Valedictory Address

Ramlah Nadeem, Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery, Class of 2017​

Honourable Governor, Esteemed President and Provost, Respectable Deans and Directors, faculty and staff, parents and my fellow doctors, nurses and educationists, Assalam-o-Alaikum! It is my incredible honour to be standing before you all today.  

I have procrastinated over this speech more than I care to admit. Did I have writer’s block as I claimed to my mother night after night? Or was it because deep inside I knew that with this speech I would end a journey that lasted a long time and the most significant one of my life.  

I decided finally that like good histories I should begin it at the beginning. And the last time we were in our normal state of health was when we arrived here. We were fresh-faced, relatively untouched, blissfully oblivious. We arrived here warily testing waters, discovering such things as the bridge that cannot be named in present company, the tuck shop, the student lounge. We adjusted to the constant staring which we later realized was an AKU thing and promptly adopted.

We discovered that the lakes were beautiful but the geese were fierce, that the quickest way to empty the library was to let drop the word mufta; But most importantly we learnt that whoever told us that you could stop studying after you went to college was lying!!

The first two years though bound together closely were remarkably different from each other. First year we were the bait, the youngest of the lot, the new blood, the butt of every joke. But by second year we had juniors of our own, we strutted around the quad because we had already learnt the ropes; nothing could rattle us now. And then second year prof happened. Whoever has been through the trauma of second year prof can pretty much live through anything. There are two things that I remember well from that time. One was a discussion the evening before about how long we were going to sleep that night; the average ranged from around twenty minutes to an hour and the second thing during the actual examination was the loudest sneeze that I have ever heard. Any guesses?

With second year prof however ended the only time at AKU that bore any resemblance to our lives before. Now for the first time the proverbial curtains were drawn and the real world of medicine was revealed to us.

William Osler said and I quote, “He who studies medicine without books sails an unchartered sea, but he who studies medicine without patients does not go to sea at all”. And slowly but surely we were taken to sea. The clinical years began with us mimicking steps that we barely understood. They consisted of long, endless rounds in which the answers to simple questions eluded us and our histories were never perfect. ORs demanded perseverance backs of steel, a near perfect knowledge of anatomy and an ability to remember the chief resident’s favourite songs.

Clinical years, however were more and slowly grew to be more than merely stories of our ineptitude. As I look back now I can see that the lessons that were taught created in us a value system that is now second nature. There was infinite wisdom in our teachers’ stern words, “And I do not want to see patient histories lying around, tear up the page if you do not need them” and our consultants insistence on sanitizing hands when moving from one patient bed to the next. There was also incredible kindness in my consultant’s polite insistence on waiting outside the clinic, so that the mother could feed her crying baby before we examined him. I learnt then that as a doctor and a human being my life was made up of moments. And every single moment I made a decision about who I was choosing to be. And our decisions directly impacted the people around us.

Every individual’s journey here has been remarkable and each of us has something different to show for it. I can say with the utmost sincerity however that our time here has been in irreplaceable lesson in compassion, kindness and patience. It would not have been possible without the blessings of God, without our teachers, and all those people from the housekeeping staff and the guards to the secretaries and the librarians who have silently been part of our journey; And lastly I would like to thank my mother and father and all the mothers and fathers here today for dealing with our idiosyncrasies and standing by us even when we did not deserve it! 

And finally Class of 2017,  doctors and nurses and educationists Our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan said and I quote “The spirit of the volunteer — literally the will to make a product better, a school the very best, a clinic more compassionate and effective. Their spirit, generating new ideas, resisting discouragement, and demanding results, animates the heart of every effective society” I would like to thank this great man, our chancellor, for the unbelievable work he has done. This is our legacy, just the fact of the existence of a place like AKU in a country like ours is evidence that we should not let anything stop us from daring to dream and from aspiring to perfection. Today is the day that we venture out into the real world, and I know that some of our dreams might appear impossible, and that it seems preposterous to think that the world can be changed but I know that you guys can give it a fair shot!

Congratulations everyone!​​