A blanket of humidity, as per the tradition of a summer’s afternoon in Karachi, enveloped the city as I headed toward Sheraton. I had been informed earlier that day that the interview that I was looking forward to take since quite some time was scheduled for that very same day. It was an interview with a very prominent name. The idea that this person had many years ago, as a medical student, walked through the hallways of the same medical college, where I study today, made it even the more special for me. Upon reaching the grand lobby of the hotel, so many questions, so many thoughts raced through my mind, but within a few minutes, I found myself keenly listening to Dr. Javed Suleman,a senior faculty member in the Department of Cardiology at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, and the President-elect of APPNA for the year 2012, as he vibrantly spoke of his experiences as a medical student at Sindh Medical College, from where he graduated in 1986.
While talking of the years gone by, he recalls that it was a great learning experience being a medical student at SMC and he considers his days spent there as the most memorable days of his life. He shared with me an event that he still remembers very fondly. It was when Faiz Ahmed Faiz had returned to Pakistan from Beirut and was invited to SMC. While reminiscing about it, he told me that it was the first time that a poet of such great caliber had visited SMC. During those days, his health was deteriorating, and Dr. Javed Suleman helped him climb the stairs that led to the stage so that he could give his speech. Faiz, the poet, the revolutionary, in his soft, deep voice that had a touch of anguish and helplessness to it, spoke of struggle, sorrows, tyranny and lack of freedom of expression; but finally, he culminated his speech on an optimistic note, leaving the mesmerized young audience with a message of hope - hope of a new dawn. As he recalled this whole event, Dr. Javed Suleman smiled and said, “And we had a great photo session with him.”
The main driving force behind medicine being a career choice for him was his urge to help people. He lives with the same motto today. He visits Pakistan a couple of times every year, bringing the necessary cardiac supplies including the Drug Eluting Stents with him from USA for the non–affording patients and performs a great number of angioplasties on such patients each year for free. For his services to the underprivileged patients of this country, he has been awarded the highest and the most prestigious civilian award “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz” by the Government of Pakistan.
He being one of the topnotch Interventional Cardiologists globally thinks that it’s very necessary to train the emerging Cardiologists of Pakistan and keep them abreast with the latest innovations in the field of Cardiology. Thus, in 2004, within the structure of APPNA: Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America, which is the umbrella organization for all the Pakistani doctors residing in North America, Dr. Javed Suleman founded APCNA: Association of Pakistani Descent Cardiologists of North America. APCNA provides a platform to the Pakistani Cardiologists living in North America and is aimed at improving the field of Cardiology in Pakistan. Each year, he gives academic presentations, leads interventional workshops and shows live interventional coronary cases at the reputed Cardiovascular Institutes in the major cities of Pakistan.
He is the founding member of SMCAANA and has remained its 10th President in 2004. He has played a pivotal role in establishing the crises center for the 9/11 victims and their families and also in the recent fund-raising for the internal refugees of Pakistan.
Dr. Javed Suleman has been a leader and has believed in fighting for the right cause, since the days he was at SMC. In his opinion, SMC, since the time of its inception, has seen struggle. Dow Medical College was the only college the city had and there was a rising need for another medical college, hence Sindh Medical College was established in 1973. Later, when the first batch of SMC graduated, they had to face yet another ordeal as far as the house jobs were concerned, since the administration of JPMC, being under the Federal Government, declined to accept all the graduates of the first batch of SMC for house jobs and only 30 percent of the graduates were accommodated. It was once again a long and tiring struggle during the years 1982-1983 by the SMC Student Union, of which Dr. Javed Suleman was the General Secretary, that finally proved as an important milestone in the history of Sindh Medical College and the administration of JPMC agreed to accept all the graduates of SMC for house jobs every year from there on. Another major accomplishment by the same Student Union was the construction of a mini auditorium at SMC. The purpose was to provide better clinical learning to the students, as it made it easier for professors to demonstrate the examination and the findings of clinical cases to a batch of hundred students from the stage instead of demonstrating it in the crowded wards.
He believes that in those days, the students of SMC were more closely connected, despite the differences in opinions and they always stood united in times of struggle and difficulties that SMC faced.
As he looks back at the initial years in the United States, he says that they were filled with struggle as he was new in a foreign land. It seemed like a difficult road was ahead of him, as he had to study for months and months without employment so as to be able to pass the exams. However, now, being where he is today, serving humanity in the best possible way, he feels that the struggle was worthwhile.
Dr. Javed Suleman aspires to see Sindh Medical College as a university in the years to come and he hopes to see a compassionate and just leader in every student at SMC who should serve humanity irrespective of caste and creed.
His father was a businessman who passed away when Dr. Javed Suleman was in first year of medical school. His mother lives with him in New York. His wife and elder sister have also graduated from Sindh Medical College and all his children are interested in opting for medicine as a career.
He likes to spend his leisure time with family and friends. He prefers listening to mellow music. Being an avid reader of Urdu Literature, he comments that the book that he has read many a times from cover to cover and which has been of profound significance in his life has been Faiz Ahmed Faiz’sNuskha Hay Wafa. He is also fond of many other poets of Urdu Language, but believes that the poetry of Faiz supersedes the rest and leaves a great impact on him each time he reads it.
As the interview session ended, the mighty day light hours giving way to the pleasant evening breeze as the sun set, and the silhouette of Sheraton behind, I was on my way back home with a smile on my face. It’s rare, and a great honor indeed, to get the opportunity to interview a person as learned, humble and welcoming as Dr. Javed Suleman.