Sajida Raza, 22, is a third-year medical student attending Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. She comes from the Chitral area in the mountainous northern areas of Pakistan. The area has no hospitals, only a few medical clinics, and it is often cut off from the rest of the world for months during winter.

Her father is retired, earning a small monthly pension and her mother is a housewife.

Sajida has always been an excellent student, earning top grades through high school and straight A’s during her two years of pre-medical studies. In addition, she attained the highest grades in her class in physics during her pre-medical years. Yet, even with excellent grades, the figurative road to reaching medical school has been as challenging to navigate as the actual road she must travel to leave her remote home.

Sajida has earned excellent grades equivalent to those earned in schools in big cities like Karachi, without having access to the same resources. She has had to become proficient in English and to achieve a medical school test score for admission to the highly competitive Aga Khan University MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) program. Her accomplishments to date are amazing when you consider that, in the last 30 years, very few females from Chitral have gained admission to this highly-sought-after medical school.

Sajida’s dream of attending medical school has now become a reality. Her training will prepare her both for the needs of a traditional hospital setting as well as for the practicalities of delivering medical care in the mountainous areas of Pakistan. This will be essential to her future plans to return home, following her studies, to help increase the available level of medical care.

“I want to improve medical care for my village, which is isolated from the rest of the world. I also want to help and guide other students,” she states emphatically.

Providing Sajida the opportunity to follow through on her dream will have a profoundly deep and lasting impact. For the often isolated and underserved people of northern Pakistan, having full-time doctors will significantly improve health care, enhance support to nurses and village health workers and help reduce mortality and morbidity. It will also help reduce the cost and inconvenience of travelling to far-away big cities for emergency care.

by Marissa Pura