Vale​dictory Address

​Haider Ali Saleem​, MBBS programme​

Honorable chief guest, trustees, President Rasul, Provost Carl Amrhein, deans, faculty, parents and of course my fellow graduates of the medical college, school of nursing and IED, Assalamu Alaikum and a very good afternoon to you all. 

It feels like it was just last week that we were waiting at the gate as the TCS rider arrived. We howled at him to be quick, all eyes were on his bag, would he pull out the large A4 sized envelope with all the admission papers or the dreaded small one with the rejection. It took ‘some’ of us multiple years, but eventually we all got the large envelopes and joined this great institution as the class of 2019. 

The first year was all about discovery. Most nights were spent roaming on campus, visiting places we were never supposed to visit. Some remained busy exploring staircases that only opened on the one side, while others enjoyed the ‘Abdus Salam’ gardens. The SONAM patio it seemed only allowed boys after 9 pm and if you couldn’t be found at any of these gatherings, you were probably in an ‘intro session’ with the seniors. And amongst us was another group in fact: professionals who were learning to be students again. Our now epidemiologists and educationists, men and women who while working full time and raising families, had rejoined university. Their nights were a little different, with them sitting next to their children, both doing their respective homework. 

But regardless of what different people were up to in the night, the mornings had everyone united against a common enemy: the newly installed biometric machines that logged our mandatory attendance. 

All those half awake sign-ins and adventurous nights later, we were suddenly second-year students. Life was a bit more settled now, you knew your friends, you knew how to study, you had taken a particular liking to the textbooks of ‘Sheldon’ for neurology and ‘pink boxers’ for endocrinology. You seemed to have a grip on things, but of course that’s not AKU… Enter second year prof…

After several permutations, combinations and analysis we concluded that we would need about only 10 to 11 weeks for prep, but of course, we had only three. The hysteria on Prof Night was one we will never forget, it all seemed impossible. Yet, we did it! We achieved the impossible that night and students of the school of nursing and medical college entered the clinical years.

Freshly dry-cleaned lab coats, the latest Littmans around our necks, we entered the wards and what we saw shocked us. Our patients were moving now. They could talk, completely unlike the mannequins we had practiced all our skills on. And so, very quickly, our youthful excitement vanished. We realised the games were over, books couldn’t help us now and real patient lives were under our care. 

Fumbling and falling we passed through the clinical years. As soon as we thought we had a grip over a rotation it changed into the next. As soon as we figured out what was happening in a clinic, it ended. Just like that OSCE after OSCE, we found ourselves in final year. And as we looked into the mirror, we couldn’t recognise ourselves. The girl who hadn’t been allowed to leave the house before AKU, had now been around the world, presenting her research papers. The aloof introvert had found his empathy and his voice in the eyes of one dying patient in the ER. Class of 2019, it has been a miraculous journey, one of self-growth and one of immense perseverance. Today we have arrived at the end. Many many congratulations to us all!

My fellow graduates, it is easy to think of yourself as self-made, it is easy to imagine yourself as the lone hero of your journey. But, truth be told that was not our experience at the Aga Khan University. The students and alumni of AKU stand so tall, because they stand on the shoulders of giants. These giants who make the university what it is, are of course, our faculty! You brilliant men and women, who nurture, inspire and enable us to be who we are today. Thank you for everything!

It truly took an entire village to raise us at AKU. From housekeeping to security, from dean’s office to NFSD, from Zubair and Tariq to our hostel coordinators, from sports center to department secretaries, from library to maintenance, we thank each and everyone one of you for your invaluable contributions to our experience here at AKU. 

Our biggest thanks goes out to this group, seated right in the center: our parents, spouse, siblings and families. There are no words to express our gratitude, nor ways to give back to you. Our parents were the only reason we were good enough that AKU chose us and they were the only reason we managed to get through it. The only support that was truly unconditional, the only love that was truly infinite. Our trusted advisors, our greatest advocates, we owe it all to you! 

We love you, and this day is all for you! 

And my final thank you is to a man most of us have never actually met, yet to whom, we owe everything we stand for today. This is of course our Chancellor His Highness, the Aga khan. Thank you sir for this incredible university and healthcare system, thank you for your magnanimous vision and most of all thank you for these pink walls we call home. 

Doctors, nurses, epidemiologists and educationalists of the class of 2019, I leave you with one final thought. You stand here today having defied all circumstances, having turned your worlds upside down and having performed personal miracles day after day at AKU. But remember, we did not come this far to just come this far.

Once upon a time we set out to change the world and now with an education that is unparalleled to any in the region, we carry a burden greater than we realise and a capability greater than anyone can fathom. In the current state of the country it is often said that only a miracle can fix it. My fellow graduates, be that miracle! Be extraordinary! Be AKU! Go out there and be sure to put your mark on the world. 

Class of 2019, it has been an absolute pleasure growing old with you. Thank you!​​