Dr Faisal Dar – Pioneer of Liver Transplantation in Pakistan

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Dr. Fasial Dar is the pioneer of liver transplantation in Pakistan. He works at Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad where he conducted the first ever transplant in 2010 of a 9 year old boy. Recently, along with his team he has successfully completed 200 transplant surgeries in Pakistan. 

My Voice Unheard: Give us some of your personal background; your family and education background.IMG-20150709-WA0006

Dr. Faisal Dar: I was born in Faisalabad; but due to my father’s death when I was very young; my family decided to move back to our native village, Kotla Bhalot, in
Kharian, District Gujrat. There I completed my basic education from a local school, leading to Matric and F.Sc from Kharian Cantt.

My MBBS is from Allama Iqbal Medical College, Lahore. After that I completed my FCPS (surgery): Fellow of College of Physicians & Surgeons from Pakistan. Then I went to Ireland for my FRCS (Surgery) Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. This was followed by Fellowship in Liver Transplantation/Hepatobiliary & Pancreatic Surgery from Kings College London School of Medicine, UK. Additionally, I am also a Fellow of European Board in Transplant Surgery (FEBTS – Transplant Surgery).

MVU: When did you decide to become a doctor, was it a personal choice or like the majority here your parents idea and how did you decide to opt for this specialty?

FD: My family wanted me to join Pakistan Army; becoming a doctor was my own choice. Since I qualified the merit list for medical college; so it was easy to convince my family to let me follow my calling.

Surgery was my passion since the start and that is why after completing my house job I decided to go for my fellowship in general surgery. After completing my training and exams I went to UK for further specialization in 2003. At that time there was no liver transplant and hepatopancreaticobiliary surgeons in Pakistan and considering the huge need for this facility in our country I decided to opt this specialty.

MVU: Share your journey of how the liver transplants started and what is the procedure whereby patients are selected?

FD: The first liver transplant in humans was done in 1963. Liver transplant went through two decades of evolution and scientific work, and it was only in 1983 when liver transplant was accepted as the standard treatment for liver failure. Since then huge number of liver transplants are carried out across the world. Living donor liver transplant (in which a healthy individual donates a part of his liver to his beloved one) started in early 1990’s; the techniques and procedures got matured by 2000, and now living donor liver transplant is the standard accepted options for patients with liver failure in countries where donations after brain death does not exists.

Shifa International Hospital Liver Transplant TeamAfter completing my training at King’s College Hospital, London, I decided to come back to Pakistan and start liver transplant program in my country. I was lucky to get good colleagues and tremendous support from the management to get the basic work done before we could do our first liver transplant on 30th April 2010 at Shifa International Hospital, Islamabad. Personally it was a very happy and emotional moment and a great honor for me as a doctor to be the pioneer of liver transplantation in Pakistan.

Patients go through an extensive assessment process to determine their candidacy for liver transplant. In short any patient who’s liver has failed either due to a chronic disease (like hepatitis B & C, autoimmune liver diseases etc.) or suffer from acute liver failure (due to hepatitis E, A or other viruses, drugs or toxins) and patients who have developed liver cancer can benefit from liver transplant. Patients who are unfit to go through such a major operation (due to severe heart or lung disease) or patients who have advanced cancer are not considered for liver transplant because they will not benefit in short or long term from liver transplant.

MVU: How are patients who can’t afford the procedure included in the process and how is there funding secured?

FD: Liver transplant is one of the most complex operation in the medical field. In order to conduct a liver transplant there are some minimal standards that need to be followed by the hospital. Without these basic set standards and the highest level of skill set it is not possible to do a liver transplant successfully. Someone has to bear the cost of the operation. At the moment majority of the patients pay out of their own pocket. Some are funded by the insurance companies, some by the Government and some by different NGO’s.

Pakistan is a beautiful country. Its natural beauty comprising of landscapes, deserts, rivers, planes and the mighty mountains is matchless. The people of Pakistan are loving and caring, known for their hospitality.

MVU: What is the future you see for Pakistan’s medical community in terms of the latest treatments and technology?

FD: Technology is not a big issue as the world has become a global village and access to technology has been made easier. The most important factor is the human resource. Pakistan needs expat doctors to come back; transfer knowledge, techniques and train the future generations to the latest available treatments in the world.

MVU: Share one inspiring story that you came across over the period of your career that had a lasting impact on you?

FD: The story that had an impact on me and is close to my heart is from our first liver transplant at Shifa International Hospital. The patient, Muhammad Yasin, a 9 year old boy who was in a need of liver transplant. He was the only son after seven daughters, and none of the family members had a matching blood group for them to donate a part of their liver to save his life. It was his 21 years old cousin; Humaira; a university student who volunteered herself to go through an operation to save her cousin’s life. The courage of this young girl, the bond of the family and the faith they had on us was amazing. It has been three years down the line both, Yasin and Humaira are living a normal life.

MVU: Pakistan faces brain drain, specifically in the medical field. What is your take on it and in your opinion what is the solution to this problem?

FD: Personally, I think Pakistani doctors need to go abroad to get exposure to the Western world, that not only enhances their medical knowledge, but it grooms them. Furthermore this exposure adds to their confidence while at the same time teaches them better patient care procedures.

However, I also believe that these doctors after improving their skills should come back and serve Pakistan. A lot of responsibility also lies on the Government to improve the public sector hospitals and to redefine service structure for doctors. If our hospitals are upgraded and the doctors are offered decent salaries, I think a lot of doctors will prefer coming back home.

MVU: What is your message to the international community about Pakistan, where you would like to change at least one stereotype about the country and its people?

FD: Pakistan is a beautiful country. Its natural beauty comprising of landscapes, deserts, rivers, planes and the mighty mountains is matchless. The people of Pakistan are loving and caring, known for their hospitality.

Our youth is really talented and determine to work for a better future. There are macro level issues, like corruption, bad governance and terrorism that are the obstacles in the materializing of the country’s true potential. I hope to play whatever role I can to help our younger generation break these shekels and realize their dreams.

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