Global Neurology Trainee Highlight: Dr. Zumar Sardar

Dr. Zumar Sardar, FCPS Neurology, is currently a practicing neurologist at District Hospital Nankana Sahib, Pakistan and an adjunct post-doctoral trainee at Columbia University Irving Medical Center-New York Presbyterian Hospital under the mentorship of Dr. Kiran Thakur. She completed her residency at University Teaching Hospital in Lahore, Pakistan, and completed her undergraduate medical degree at the Xinjiang Medical University, China. Dr. Sardar’s research interests are in neuroinfectious diseases and movement disorders.

Q: Who/what inspired you to choose the field of neurology?

I have been intrigued by the human brain since the beginning of my medical school career when I began studying neuroanatomy. In my final year of medical school, I stumbled upon books by Oliver Sacks, such as “The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat” and “Awakenings”, along with the popular books of the renowned Indian neurologist Dr. V.S. Ramchandran, such as “Phantoms in the Brain” and “The Tell Tale Brain”. I read these books cover-to-cover, and I was completely in awe of their inspiring stories. Following graduation, I did my house job (mandatory one-year training before enrolling in a residency of choice), and during that period, I had the opportunity to work with the knowledgeable and skillful neurologist, Dr. Waseem Wali Muhammad. His work ethic, ward rounds, and guidance reminded me greatly of the stories written by Dr. Olivers Sacks and Dr. V.S Ramchandran. I was already enthralled by the human brain, but working with Dr. Wali piqued my interest in becoming a neurologist. He played a great role in my choosing the field of neurology, and his guidance and mentorship over the years has ultimately made me a better physician.

Q: What were some of the challenges that you have faced in cultivating your career thus far? How have you overcome them?

After completing my neurology training, I was completely at a loss of what to do next in my career path. I wanted to pursue something that was unique and gratifying. In Pakistan, there are no accredited post-doctoral training opportunities in sub-specialties of neurology. Therefore, post-graduate training opportunities proved difficult to find. However, with my heart set on finding an opportunity to further my neurology career, I began to scrimmage the internet for any didactic courses, research opportunities and fellowships dedicated to trainees of low- and middle-income countries. And as fate has it, I came across the Neuroinfectious Diseases Research Fellowship, and I promptly contacted the Program Director, Dr. Kiran Thakur. I have received great mentorship from Dr. Thakur ever since being accepted into the program and have worked closely with her research team. In the past ten months since working with Dr. Thakur, I have been introduced to a magnitude of opportunities that I never knew existed. I have learned so much about research, collaboration, funding opportunities, and other fellowship opportunities. I intend to apply the skills and knowledge that I have gained back in Pakistan, and intend to share this knowledge with other neurology trainees, physicians and students in hopes of promoting greater knowledge of neurology topics and issues.

"Neurology education has changed substantially, for the better, and I foresee the field developing even further globally over the next few decades."

Q: How do you envision education changing the face of neurology?

When I ultimately chose the field of neurology, I was told by many people around me that neurology had no progressive future since there were very few cures and treatment options for neurological disorders, leading to minimal work satisfaction as a neurologist. However, this did not deter me. I believed that if there was no cure, I would help contribute to the discovery of such cures and treatments, and with that spirit, I chose neurology and have never looked back ever since.

A myriad of breakthroughs in treating diseases like multiple sclerosis have been introduced in the past five years. Many new medications that were only available in resource-rich settings are becoming available in countries like Pakistan. As the great need for neurologists have been recognized by many, junior doctors and internal medicine residents have started to show interest in the field of neurology. There are approximately 600 qualified neurologists in total practicing in Pakistan. Ten years ago, most tertiary care centers did not even offer a neurology residency program in our country, but now we have multiple university teaching hospitals offering such residency opportunities. Neurology education has changed substantially, for the better, and I foresee the field developing even further globally over the next few decades.


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