Dr Shazia Jamil, MBBS ’91, balances twin roles while caring for hospitalised, critically ill COVID patients at Scripps Clinic in San Diego, California, where she serves as head of academic affairs for the Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine.
As a specialist in respiratory diseases and critical care issues, she focuses on the immediate needs of the patients before her, but as a clinical educator and a physician scientist she also asks herself how she can apply her experience to raise the quality of care for patients elsewhere.
Dr Jamil and her team have developed comprehensive protocols for Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS), a leading cause of death in COVID patients. ADRS causes a build-up of fluid in the lungs that makes it difficult for the body to maintain oxygen levels. This can be potentially fatal in COVID patients who can experience a sharp fall in oxygen saturation levels as complications develop.
The treatment protocols prepared by Dr Jamil’s team are in use in many hospitals and explain how to use prone positioning, lying on one’s stomach, and various strategies of mechanical ventilation to restore oxygen levels and thereby prevent the worsening of the disease.
“The learnings from ICU protocols are adaptable in regions everywhere, including Pakistan,” says Dr Jamil. “These recommendations can help decrease ARDS mortalities significantly by tailoring specific measures in severely ill COVID patients.”
Dr Jamil and her team have also developed guidelines to prevent and treat blood clotting complications. COVID patients around the world have shown a higher degree of developing blood clots in various parts of the body such as the lungs, brain and legs, which in many cases have caused fatalities. Therefore, COVID-19 patients may require higher doses of blood thinners from the very start as preventive measures and Dr Jamil’s guidelines explain how to balance the use of medications to treat this complication.
Dr Jamil is passionate about medical education and is working in a number of positions in the field. Besides being a clinical associate professor at the University of California’s San Diego School of Medicine, she is also the co-chair of the Education Committee of California Thoracic Society and co-founder and Chair of the American Thoracic Society’s (ATS) rapid response team, which includes physicians from various US academic institutions. The purpose of the ATS’s team is to develop timely national and global responses to emerging lung health issues caused by disease outbreaks and natural disasters.
Even before the disease started to spread in the US, Dr Jamil and her team published one of the first documents in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine for physicians and patients in the US on COVID-19’s screening guidelines and effects on lung health. The publication was the seventh most cited paper on SARS Co-V2 on PubMed in mid-February. Since then she has authored a number of publications looking into clinical characteristics as well as management and treatment strategies for the disease that are being well received among healthcare providers.
As Dr Jamil continues to assess how to improve the quality of care for COVID-19 patients, she remains convinced about the impact of her education at AKU. She says: “I believe AKU and its outstanding professors have had the highest impact in developing my critical thinking, analytical skills and deep passion for clinical medical education. For that I am indebted to AKU for life.”