Dr. Asghar Nazeer was inducted into the Delta Omega Honorary Society in Public Health in 1994 at Johns Hopkins University, where he earned MPH, MHS, and DrPH degrees. After working as a physician, Dr. Nazeer chose to pursue public health in order to promote prevention and stop the suffering he saw in his patients at its source. Dr. Nazeer has more than 27 years’ worth of experience in public health, epidemiology, and clinical medicine. He is still active on the forefront of public health practice as a Senior Epidemiology Specialist in the Preventive Medicine Services Division of Saudi Aramco Medical Services Organization.
Dr. Nazeer holds women’s and children’s rights and their health care priorities in his highest regards. He deems mentoring young public health professionals and students a priority and is an active Delta Omega Mentor. To learn more about Dr. Nazeer and his career in public health, click here.
In March 2012, the National Office had the opportunity to ask Dr. Nazeer a few questions about his work in public health and what the Delta Omega Honorary Society means to him.
Thank you so much for sharing your insights with us. As you have studied and worked in public health across many borders, what do you think global health means and what is its importance? What should people keep in mind when implementing public health initiatives across borders?
Dr. Nazeer: Global health most simply implies that the health of people in the world is linked with one another. So to ensure that we stay healthy, we need to strive to make as many of our fellow human beings healthy as we can, regardless of where they live. Communicable diseases know no boundaries, as H1N1 pandemic flu recently reminded us. Multidrug resistant organisms evolved in one location can spread far and wide. Even lifestyle related non-communicable diseases are now rampant worldwide as food habits and lifestyles are influenced by living in cosmopolitan cities and products affecting health are promoted internationally. No place is immune from the ominous threat of biological terrorism. No one can sit complacently in a silo with impunity from disease unless we strive to help the world’s population have a healthy body and mind and stay productive and constructive. But global health has more dimensions to it!
To me, global health is not just the health of humans worldwide. It is the all-encompassing health of humans, animals, environment, and economy, which offers a more holistic visualization of global health. The essence of this interpretation of global health is that only a stable economy, sustainable livable environment, and fair sharing of resources including pre-requisites of a healthy lifestyle and healthcare can ensure that mankind maintains a sort of “herd immunity” to the perils of pandemics and forestalls the maladies of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity and preventable non-communicable diseases. The health of living beings, environment, and economy is inseparable all across the globe. “One World-One Health” should be the overarching goal sought when implementing public health initiatives across borders while keeping cultural diversity and sensitivities in perspective and yet trying to forge an alliance.
When you learn someone is in Delta Omega, what does that mean to you?
Dr. Nazeer: When I know someone is in Delta Omega, it immediately tells me that the person is a high achiever and believes in excelling in educational and professional career. I also understand that besides their scholastic performance, Delta Omega members are chosen for their leadership potential and future prospects of outstanding contributions to their profession.
But enrolling into Delta Omega is an honor that must be honored. What I mean is that we should strive to meet the expectations, which are vested in us when our faculty elects us to this exalted society, to the best of our abilities. Whether we engage in service, teaching, or research in our careers, the implicit promise of commitment to professional excellence we make when we accept this accolade should be kept. Above all, we must try to be exemplary as a person and as a citizen in whatever roles we take in our families, community, and society so that no one could ever say a member of Delta Omega Honorary Society did something that was not-so-honorable.
What advice do you give to new graduates looking to make their mark in the public health field?
Dr. Nazeer: I admit at the outset that new graduates belong to a generation that is far ahead in independent thinking, bold enough to ask the right and tough questions, and very savvy in the use of cutting edge technology. They are fast learners and are more inclined to think out of the box. So I feel humbled to offer any advice to them.
Nevertheless, to answer this question, I would advise graduates to be original and innovative in everything they venture in public health. Work harder to excel and exceed expectations and standards in teaching, research, and service rather than being content to be an average professional. Rewards for hard work may come late, but they do materialize one day. And even if they do not, you should be content with having done your best for humanity and your profession as the public health calling is based on selfless dedication towards mankind. Recognition is just a cherry on the cake, but the sweetest cake is doing your job well. And remember, cake is larger than the cherry! Just like that, your excellent work is bigger than its reward.
The field of public health seems to be ever-changing and often invisible to the public it serves. What thoughts do you have on ensuring excellence and quality in such a dynamic and often underappreciated field?
Dr. Nazeer: This question relates to ensuring excellence and quality in a field which is ever-changing and often invisible to the public it serves. I will first address the invisibility aspect as public health differs from clinical medicine where your patients consult and know you in person. I regard public health professionals as guardian angels of people’s and populations’ health. Angels are invisible; yet they can do wonders to save our lives and protect us from dangers. Public health professionals should be content to visualize themselves as guardian angels that are out of sight, but are still protecting people, saving lives, and improving their quality of life.
For the second part, we know that public health, medicine, and every scientific discipline changes faster than we can catch up with. We must read a lot, attend conferences, and take continuing education courses – yet be selective in choosing them given the limited time to spare from our mainstream responsibilities. We should learn what is most relevant to what we are doing now, though we could always explore topics that invoke our curiosity, as public health is an interdisciplinary profession. Knowing about related fields could open new avenues for our collaborative work with fellow professionals and stakeholders to serve humanity better.
Ensuring excellence and quality in this underappreciated field requires incessant study, hard work, and personal sacrifices.