Dr Hasan Bashir is an extraordinary dental professional who has made his mark.
Dr Hasan completed his BDS from de’Montmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore, in 1997. He has also been awarded the fellowship of the International College of Dentists and Academy of Dentaire International. He is also an active member of the American Dental Association (ADA). He is also the recipient of Membership from the American Academy of Periodontology, Royal Society for the promotion of health (MRSPH) and Royal Institute of Public Health (MPH).
Dr Hasan has been a renowned figure among the dental community for his exceptional efforts and hard work in the uplifting of dentistry in Pakistan during times of COVID.
Briefly tell us about your background in dentistry. Take us through your journey from dental school to your current position.
First of all, my high school, which I am very proud of, is Cadet College Hasan Abdal. So, being an Abdalian is a lifetime honour for me. Then, I started my Bachelors of Dental surgery from de’Montmorency College of Dentistry, Lahore, in 1992. That was when private colleges were not groomed, and de’Montmorency College of Dentistry was the only dental college in Pakistan. The teachers who taught me are my love and passion for this profession and helped me become a successful doctor and person. It would not be suitable if I didn’t take their names. Dr Saeed, Dr Adnan Ali Shah, Dr Sohail Abbas, Dr Tariq Zaman, Dr Badr; I learned many things from them.
Dr Waheed, late Dr Yousuf, Dr Shaheena, Dr Parveena and Dr Farhat Mumtaz; were the people who devoted their lives to this profession, and their attitude showed it. Anyhow, I was lucky that they taught me, and whatever I am now is because of them. Then, I did my one-year house job after graduation. It was the time when doing a post-graduation was not trendy. At that time, graduates heard that it would take 10-12 years to do MDS, which made us scared to start, so they opted to do something else. Anyway, now circumstances are different. Teachers have now been educated from foreign countries, and it should be like this. Going back to my time, we could either do FCPS and associate with a teaching institution or start a private clinic where another learning process began. Finally, I opted for the latter and started to improve myself.
In this struggle, let me tell you a small story that will show how dentists like me started and groomed ourselves.
After completing my graduation, a senior citizen asked what I had done when I went to my village. I said, “I am a doctor.” My father further told him proudly that I was a doctor of teeth. Then, people, after hearing this, criticised my decision and said that I could have done something else as even the village barber could do this work.
I told this because many of us belong to humble backgrounds, and if we work hard enough, with good intentions and with Allah’s support, the sky is the limit for us. I thank God that I am lucky enough to achieve all these.
Still, in rural areas, there is no concept of having work done by a qualified dentist. Instead, people approach quacks. Sometime earlier, when I was collecting data for being a president PDA in Gujranwala, I learned that 6 to 7 centres are available in the vicinity of Gujranwala. Still, there are no proper dental chairs or materials available.
It was probably the year 1999 when my father gave me the money to buy a car, but I spent that money to buy a ticket to the USA and used it to do an Implantology course. I was lucky to have some friends on that journey. One of them is Dr Gulraiz. I want to praise him as he started a trend for young dentists to do short courses in that time. For that purpose, he invited foreign speakers to Pakistan. He invited Prof Rescue, Dean of Dentistry College, Frankfurt, Germany. He came for some time and delivered short courses in Pakistan. The unfortunate wave of terrorism in Pakistan halted the entry of foreign speakers. That is why we decided to go to the USA for the dental implant course, where I was accompanied by some good friends, who I still consider an asset to my life. Among them are Dr Hafeez Malik from Lahore and Dr Amir from Okara. These people are among the first to start Implant practice in Pakistan.
These short courses help you to learn from the knowledge, mistakes and experiences of your seniors. I am happy that I became a part of this trend and achieved it successfully.
Later on, I arranged many short courses. A lot can be achieved from these courses.
Would you like to enlighten us about PDA, its core objectives?
There was a dentist in Gujranwala, Dr Javed Ashraf (late). He graduated from de’Montmorency College of Dentistry in 1972. He used to tell me that there was a time when he started a dental clinic in Gujranwala out of love for his city when there is no concept of closing the doors of your shops or clinic. People should realise the struggle of those dentists. It would be unfair not to mention Dr Javed Ashraf’s contribution to improving dentistry in Gujranwala. In addition, he gave a chance to lots of young dentists to work in his clinic and helped them start their own. No doubt he was a trendsetter.
