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Yasir Iqbal

A Partnership of Equals

Chris Hill – BFIRST Affiliate

I am a consultant plastic surgeon in Belfast with a special interest in cleft lip and palate. For the last seven years I have supported a BFIRST affiliated project in Gujrat, Pakistan. This link was set up by another UK-based charity, OPSA many years ago. I travel to Pakistan as part of a team and we work at the cleft hospital in Gujrat. The aim of the project is to support the development of a multidisciplinary approach to cleft care in Pakistan, and to forge links with local consultants and trainees to teach and train and exchange ideas and knowledge.

“The opportunity that BFIRST offers cannot be underestimated. We have an enviable health service and excellent training which many of us (both doctors and patients) take for granted. It is a pleasure and a privilege to be able to share some of the fantastic training that I received with colleagues from developing countries.”

I am fortunate to have worked with two excellent local surgeons, Mushahed Aslam and Yasir Iqbal, and we have operated together on difficult cases and exchanged techniques and learning. Mushahed is a senior surgeon and has a vast experience in dealing with palatal fistulas which fortunately in the UK due to the centralization of services and reduced numbers of surgeons are infrequent and usually very minor. The multidisciplinary approach to cleft care is not the general rule in Pakistan and the cleft hospital is one of the few places that can offer the spectrum of care required for a better guarantee of good outcomes.

I met Yasir Iqbal three years ago, he was a newly appointed consultant in Rawalpindi and worked in Gujrat at weekends and when we visited. He brought a new enthusiasm and was keen to see new techniques and learn about the UK model for cleft care. He applied for a BFIRST fellowship in 2017, and was successful in his application. This allows the successful applicant to visit a plastic surgery unit or units in the UK, to attend BAPRAS courses free of charge and utilise the knowledge they have gained in their ‘home’ units.

We arranged his visit for September 2018. He arrived a few days before the start of his observership with his wife Hajira and we were able to visit some of the sights in Northern Ireland including the Giants Causeway. When his observership started he was able to attend a range of operating lists and outpatient clinics across a range of sub specialty areas in Belfast and was also able to attend some private operating sessions in order to see our full spectrum of work. He was also able to attend an “all Ireland” cleft audit meeting with my other cleft colleagues Chris Theopold (who also visits the cleft hospital in Gujrat regularly), David Orr and Eoin O’Brien. He also attended a Hand surgery course is Birmingham and the BAAPS annual meeting. He then flew to England and visited Muhammad Riaz in the Hull plastic surgery unit and visited the Newcastle unit. He finished his trip with attendance at the BAPRAS advanced educational courses on cleft, ear reconstruction and vascular anomalies in Manchester.

Yasir stayed with me and my family for much of his time in Northern Ireland and I am grateful to my local colleague Abid Rashid and Muhammad Riaz in Hull for accommodating him during his time in the UK. During free time he was able to travel in the UK, and visited London, Edinburgh, the Lake District as well as the units mentioned. I am very grateful to all my senior and junior colleagues and BAPRAS members in other units who extended their hospitality and enthusiasm for our speciality. In addition to his travel opportunities I was also able to take Yasir kayaking, which was a new experience for him which I believe he relished.

BFIRST offers a fantastic opportunity for me and trainees who have travelled with me to gain knowledge and insight from a different perspective. I have learnt as much as I’ve taught on my visits to Gujrat.

Yasir Iqbal – BFIRST Fellow

Nature has formed diversity in each aspect of its creation. Life is the most complex thing and among living things, human is the masterpiece of God’s creation. Although mankind shares common features, individuals are also different in all physical and mental aspects. Where advancement in science has made this world small, it also has divided earth in zones where some areas are more advanced with good facilities to diagnose and treat different diseases and other areas where people are still struggling for basic necessities of life like food and water. A doctor living in such a country cannot know or practice all treatment modalities being done in advanced countries unless he or she gets an opportunity to know and see them.

Being a plastic surgeon, I always try to think of different reconstructive options for my patients with congenital and post traumatic problems. Working with limited resources, I was unable to visualize beyond a limit until I visited UK as a BFIRST fellow. BFIRST’s fellowship programme trains young consultants from developing countries. During my visit I worked in different hospitals and with different consultants. It was a great opportunity for me to observe best protocols they made for patient’s safety and how differently they think and what different options they use to serve mankind.

One more great benefit a BFIRST fellow can get is to attend and participate in international conferences and workshops which otherwise is almost impossible for him with limited resources. After getting this valuable experience, my vision is now much broadened. I now know the standards and how protocols effect patient’s management. How research work can help improve treatment and how can we use available and latest technology for the benefit of needy people.

I could not find any flaw in this programme but there is always a chance of improvement in any work which can be done with critical feedback. My consultants were very welcoming and friendly to me especially Mr. Chris HiIl and Mr. Muhammad Riaz took great care of me and kept me at their own homes but I think residence is a big issue for fellows and maybe BFIRST can arrange some residence for visiting fellows.
I suggest increasing funds for this program to increase fellowship slots. This will indirectly serve mankind living in different parts of this world.