Monday October 25, 2021

Health dept orders probe into medical professor’s credentials

October 07, 2021

LAHORE : Specialised Healthcare and Medical Education Department (SHC&MED) has ordered probe into a the credentials of an allegedly ineligible candidate for senior a senior post on the faculty of Allama Iqbal Medical/Jinnah Hospital, Lahore.

Sources say Dr Fouzia Ashraf, Professor of Pathology at AIMC/JHL, had allegedly secured a coveted position in medical profession allegedly with the help of three public and one private sector institution, depriving deserving officers during different stages of her career progression in the process.

AIMC/JHL Principal Prof Dr Arif Tajammal, under directions from SHC&MED on a complaint by citizen Nadeem Mustafa, a resident of Riwaz Garden, Lahore, has constituted a four-member inquiry committee to probe into her allegedly forged academic credentials issued by Punjab University, validated by Pakistan Medical and Dental Council (PM&DC) now called Pakistan Medical Commission (PMC), and posted by AIMC/JHL, on the basis of allegedly fake medical teaching experience issued by a private university on Raiwind Road.

The committee headed by Prof Dr Tariq Rasheed, Head of Department of Dermatology, has three members Prof Dr Sajida Malik, Head of the Pharmacology Department, Hasan Raza, Director Administration, and a clerk.

Sources claim that Dr Khalil-ur-Rehman, Associate Professor of Pathology at AIMC/JHL and a direct victim of this alleged violation of merit, had earlier challenged her appointment in 2015. Interestingly, she also served as PMLN’s Member of Legislative Assembly (MLA) in Azad Kashmir from 2011-14. Sources say that Dr Fouzia Ashraf, who also uses her name Fouzia Tahir Javed in academic or professional certificates, had completed her MPhil in Molecular Biology as per her result card issued by Centre for Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), Punjab University. The CEMB Director, in a letter to PU Controller of Examinations, had recommended issuance of an MPhil degree in Molecular Biology in accordance with the result card.

However, PU’s Examination Department allegedly issued her an “MPhil degree with blank subject space” (Session-2005) apparently ‘for the purpose of tempering’, which not only formed the basis of her posting as Assistant Professor in Pathology Department of AIMC/JHL in 2005 but also paved the way for acquiring a PhD in Microbiology. The PMDC, too, had registered her MPhil in Microbiology despite difference of subjects in the MPhil degree and result card. It is worth mentioning that the CEMB is not recognised for medical qualifications by the PMC (formerly PMDC) as it neither teaches human microbiology nor does it have a clinical lab for research.

Documents available with The News also reveal that the PU had allegedly issued two PhD degrees in her name - one in Molecular Biology and the other in Microbiology (after former’s cancellation) in the same session of 2011 with same registration and roll number. Whereas, PU’s Doctoral Programme Coordination Committee had categorically certified her PhD in the subject of Molecular Biology. Sources claim that Dean of PU’s Faculty of Life Sciences, who was not a medical doctor, serving at that time had allegedly used semantics to coin a new term of “Molecular Microbiology” to dilute Examinations Department’s alleged forgery to issue the PhD in Microbiology. This fictional term of “Molecular Microbiology” does not exist anywhere in the world.

However, PMDC had registered her PhD in Molecular Biology, apparently on the basis of first PhD degree in Molecular Biology before the issuance of the second PhD degree in Microbiology. The complainant also alleged that she had falsely claimed her research work under a joint degree programme of CEMB and University of Nabraska, USA - a venture he claimed didn’t exist at all. Sources say that she had allegedly acquired counterfeit medical experience certificates of Assistant Professor of Pathology/Microbiology (15-01-2003 to 15-09-2005) and Professor of Pathology/Microbiology (10-06-2011 to 12-06-2014) from a private university on Raiwind Road, which pointed towards an anomaly because duration of the latter experience certificate coincided with her term as an MLA in Azad Kashmir.

Sources say that her current status of registration with PMC remains “inactive” since 2019 as the regulatory body has not renewed her licence for the last two years.

It is further learnt that she had also applied through Punjab Public Service Commission (PPSC) for regular appointment as Professor of Pathology but the commission had rejected her as ineligible for the post for lack of requisite experience and research papers. The SHC&ME Department, however, compensated and continued to award her one-year extension on an ad-hoc basis every year.

When contacted, Prof Dr Fouzia Ashraf termed it a malicious campaign against her meritorious achievements as a result of a professional animosity.

“I established the first ever BSL-3 COVID-19 Lab at Jinnah Hospital,” she said, saying that it didn’t go down well with her professional detractors.

Claiming valid academic qualifications and experience, she said that Lahore High Court’s division bench had validated her academic credentials and this decision attained finality. “Dr Khalil, who had challenged my academic credentials, was eventually demoted and transferred from AIMC/JHL,” she added.

Dr Fouzia was confident that she would be vindicated once again and this latest campaign to malign her illustrious career and professional achievements would be thwarted.

When asked about her ‘inactive’ registration by PMC since 2019, she said that she had already applied for renewal of her status but PMDC’s transitional phase to establish new set up of PMC had delayed renewal of her licence. She hoped that PMC would soon renew her status.

The AIMC Principal and Chairman of Inquiry Committee did not respond to frequent calls and messages.

However, Hasan Raza, AIMC Director Admn and a member of inquiry committee, told The News that the inquiry committee would soon finalise recommendation and submit the report. While commenting on the complainant’s allegation of counterfeit certificates, he said, LHC’s division bench had validated her academic credentials and relevant experience, which can’t be overturned until someone challenges the decision in the Supreme Court.

When asked about lack of renewal of her licence by PMC since 2019, he said that a candidate’s ‘inactive’ status with PMC does not mean cancellation of a licence. “PMC may issue cancellation of a licence if it deems so,” he added.

Sources claim that PU and PMDC could be liable to have committed witness perjury for misleading the honourable court through provision of false information as candidate’s subjects in MPhil degree and result card did not match.

Talking to The News, PMC President Prof Dr Arshad Taqi admitted that PMC neither recognises PU’s Centre for Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB) nor does it acknowledge Molecular Biology as a clinical subject.

When asked as to how formerly-known PMDC recognised a candidate’s MPhil in Molecular Biology issued by CEMB, who is currently practicing as Professor of Pathology at AIMC/JHL, he said he would look into the matter from all its legal aspects.

Meanwhile, a PMC spokesperson states: “An inactive status showing on PMC website signifies that a licence has expired and awaits renewal. Under the law, practicing medicine or dentistry with an invalid licence is an offence and liable to a penalty. With the introduction of online licencing in April 2020, the process of renewal of a licence merely takes seven to 10 working days.”

When PU Controller of Examinations Rauf Nawaz was asked to comment on the matter, he said that although it was an old matter, a complaint had been received in this regard. “The department will look into it on merit,” he added. When contacted, SHC&MED Secretary Dr Ahmad Javed Qazi said that he wasn’t in a position to comment pending the inquiry report.