The Aga Khan University (AKU), headquartered in Karachi, is a major centre for education, training and research in the health sciences and teacher education. Chartered as Pakistan's first private international university in 1983, it has since established education programmes and institutes in Eastern Africa, Central Asia and the United Kingdom.
The University supports the Aga Khan Health Services by providing various levels of clinical education and training expertise including:
Since its founding, the School of Nursing's mission has been to improve the quality and quantity of nurses in areas where quality nursing was in high demand but in chronically low supply. Since 1980, over 2000 certificate, undergraduate and postgraduate degree nurses have been awarded.
In concert with the delivery of training and services, the University assists the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan in developing their nursing systems and strengthening the role of women in the health sector, especially senior nurses and Lady Health Visitors (LHVs). Many graduates of the School's programmes are now in leadership positions in Pakistan and abroad.
The Educational Support Programme provides additional relief to those students who are unable to afford the subsidised tuition fees of the Medical College or the School of Nursing.
The international activities of the Aga Khan University's (AKU) School of Nursing, begun in 2001, now encompass Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in East Africa, Syria and Afghanistan. Its models for hospital administration have been studied and adopted by governments in Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia and South Asia.
AKU reached a milestone in July 2002, when it received accreditation in Kenya and Tanzania, which enabled the University to implement academic programmes in the country. The granting of the letter of Interim Authority in Kenya and the Certificate of Provisional Registration in Tanzania allows AKU to introduce educational programmes for human resource capacity building in the health and education sectors.
In Uganda, AKU established its first academic presence abroad, in response to requests from the government, as part of a programme to reform the health sector. The Advanced Nursing Studies Programme, which is fully accredited in Uganda, has been running programmes in a campus in Kampala. Recognising the value of work experience, the Advanced Nursing Studies Programme offers a flexible module approach and a community-based curriculum.
In Kabul, Afghanistan, AKU provides technical assistance, capacity building for nursing and assistance in the areas of curriculum revision, policy formulation and the setting of academic standards. It has also set up a science laboratory in Kabul. It is upgrading Kabul's medical education institute with a special focus on English, computer usage and nursing education. An important milestone was reached in August 2003 when 21 midwifery residency students, the first batch in over 10 years, graduated from the institute.
In Syria, it is assisting the Ministry of Health in instituting quality assurance and nursing competence programmes in several hospitals in Damascus, Syria.
It has contributed to the overall health infrastructure in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Kenya, Nepal, Syria, Tanzania and Uganda, either through the provision of services or assistance to ministries of health.
Until recently, many Pakistani medical graduates seeking postgraduate medical education went abroad for their studies. The variety and quality of AKU's programmes in 33 clinical disciplines has now made it possible for physicians to receive high quality clinical training in Pakistan.
Since their inception, the three-to-five year postgraduate medical education programmes have graduated 401 residents and 24 fellows. Following an intensive inspection regime, the programmes were accredited by Pakistan's College of Physicians and Surgeons.
Two-thirds of these graduates are working in the country, contributing to health care as skilled generalists and specialists in cities and in remote areas such as Kunri in Sindh and Gilgit and Chitral in the northern region of Pakistan.
At the same time, AKU has graduated a number of professionals who are playing key roles in the development of the health infrastructure in their countries. The PGME programme is also expanding internationally. AKU has begun establishing residency training programs in Internal Medicine, General Surgery and Family Medicine in East Africa.
AKU's problem-based research has tackled some of the pressing health conditions of our time and contributed to global knowledge on hypertension, environmental health, genetics, neuroscience, mental health, early childhood care, typhoid, vaccines, cancer, diabetes, tuberculosis and clinical epidemiology, among other areas.
In community health, AKU has conducted a number of studies bearing on health issues in the developing world. Research has included a study on lead levels in Karachi children and a study of diarrhea in remote northern villages. The long-term aim is to develop the capability of indigenous health officials and workers to deal effectively with critical aspects of public health.
In the nursing field, it has studied the worldwide issue of nursing staff shortages. In 2003, using the University Hospital as a model, the division of Nursing Services conducted an extensive exercise in all patient care areas to assess and set nurse-patient ratios, based on patient acuity level in order to maintain quality care practices. Comprehensive staffing models were then developed and put into practice.
AKU's dual role as both a standard-setting research institution and as a disseminator of tested and replicable models has raised the bar for health care in the developing world.
For more information, please visit the website: http://www.aku.edu/akuh.