrong direction and at the end was left alone with nothing but regret and dissatisfaction.

This novel strongly reflects on the negatives points of our society today. If only we can understand the concept and adverse effects of Rizq-e- haram and learn to strongly believe in Allah and the fate decided by him , we are likely to prosper as a good Muslim and a perfect member of society. I strongly recommend this novel to all and lot of thanks to Bano Qudsia for such a great contribution to Urdu literature.

Truth …

There’s one sad truth in life I’ve found
While journeying east and west –
The only folks we really wound
Are those we love the best.
We flatter those we scarcely know,
We please the fleeting guest,
And deal full many a thoughtless blow
To those who love us best.

~Ella Wheeler Wilcox


I always feel honored to see many women around me progressing, getting better education and making something out of them.  You may call me biased as I get over-excited when  given chance to share the achievements made by women especially from the vulnerable societies. It gives me sense of women empowerment and equality. To be honest, if I had to advocate on women empowerment be it in any field, I can do it round the clock without complaining. I always consider EDUCATION as the most important tool to empower women but it that it?? If yes then why do I see the trend of many educated women not allowed to make decisions??  Why they are being called illogical (in order words, they dont’ know anything) ? Are we missing something important???

Well, let me elucidate my reason for this curiosity. Today, I met an exceptionally intelligent and diligent bachelor degree holder, Ayesha. She is daughter of our close family friends who love to have their daughters being educated. I use to consider  parents of Ayesha as very liberal and understanding. Ayesha told me that she had the same view  but her perception has changed when she was refused to pursue masters in the field of her choice, “Mass communication”. She was forcefully registered in MS English program, as it was solely her parent’s choice.  She discussed her desires, dreams and plans with her parents for mass communication but each time she failed to convince them.  She even realised that they don’t have valid argument to deny her this opportunity and the only thing they want is the tag of “Masters”. When she resisted, her parents warned her, that if she have to pursue her studies she must go for English else she would have to quit her studies.  Finally Ayesha went by her parents choice as the consequence of not getting further education is too much for her ,even though the last thing on the earth she wants to do is to teach. Trust me it was not a financial problem. Her father thinks that Ayesha is just a kid and not logical enough to make right decision and after all English will give her a good teaching career. REALLY, a bachelor degree holder who is passionate and focused  cannot make decision??? Haven’t these 14 years of education empowered her to make her decision? Am I hearing this right?  How can one be creative if he/she can’t make decisions of their own? In developed countries, students make decisions at their own even before they hit eighteen.

I feel so saddened that in in our society we are only excited about the education part and rarely empowering women on decision-making. Even after years of education , we believe that they don’t have enough sense to think good for themselves or solve a logical matter.   In my view,  education and empowerment polishes ones ability to make rational decision. Its fine it the decision doesn’t give you expected results after all we all are humans and failures are a natural learning process. After talking to Ayesha, I feel that when we talk of education empowerment we should not forget to highlight the power of Decision-making. After all, this is one of the gifts given to us by education.