Rotary Voices

How Rotary’s polio scholarship is helping me achieve my goals

Dr. Koko Khurram Rizwani takes a selfie with colleagues.

By Dr. Koko Khurram Rizwani, Rotary PolioPlus Memorial Scholarship recipient

About a year ago, I was facing many anxieties and worries about how I was going to complete my graduate studies and realize my short and long term goals of improving public health in Pakistan. Receiving Rotary’s PolioPlus Memorial Scholarship has been like a dream come true.

I have always felt a bit at odds with many of my peers, to the point that I have often times been labeled an “odd lot.” I see problems or broken systems and I want to fix them. I cannot accept the usual quick-fix approach that is practiced a lot here in Pakistan.

I have had a passion for medicine since secondary school, and completed my Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery from Dow Medical College. I was gratified that I now had knowledge to be able to ameliorate some of the pain in other people’s lives.

But as time passed, and I started my medical practice, a new problem emerged as I confronted the state of affairs in the health profession. Questions kept coming up. Why is this done this way? How can anyone ignore this? How can the government neglect such basic needs? Why is there no realization of how to stem such an endemic contagious disease? And on and on it went.

I see problems or broken systems and I want to fix them. I cannot accept the usual quick-fix approach that is practiced a lot here in Pakistan.

I could not go on as a medical doctor and feel powerless to change the policies and practices for the betterment of society. I knew my present qualifications were not enough. So after many days of contemplation, I decided to pursue an advanced degree in public health.

Post graduate work with two children and a husband in the armed forces who is always on the move can be very challenging. But like they say, “where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

I set out to search for all the colleges offering post-graduate degrees in public health and enrolled at the Dow University of Health Sciences. By some means and much difficulty, I managed to pay the first semester fees and began my coursework with enthusiasm. Always in the back of my mind, however, was the anxiety of how I was going to pay the next semester fees.

The Rotary PolioPlus Memorial Scholarship recipients from Pakistan (four women at left and student at far right) with Aziz Memon (center grey suit) chair of Rotary’s National PolioPlus Committee in Pakistan.

How in the world would I get a scholarship here? It seemed inconceivable; yet something to aspire to. And that is when I heard about Rotary.

I cannot express my appreciation enough for this scholarship. My uncertainty and stress have diminished, and I have met an enthusiastic team who are as keen as I am to address the problems in the system. I am recommitted to working with great care and perseverance to learn all I can studying full-time.

Most importantly, I feel this scholarship will become the cornerstone for achieving my dream of improving the health care system, or as I like to put it, “debugging” the system, and changing behaviors and practices that will benefit people throughout Pakistan.

Without Rotary, this dream of mine would have been much more difficult, if not impossible.

About the scholarship: The Rotary PolioPlus Memorial Scholarship was established to recognize front-line health care workers, some who have sacrificed their lives, carrying out polio immunizations and other community-based health activities. This year’s scholarships were awarded to five scholars in Pakistan and three in Nigeria. Each recipient is assigned a Rotary member as a host counselor to support the scholars and provide a connection to the Rotary community in their country.