Dr Javed Ashraf, along with other dentists, laid the foundation of PDA Gujranwala in their drawing rooms. They would discuss their cases and struggle on their own until Dr Javed Ashraf decided to go public. For that purpose, Pakistan’s first International Conference by any dental association from the local city was conducted in Lahore in 2004. It came out to be a successful event. At that time, we were in private practice, so we didn’t have from support students or educational institutions. Some of our friends from the west helped us and deserved to be given credit for its success. After this successful event, an audit of this event occurred. Gujranwala PDA had to show their presence in front of the audit. So, we were astonished to see that almost 7 lac rupees were saved from our budget. The international conferences that were held before this event always went into losses. That showed that we succeeded to organise the event for a profit. The PDA centre asked us to give them the profit. Dr Javed Ashraf refused to give the profit but promised them that we would use that money to develop dentistry in Gujranwala, and they would see.
Later, I was made President PDA. Within four years, we established PDA Welfare Complex. It is a 25 million project. Its covered area is almost 5445 sq ft which is based on three floors. It comprises the PDA house and four dental operatories for the general public.
The reason behind all the success is good intentions and teamwork. We are incomplete without some of the team members who are no longer with us, including Dr Ghulam Masood, Dr Hafiz Ilyas, and Dr Jameel. One of our members, Dr Sajjad Mustafa, played an important role as he gave me 35 lacs in 2017, which he made from that seven lacs by investing it in business and property to establish the complex. After that, my team members and I reached the goal of 25 million by my further contribution and now Alhamdulillah, we successfully running the welfare complex.
What are your achievements as President PDA Gujranwala branch?
Thank you very much for asking this question. We have a lot of pages to talk about what we have been doing for four years. Let’s start our conversation from the beginning when we started this. I promised my then audience and members of PDA Gujranwala a few things. First, we would conduct a continuing education program every month for the professional upbringing of our colleagues and secondly, we would establish a PDA welfare complex, which constitutes two things. Firstly, the PDA house would be registered as Pakistan’s first PDA house under the Pakistan Dental Association and not on any individual organisation. Secondly, we would establish a platform for the public to provide a space for decent dental treatment.
This welfare complex was established to provide the best possible services irrespective of the costs. I will invite all those who are reading this to come and visit our complex. Although we have a humble start, you will see that we provide all the services provided in a good private dental clinic, including digital x-rays, bleaching products, endo motors etc.
Running this welfare project is a problem that has to be dealt with. We have put minimum charges on the services and initiated two programs. One is “Karz-e- Hasna”, in which 50% of the payment is instant, and the other 50% is converted into instalments. The other program is for the needy citizens who are ready to accept zakat. So, we make sure that their treatment is done without any conditions.
We have arranged 46 cabinet meetings, 11 body executive meetings, 48 clinical meetings, including online seminars, hands-on programs and nine general body meetings. We conducted eight meetings with the district administration to facilitate our colleagues. Moreover, we started a program here in Central jail, which we are still running bi-weekly and monthly to address the dental issues and provide treatment to the prisoners. We signed an MoU with PARSA Trust in Gujranwala. All their clinical and auxiliary staff are provided with Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C screening, treatment if diagnosed with hepatitis B or C, PCR facility and vaccination facility for the healthy staff. We arranged 11 free dental camps in schools and public places. We published ten audit reports in our tenure to maintain the transparency of the finances.
The members of Cabinet PDA Gujranwala have been a huge support to you; your comments?
I am very lucky that I always had friends who remained on my side with compassion, and I am proud of it. They are my backbone. I am thankful to all the senior leaders of PDA Gujranwala, Late Dr Javed Ashraf and Dr Sajjad Mustafa. Especially to the latter, who supported me whenever I needed financial support. We have our Vice President, Dr Shahid Aman, from the cabinet. May Allah give him good health. The PDA welfare complex was constructed under his strict supervision. Dr Aisha Imraan, a brilliant lady and a very nice addition, remained helpful throughout. Dr Rizwan Asghar is managing activities at Central Jail, Gujranwala. Dr Naseem Mansha has been blessed with convincing power, due to which he nailed every discussion. Dr Azhar is a lovely person and more like a younger brother to me. So, I can say that we started as a cabinet but ended up as friends for life.
What are the plans for the PDA Gujranwala branch?
