Alumni Profile: Shazia Sarhandi

Shazia Sarhandi is Manager Health Service at Al-Hamd Hospital (Private) Ltd Karachi, Pakistan. She graduated with an MSc in Public Health in 2019.
Shazia Sarhandi

Why did you decide to study at LSHTM?

Selecting the top school for postgraduate studies has remained a dream and passion. LSHTM has a world-class curriculum, state of the art laboratories fully equipped with resources and world-class faculty, and can produce a global leadership pool to encounter future challenges.

LSHTM was the #1 Times Higher Education University of the Year in 2016 and #2 in the UK for research impact. LSHTM nurtures global talent, which is why its alumni have made incredible achievements. As a health professional in a developing country like Pakistan, it was my dream to be part of the bigger goal by undertaking an MSc in Public Health at LSHTM.

MSc Public Health from LSHTM addressed the health care challenges in high, middle and low-income countries. Additionally, I chose to concentrate on the health services management stream from five stream options to learn core disciplines of health services management.

As a doctor, I looked at and treated the pathological causes of diseases at the individual level. But the work I was doing in the operation theatre and outpatient department was miles away from the problems of the patients I was treating. I was looking for an international top-ranked school's qualification to get mandatory skills to contribute to policymaking to bring permanent solutions for public health issues in low- and middle-income countries.

How has your degree at LSHTM supported your career?       

My MSc in Public Health offered complete expertise in the concentration of Health Services Management which has complemented my career in many ways. My education at LSHTM has upgraded my capacities for developing research protocols and methodologies, operational research, recommending interventions, coordinating with partners and stakeholders and project report writing. I have written many case studies, policy reports, commentaries, editorials and scientific dissertations while completing my degree.

This degree has equipped me as a healthcare industry leader in senior management and leadership positions locally and internationally. I am an enthusiastic Regional Leader of the East Mediterranean Region (EMR) at the International Working Group (IWG) for Health System Strengthening, where I am working with young public health leaders for the development of global health.

At the local level, I joined the management team of a newly established private health organisation (Al-Hamd Hospital (PVT) Ltd). Our team is promising to bring long-lasting changes in the lives of local communities in Pakistan. We are looking forward to our dedicated team implementing the most modern scientific ways to provide patient-centred care at an affordable cost.

LSHTM provided me with an excellent opportunity to meet great scholars' academicians, researchers, scientists and students across the globe. These networks at different levels have given me an insight into the industry from a different perspective and references for future connections. Moreover, like-minded groups continue to stay in touch, and we are in contact with friends to develop other thematic groups and initiatives. My mentors are still in touch with me, and I frequently get their feedback on my professional work development.

What have been some of your career highlights?

I began my profession as a doctor in the field of Obstetrics & Gynaecology with the motive of safe delivery, promotion of women's health and nutrition, family planning and women's rights in a charitable organisation; a Catholic missionary hospital, St Tereasa maternity home in the countryside of the southern district of Sindh province. Unfortunately, women's health is a neglected matter in all remote and rural areas of Pakistan, but my province's statistics are alarming. Our team frequently visits the neighbouring villages to provide diagnosis and treatment services, free of cost and essential medications and nutrition supplements for girls and women. But our team could not cover the cases where surgical skills to carry out emergency obstetric and gynaecological procedures are required. There was a severe shortage of skilled and qualified doctors working in rural Sindh. Therefore, we have to refer our patients to tertiary care hospitals in other cities with poor transportation system infrastructure. Before reaching the facility, many patients arrived at tertiary care facilities dead or with ruptured uterus, stillbirths, and eclamptic convulsions.

In 2015, a Nanyang international scholarship award enabled me to pursue my 1st international postgraduate qualification, an MSc in Public Administration, at NTU Singapore. I received a distinction, high grades and statistical methods for policy analysis. I then fulfilled the MSc's admission requirements at the world's top school of Public Health, the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.

MSc Public Health from LSHTM advanced my technical skills and knowledge. I represented Pakistani Women among the brilliant minds from more than 129 countries and worked very hard to cope with the intensive master's programme curriculum. The research was an integral part of the MSc Programme at LSHTM.

I applied for this opportunity to work on an important Issue; Corruption in Health Systems. In my systematic review, I tried to evaluate the corruption in the non-governmental health sector of the South Asian Region. Later on, I presented a paper based on my thesis work as a first author in the Sixth Global Health System's symposium of Health System's Research (HSR2020).

I am an active member of the International Advisory Panel Elsevier  Journal organisation (UK), Health Systems Global (HSG) and the Asian chapter at the Community of Practitioners on Accountability and Social Action in Health (COOPASH).

I am striving to contribute my analytical skills to help institutions and professionals advance in healthcare research and to improve health systems performance for the benefit of humanity.

What advice do you have for current students?         

This is the golden period of your life! LSHTM will give you friends, mentors and memories. Time management is the key to getting the best benefit from this course. Focus on your studies and prepare yourself to take this challenge. Improve your statistical skills!

Do you have any standout memories from?

Yes, I have beautiful memories of living and studying in Bloomsbury Central London near Keppel Street. I always enjoyed my early morning walk to LSHTM by crossing Russell Square and Brunswick square, where squirrels and maple trees refreshed my mind and soul with the cool breeze of London.

London has a tradition to welcome the great minds of the world. I believe the city today holds this tradition. Walking in the streets of Central London from Coram Fields to Keppel Street felt like walking through the history of Bloomsbury, where novelists Sir James Mathew Berry, Virginia Woolfe, TS Elliot, and economists like John Maynard Keynes lived and worked. The LSHTM library was my favourite place, where I spent several hours listening to lecture recordings and preparing my PowerPoint presentations. Additionally, I enjoyed coffee and meals with my friends in the refectory.

How has COVID-19 affected your work?

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire world from all walks of life, but health care professionals fought against this as front-line soldiers. Our professional path provided us with enormous energy and, against all odds, a belief in the value of humanity.

COVID-19 has severely affected the healthcare services in Pakistan. Many small private organisations closed their work. As a doctor, I worked under the stress that it might infect and affect my family if I became infected. I felt anger and frustration at the workplace as I was worried about my health and receiving news of losing colleagues, relatives, and loved ones. It was indeed a difficult time, but I believe as a professional, I came through this stronger and more dedicated due to the importance of my public health field in society.