A tribute to JPMC’s ‘iron lady’ Dr. Seemin Jamali’s and her 33 years of service

Experts believe it was not easy to run the most significant government hospital in a sprawling urban center being a woman.

The Executive Director of The Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) Dr. Seemin Jamali, has retired after 33 years of public service. She retired on Thursday, and her absence will be felt acutely by the hospital and the city at large.

The former ED is being recognized as the longest-serving Grade-21 executive director of the city’s largest tertiary care hospital. Dr. Jamali’s name has become synonymous with JPMC’s emergency ward, where she served for nearly three decades.

About JPMC’s Emergency Ward

The JPMC emergency ward treats up to 1,500 patients daily, and almost all are tended to free of charge. As the facility receives around 75 percent of the city’s emergency cases, the number of patients rises exponentially in crises. Patients from Sindh and Balochistan’s remote areas, where citizens are deprived of emergency health facilities, are also brought to JPMC.

 

Dr. Seemin Jamali’s Career and JPMC Journey

Dr. Jamali graduated from Nawabshah Medical College in 1986 and completed her house job at Dr. Ruth Pfau Civil Hospital, which was then known as Civil Hospital Karachi. Besides a Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) degree, she also completed her Masters in Primary Healthcare Management (MPHM) from Thailand and a postdoctoral fellowship in Emergency Care from the United States of America.

Her job at the JPMC’s emergency ward was the first of her career. Speaking about JPMC, Dr. Jamali said:

I did not have any private hospital. I served day and night [at the public facility], and I am satisfied with my career as a doctor and the head of this hospital.

When Dr. Jamali joined the JPMC, the government hospital had no boundary wall. It had remained a challenge for all former heads of the hospital to have a wall constructed to separate the city’s most prominent health facility from the city itself.

A dhobi-ghat was set up almost inside the hospital premises while fumes emitting from parked cars and vehicles, noise pollution from street vendors, and leering bystanders were constant.

Through her untiring efforts, Dr. Seemin Jamali managed to not only have the wall constructed but also transform the facility such that it could match the services offered at more costly private sector hospitals.

Applauding her efforts and expertise, the hospital promoted Dr. Jamali to the executive director rank on the 18th of November 2016.

During her service, she has tended to over 200 bomb blast victims, countless gunshot victims, casualties from accidents, building collapses, plane crashes as well as the thousands of people who routinely arrive at the government hospital’s emergency ward.

Experts believe it was not easy to run the most significant government hospital in a sprawling urban center being a woman. Dr. Jamali faced threats to her life, attacks, and targeted campaigns aiming to defame her.

Reminiscing over her years of service, Dr. Jamali said:

It hasn’t been easy. Nobody can say I have ever refused service to anyone coming to this hospital. I worked without prejudice.

According to the hospital staff, Dr. Jamali never faltered while tending to all kinds of casualties and dealing with traumatized patients, which is not for the faint-hearted. Due to this, her patients and the medical community regard Dr. Seemin Jamali as the ‘iron lady’, ‘bullet lady’, and the ‘bomb-proof lady’.

Sharing an anecdote, the senior doctor said:

The first time Dr. Jamali held a hand grenade was after she retrieved it from the pocket of an injured man in the emergency room.

To which Dr. Jamali said:

I was unaware of what it was and carried it [out] without knowing. I also witnessed a blast in the hospital, apart from several other terrible attacks and incidents on the premises.

In November 2020, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, and she continued working through her treatment before managing to defeat it successfully.

Dr. Seemin Jamali retires

Despite being the daughter of a highly respected civil servant, Ghulamullah Din Muhammad Memon, popularly known as GD Memon – who is remembered to this day for his staunch stance for Sindh’s water share when the Water Appropriation Award of 1991 was being debated – Dr. Jamali managed to carve out a name for herself. Through sheer will and dedication, she gained recognition among the medical community and citizens at large.

On her last working day (Tuesday), Dr. Jamali could safely say that she has had cordial relationships with all political and social organizations.

Dr. Jamali ends her career with the recognition of a ‘global hero’ by the World Health Organisation for her services during the coronavirus pandemic and numerous awards, including the Tamgha-e-Imtiaz in 2019 for her tireless efforts throughout her career.

Speaking about life after retirement, Dr. Seemin Jamali said that she has no plans for the future. It seems that for now, she is content with the memories – both good and bad – she has collected during her years of service at JPMC.

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