Dr Sara Khurram has won many awards for her work as a healthcare entrepreneur. A founder of two startups and an Acumen Fellow for 2016, Dr Sara Khurram is used to the challenge of launching innovative projects and making them a success. But while conducting a community awareness initiative at her current venture, Sehat Kahani - a healthcare enterprise that uses technology to boost access to quality healthcare, she noticed the need for a change.While Sara’s medical background meant that she was well-aware of today’s healthcare issues, she was also looking for a deeper understanding of how to manage and implement new healthcare initiatives in hard-to-reach areas. A discussion with an AKU alumna Dr Shifa Tahir led to her learning about the MSc in Health Policy and Management and while she was convinced of the faculty and standing of the master’s programme, she was concerned about how she’d balance studies with her busy work and family life. In this interview, Sara opens up about her life as a graduate student, how she balances her family life, career and her studies; as well as her ambitions in community health and public policy.Q. Why did you choose to enroll in the MSc Health Policy and Management programme at AKU? I was in search of a programme of study that would help me progress professionally, but would not take up all of time that was otherwise dedicated to looking after my family and keeping a full-time job. I felt that enrolling in a programme that honed my skills and knowledge in public health, would set the foundation for me to one day reach my goal of being able to influence health policy in Pakistan.It was the only programme that offered working mothers, like myself, the flexibility of completing the programme over two to four years, with classes on Fridays and Saturdays, as I not able to commit five days a week to attending classes. Another reason for my choosing AKU’s programme was the credibility of the University. As a student, I wanted to be associated with an institution that is well-reputed, nationally and internationally. Q. Has being part of the MSc Health Policy and Management programme contributed towards achieving your professional goals? The knowledge that I have gained so far from the programme has certainly contributed towards developing my skills as a leader. The programme is very practical in nature. It provides exposure to a variety of topics under health policy and management in a concise manner. As students, we are exposed to field visits, research, classroom learning, implementation strategies, a diverse group of fellow-students and best of all, faculty who have rich experience and expertise in the area and who encourage us to learn from each other’s ideas and experiences. In my role as a CEO at Sehat Kahani, I am able to better formulate strategies, plan out implementation programmes, manage my team and even oversee health-care financing: a topic that I would have shied away from a few years back.Q. Could you tell us more about Sehat Kahani?Sehat Kahani, is a social enterprise that I began with a long-time friend and colleague, Dr Iffat Zafar. Our network consists of services such primary health care clinics, door-to-door consultations, preventive health care awareness and counseling. Our team consists of 8 people in the head office and close to 30 people on the ground who run our 8 clinics (5 in Karachi, 2 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 1 in Hafizabad).Q. Could you elaborate on how Sehat Kahani assists female doctors in practicing medicine?Women unwittingly become victims of various socio-cultural barriers that make it very prestigious for women in Pakistan to obtain a medical degree but sadly, look down upon women who opt to continue working after marriage or having children. A female doctor, more often than not, faces a lack of support in terms of caring for her children and sharing of house-hold responsibilities. This lack of support usually results in a majority of female doctors giving up on their careers. Sehat Kahani connects female home-based doctors that have fallen out of the workforce, to patients in lower income communities in real-time, while leveraging technology.The enterprise seeks to improve basic health care via a network of on-the-ground nurses, mobilisers, lady health workers, volunteers and doctors.Q. Coming into the MSc in Health Policy and Management programme, what did you think your experience would be like? Has it been different from what you expected?I came into the programme thinking that it was going to be a very rigid and strict learning environment. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it is a very inclusive programme. My preconceived notions were put aside when I saw how attuned the programme is to student feedback on matters relating to curriculum as well as the overall programmatic experience. During my undergraduate studies, the approach was generally unilateral with information being transferred from teacher to student. At AKU it is more of a mutual learning process. The faculty act as facilitators who will help you understand tricky concepts and will be approachable if we need to contact them for further discussions. Another factor that has meant a lot to me is the appreciation that I have received as a student and a working professional in the programme. The leadership and programme team, led by Dr Shehla Zaidi, is supportive and understanding of all of us, especially the women and working mothers. Q. Would you please share the most memorable experience of your time at AKU?Considering my chaotic work-home schedule, coming to AKU on Fridays and Saturdays is like a breath of fresh air; in fact just stepping onto campus sets me at ease. There isn’t just one memorable experience that I can relate. I simply cherish the feeling of learning something new. During the work week, I hardly ever get the time to read so the opportunity to explore a new topic or engage in research is something I find incredibly satisfying. Another aspect that appeals to me is the broadening of my social circle. When one’s time is fully dedicated to work and family, there is a limited time to spare on a social circle and activities. I feel that being part of the programme at AKU has broadened my social circle quite significantly. I have met other like-minded individuals, hailing from diverse professional backgrounds, who are keen to share their knowledge, experiences and ideas. I can confidently say that that I have gained, both professionally and personally, during my last 2 years at AKU thanks to the people that I have had the opportunity to meet and interact with. I don’t believe my AKU experience would be complete without my mentioning the fun that we have as students. It brings back fond memories of my days as a carefree undergrad student. Q. Would you encourage other working professionals like yourself to join the programme? What advice would you offer them?I would definitely encourage other working professionals to enroll in the MSc in Health Policy and Management! In truth, there are many institutions that offer programmes for working professionals, with classes held after office hours. That particular option would not have been possible for me given my personal and professional commitments. The fact that the MSc programme conducts classes on Friday afternoons and on Saturdays, is what solidified my decision to pursue the programme. I would heartily encourage others like myself to do the same. If you truly have the desire to learn then the programme offers an overview of all public health domains. It is structured in a very practical and concise manner and is facilitated by professional and experienced faculty. You will be encouraged to learn from each other’s diverse backgrounds, ideas and experiences as well as from the programme faculty. It is an amazing programme to be part of!