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  • Maryam Baqir, the Class of 2013 Valedictorian addresses the Convocation.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
Aga Khan University Convocation, Karachi

Respected Chancellor and members Board of Trustees, distinguished guests, esteemed faculty, dear parents, graduates, ladies and gentlemen,

Assalam Alaikum.

I welcome you all on behalf of the graduating class of 2013 - a class of intelligence, compassion, extreme good looks - and now a class of doctors. It is a separate thing though, that while our parents believe in our ability to treat backaches, persistent headaches and nagging coughs, rest assured that after five years of studies, we can still do none of those things.

I’d also like to welcome you on behalf of the graduating nurses and educationists, proudly sitting here, forging a tradition of excellence, setting a high bar for all of us to live up to. Let us all look around and thank the family, spouses and friends who have been indispensable in supporting us, the colleagues who labored and walked with us and the teachers whose endearing souls transferred passion from one heart to another.

But most importantly I’d like to thank Mr. Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge – the guy who discovered caffeine. Mr. Runge, I may not have pronounced your name correctly, but without you, Sir, my fellows and I would have never been able to graduate. A brief look at the last 5 years would support this view.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it took me nearly a week to memorize the titles of the various disciplines we were taught in 1st year; there was anatomy, physiology, microbiology, statistics, biochemistry and a class called histology which none of us ever studied for. I remember leafing through my text books, gaping at the size of the content and wishing if the earth could swallow me.

During second year, studying for lectures made us all hypochondriacs. I diagnosed myself with stable angina, hypothyroidism, diabetes and polycystic ovarian syndrome. And then 3rd and 4th years began. We finally got to go the hospital! In surgery we were able to hold a retractor for 3 hours, which is an amazing skill if you think about it. I also learnt to wake up patients at 6 am only to ask if they were passing any gas. Internal medicine taught us how to walk around the hospital for a bazillion hours. In psychiatry we saw patients with crippling anxiety, depression, crying spells and obsessive compulsive personality disorders. However, only later did we discover that these were actually our own fellow students. In Pediatrics, I became scared of having kids of my own. In Obstetrics and Gynecology I learnt what would happen if I did have kids of my own. And finally in Emergency Medicine I saw how doctors, residents, interns, nurses and technical staff come together as a team to save lives.

And amidst all these eye-opening life lessons and reckless schedules, a lot of people discovered their significant others. Ladies and Gentlemen, our batch has more couples than there are fingers on your hands. No wonder AKU won the Excellence in Student Engagement Award this year!

Graduates of the School of Nursing, Medical College and Institute for Educational Development, you leave here today as enlightened individuals entrusted with the privilege of serving society with your knowledge, skills, and resources. You are graduating from an institution that stands on high standards and an adherence to values. Let there be no compromises on ethics or quality and build your reputation similarly.

We live in a society with an extremely uneven distribution of income, and the very fact that we are here means that we have been beneficiaries of this skewed system. I am hence filled with humility, guilt, and a desire not for charity but for redemption. We must remember that it’s called giving back not because we give what we have to those who do not, but because we give back from whom we took in the first place.

In the pursuit of greatness though, as corny as it sounds, we must remember to spend quality time with friends and family, and to take out time for things we love. To my fellow graduates: nurses, educationists and doctors, we have shared a marvelous time and are entering this puzzling and exciting new world together! Stay smart, stay beautiful, but most importantly stay compassionate and tolerant, give back, make a difference!

I will miss you greatly. Class of 2013, congratulations. We did it!