In Conversation With: A Pakistani Oncologist in the UK
<p>For Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we spoke with Dr. Zafar Ali, a Pakistani Oncologist in the UK about raising awareness, lifestyle tips for reducing cancer risk, the importance of early diagnosis, treatment and his career advice for budding oncologists.</p> <h2>Hi Dr. Zafar. Thanks for speaking with us. Can you please introduce yourself to our readers?&nbsp;</h2> <p>My name is Dr. Zafar Ali and I am an oncologist from Pakistan. I am currently working at Hull University Hospital in&nbsp; UK. Previously, I worked for the Comprehensive Cancer Center at King Fahd Medical Hospital in Saudi Arabia, one of the largest hospitals in the country.</p> <h2>October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. How does your organization raise awareness?</h2> <p>The Hull University Hospital UK has a very good system. We have routine seminars that highlight the importance of early detection of breast cancer. Then there are community-based nurses that interact with people socially and raise awareness about breast cancer. We also have volunteers who have recovered successfully, helping us give hope to other patients facing the same situation.&nbsp;</p> <h2>What proactive measures can people take to fight breast cancer?</h2> <p>There are a few cancers that can be detected early by following preventative measures. For example, breast cancer and cervical cancer. And sometimes colon cancer too.&nbsp;</p> <p>I would suggest everyone to schedule a mammogram if they notice any abnormality in the breast. This can help detect cancer in its early stages.</p> <h2>What do you wish the general public knew about cancer?</h2> <p>There are many risk factors for cancer. Genetic mutation and sporadic cancer is something that is out of our control. But some lifestyle habits, like smoking, is strongly linked to lung cancer. As an oncologist, I would suggest everyone to try and lead a healthy lifestyle. Stop smoking and eat clean, as this can decrease your risk for cancer.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Can you tell us about your job within oncology and why you chose this career path?</h2> <p>During my era, when I was a medical student, oncology was not a priority field. I remember studying everything about the human lungs and colon &#8211; but lung cancer or colon cancer was not focused upon. But nowadays, the scenario is totally different. Oncology is a very dynamic field and there is new research happening every single day. There are a lot of new drugs and treatment plans that have changed the future of oncology. And this dynamism keeps me hooked!&nbsp;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="535" src="" alt="Pakistani Oncologist " class="wp-image-16097" srcset=" 1024w, 300w, 768w, 1200w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>&#8220;Working abroad opens so many new avenues for healthcare professionals.&#8221;</figcaption></figure> <h2>What advice would you give to any budding healthcare professionals interested in a career in oncology?</h2> <p>Recently, one of my junior colleagues asked me if oncology training was worth it. And I gave him the same reply. Oncology is an excellent field to specialize in and it is very dynamic. Unfortunately, with the current lifestyle and high consumption of fast food and non-organic produce, cancer is very common. I would always recommend budding healthcare professionals to take up this field because as time passes by, the treatments being offered to cancer patients are very successful and it is a rewarding journey.</p> <h2>Can you describe what a typical day or week looks like for you?</h2> <p>While working for the Comprehensive Cancer Center at King Fahd Medical Hospital, it was a very different routine. I had my routine consultations between 07:00 AM to 04:00 PM.&nbsp;</p> <p>But in the UK, the workflow is distributed. Some doctors are assigned to the clinic, while another team handles OPD, and a third team manages the chemotherapy department. So let’s say, if I have a lung cancer patient, I’ll get to see all the other lung patients in the clinic too. And when I’m assigned to the chemotherapy department, I get to see my patient there as well. It’s a multi-faceted approach, which I feel works very well.&nbsp;</p> <h2>What is your workplace like and where are your colleagues from?</h2> <p>Most of my team in Saudi Arabia was predominantly from Arabic-speaking countries like Sudan, Jordan and Egypt. I also had a few Indian and Pakistani colleagues back there.&nbsp;</p> <p>My UK workplace is more culturally diverse. We have healthcare professionals from all over the world, including the US, Middle East and South Asian countries. It’s always great to work with colleagues of different backgrounds and cultures.&nbsp;</p> <h2>What do you love the most about your job?</h2> <p>Cancer is not like any other disease. For example, if a patient has pneumonia, they’ll get treated for it and wouldn’t have to see their doctor anymore. Similarly, if someone has appendicitis, they’ll get surgery and leave healthy.&nbsp;</p> <p>But unfortunately, once a patient is diagnosed with cancer, they have to establish a lifelong relationship with their oncologist. My job requires me to be an active part of my patients’ lives and their families too. And I love this about my job,&nbsp;</p> <h2>What is the most challenging aspect of your role?</h2> <p>If cancer is detected early, there is a high chance that the treatment will be successful. But unfortunately, when the patient is metastatic or stage four, we have to inform the patient and their families. Breaking the news that they have a couple of months, as per prognosis, sometimes becomes very challenging.&nbsp;</p> <h2>Would you recommend a healthcare career overseas? Why?</h2> <p>Working abroad opens so many new avenues for healthcare professionals. The systems in overseas countries are much more advanced and up-to-date. It helps you learn new skills!&nbsp;So, if you have an opportunity to work overseas, then definitely, go for it!&nbsp;</p> <h2>How did you first hear about</h2> <p>As a doctor, I used the <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">DataFlow Group’s services</a> to get my credentials <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">verified</a>. This is when I came across and <a href="" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer noopener">registered as a member</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Thank you, Dr. Zafar Ali, for sharing your experience working as an oncologist overseas in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.&nbsp;</strong></p>