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April 15, 2018

Dr Asif Bashir, who left lucrative job in US to serve poor patients in Pakistan


April 15, 2018

LAHORE : Many Pakistanis in the United States or elsewhere in the world continue to positively impact societies they are now part of and some come back with a greater mission—to give back to their motherland and serve their fellow countrymen.

Leaving behind a life of comfort and luxury really requires a mighty heart and compassionate soul but above all a conviction to make a difference, despite all odds. One such great son of the soil is Dr Asif Bashir who after 20 years in the US left behind a lucrative job and recently came back to Pakistan with a sublime mission to serve ailing humanity. He had a fair choice to solely start upscale private practice but he joined the public sector as he believes those who cannot afford treatment at private health facilities, government hospitals are the only hope for them.

Despite serving as professor of neurosurgery in the U.S, Dr Asif went through the Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) recruitment process and joined the Department of Neurosurgery of Lahore General Hospital (LGH)/ Punjab Institute of Neurosciences (PINS). He is son of an acclaimed Pakistani neurosurgeon, the late Prof Bashir Ahmad, who is considered one of pioneers in neurosurgery in Pakistan and who actually founded the Neurosurgery Department at Lahore General Hospital. Prof Bashir Ahmad had returned from New Castle, the UK, in 1964 and initially started neurosurgery at Nishtar Medical College, Multan. In 1966, he moved to Lahore and founded the Neurosurgery Department at King Edward Medical College and Lahore General Hospital, now PINS.

Dr Asif, who received his medical degree from Pakistan’s prestigious King Edward Medical College (now King Edward Medical University) in 1995, is now considered the most qualified spine and neurosurgeon in the country. Before coming to Pakistan he was Professor of Neurosurgery & Neuroscience, Seton Hall University-Hackensack Meridian School of Medicine, New Jersey, USA. Among his postgraduate training fellowships include Stereotactic & Functional Neurosurgery at the world renowned Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN, USA & Complex Spinal surgery: Neuro/Ortho Spine: SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA. During residency training he was pediatric neurosurgery resident at the most prestigious Harvard Medical School Boston Children Hospital & resident / Chief Resident Neurosurgery at SUNY Upstate Medical University, Syracuse, NY, USA. Dr Asif also has active licensure for Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey and New York. He’s considered an authority on minimally invasive brain & spine neurosurgery as well as Gamma Knife certified from University of Pittsburgh, USA.

Talking to The News, Dr Asif, who is a Diplomate American Board of Neurological Surgery, said he had left one of the highest paying jobs in the U.S only because he wanted to contribute and give back to his country. He adds when he joined LGH’s Neurosurgery Department as professor & head of unit 3, the waiting time for patients was three months. “I managed to bring it down to three weeks,” he said while adding since November 2017 he has done hundreds of surgeries free-of-cost at LGH/PINS.

According to him there is dire need of imparting latest training to young doctors. “That’s why we are revamping the residency training system at the LGH/PINS,” he says and adds, “I’m here to make a difference.” "One of the reasons I came back to Pakistan is to introduce medical tourism in Pakistan. Those among us who can afford to go abroad for treatment, my idea is to give them the same kind of treatment and facilities in the country, so that not only they stay here but others also come to Pakistan for their medical treatment,” Dr Asif says. “There is a need to stop this drainage of patients and this is actually going to help the country and the people in many ways; Pakistanis should not have to go to India, USA and Europe for neurosurgery and spine,” he added.

In his private practice, Dr Asif has been dealing with all types of high-end cases from Afghanistan, Peshawar to Karachi. His areas of specialty include Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, Gamma Knife, Brain and Spinal Tumors, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson’s disease & movement disorders: Stereotactic & Functional Neurosurgery, Aneurysms and Carotid Surgery.

To his credit, he has multiple research articles published in high impact journals and is the lead author of many co-publications, all in international journals. He is invited as a visiting professor the world over. He sees the cost of implants as a major issue in Pakistan and suggests that these should be subsidized to help and facilitate poor patients. The solution to it may be in enhancing collaboration with China as we want to provide a high volume low-cost healthcare model, he believes.

To a question he said, “The best surgeons are those who know when not to do surgery. Every patient deserves the kind of treatment we would want for our own family members."

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