Dr Jamal Ara

“I wanted to reach the top. I really struggled for medical school, did my post graduation at Welsh university and then went on to study at Harvard Medical School.” The beautiful and the ever-smiling Dr. Jamal Ara is not only the head and professor of medicine at United Medical and Dental College, but also works with two schools. Located in a remote area in Korangi, one of them is a special school while the other is a regular school. Her aim is to develop inclusive education. “If I put special children with the ‘normal’ ones, they learn,” explains Dr. Jamal Ara. She believes that with proper education and training, the children in these schools have great potential to become a very important part of society.

When she came back to Pakistan after her studies, Dr. Jamal Ara started working in the public sector. There, she had to work with the masses with very few resources, describing it as a ‘mad house’. “With my personality I wanted to give them the best and that struggle kept me going,” reveals Dr. Jamal Ara. The second portion of her work involves her working as a national coordinator for chemical safety. The powder, soap and other products we use daily include chemicals. These chemicals produce a lot of changes in the body and can be misused. “The National Poison Control Center was under my supervision. I learnt that the youth is so stressed out with emotions they end up attempting suicide and para-suicide. So, at the Poison Control Centre we provide treatment and counseling to ensure that they don’t end up taking poison again”.

Apart from her struggles as a doctor, Dr. Jamal Ara has an additional set of challenges at home. Her only child, Maryam, is special. She has not developed speech and has Down syndrome. When she was diagnosed with this condition, Dr. Jamal Ara had a decision to make. She asked herself whether she should give up her career to care for her child. “But at that time I gained strength from God. I thought I’ll grow with my baby. So I juggled the needs of my child and my work together. I think it’s difficult for me, and also for Maryam. Society has to understand and learn how to behave with special children or special people and have to make their own children understand as well. Special children need certain assistance. If someone has grandparents, you have to assist them, they become special people too.” As if her problems were not any less, Maryam was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes and it became very difficult for Dr. Jamal Ara to handle. She failed to understand how she’d manage her sugar in school and faced uncertainty regarding the future. Maryam’s school, however, has so far been very cooperative and even makes her exercise with other children. Dr. Jamal Ara herself makes a planner for her daughter every morning, labeling her meal time, regulating her exercise time, time to give her insulin injections and blood testing. She has trained a nanny who has been with her for last 18 years. “She’s so trained she knows Maryam better than me. I kept my timing of work and her schooling and extracurricular activity along with my timings. I made time management a norm of my life,” says Dr. Jamal Ara

Maryam gives her mother much to be proud of. In fact, Dr. Jamal Ara’s Miracle Moment was when Maryam was recognized as a national and international painter. She has had an exhibition at Munich, with the name of ‘Very Special Art’ and one at Washington, D.C.  It goes on to show how every cloud has a silver lining. Difficult times will lead to better days and Dr. Jamal Ara’s life is living proof.