Our plans are very simple. We want to make PDA Gujranwala a branch that will become a role model for all the associations that they would replicate.
Secondly, we wish to make four more units like PDA welfare Complex in Gujranwala, as this city is huge. This will create jobs for younger colleagues under the supervision of senior dentists and will provide services to lower and middle socio-economic classes.
What are the benefits of joining PDA for young graduates?
First of all, we have to find out what problems these young graduates have to face. I recommend that they do post-graduation, as I believe it can only be done at the start of your career and becomes difficult as you progress. You will be so involved in other things that it would be hard to deal with the basic studies again.
The other thing is that students should not expect to earn a lot immediately after graduation. They should be patient and give themselves some time to learn more things. The good thing about dentistry is that we have to do little work to earn a good reward.
Indulge yourself in some good observership programs. Learn to correlate what you have learned with the latest dental practice. The other dilemma that we usually see is that quacks approach recent graduates. Those graduates became so trapped in those practices that it became difficult to get rid of them.
If clinics like the PDA welfare complex got established in all the cities, it would create many opportunities for young dentists to start their careers with the right practices. Young dentists will be given a platform for continuing education programs, preventing them from going to quacks. They will be given daily wages if they play their part at the welfare complex, and we are working to provide them more benefits.
COVID-19 has caused a setback for the dental community; how did PDA Gujranwala branch help in such conditions?
I remember it was March 2020 when we got to know about the disease. Unfortunately, we were not prepared for that situation. I was so surprised that WHO, the most prestigious organisation of health, used to say new things about Covid daily. First, they say it was an air-borne disease the other day; they said it was water. The WHO was just as perplexed as us. Dentists shut their clinics for a month and more.
So, being a responsible platform, we decided to educate people to face the impact of this epidemic. We started Zoom online meetings and conducted almost eight sessions. I was surprised that when I approached people within and outside Pakistan to invite them for meetings, they were already waiting for that moment. The moment in which they would express their feelings. Some of the people whom I approached were Dr Samir qazi. Dr Saqib Qazi, Prof Adnan Shah, Dr Arham Chauhan, Dr Kamran Ali, Dr Ayaz Ali Khan, Dr Rashid from Saudia Arabia, Dr Rashid from CMH Lahore, Dr Adnan Aslam, Dr Abid Ashraf, Dr Waqas Wahab, Founder, Clear Path Orthodontics and many senior colleagues. They not only contacted us to arrange meetings but contributed most effectively.
At that time, masks were not being manufactured in Pakistan, and their prices hiked a lot. So, at that time, whoever had an N95 mask was considered elite. We distributed PPEs to all the dentists and members of PDA Gujranwala. We gifted imported quality respirators and N 95 masks to dignitaries all over Pakistan. We made sure that none of our colleagues in the vicinity of Gujranwala remained devoid of necessary equipment at that tough time.
Any message for young dental students?
I want to tell young dentists not to get frightened. Insha Allah, you will get money and fame. Utilise your two years after graduation very wisely. Do not jump into things. Students who will go for further studies must do that. Those who do not want to go for post-graduation should join a dental clinic of any professional dentist and learn from them. Try to do observership from two or more clinics so that you will be able to compare. When you eventually start your clinic in future, you will be well prepared.
One tip that I want to give to young dentists is that the upcoming time will be ideal for group practices. This was recognised earlier internationally, but we take time to consider such practices. I believe the future is all about technology and sensible distribution of time. What I see is the benefit of group practice apart from you scratch my back, and I’ll scratch yours, is that you get time for your family, which you won’t get in individual practice. If you ask me what I missed out on in these 23 years of practice, when my children were young and were sleeping when I returned home from my clinic and when they were going to school, I was sleeping. So I want to advise you to spend this golden time wisely because if you don’t, it will haunt you. Therefore, group practice will help you to tackle this easily.
The last message I want to give you is to keep good intentions, work hard, be honest with your patients and try not to deceive. Insha Allah, you will be successful.
In the end, PDA Gujranwala and I want to give tribute to all the heroes who are unfortunately no longer with us, including Dr Javed Ashraf, Dr Ghulam Rasool, Dr Jameel Dr Hafiz Ilyas, Dr Yousuf Tariq. A lot of credit for our success goes to them. Wherever they are, they must be smiling at us and hopefully be at peace.
Thank you very much.