Tales of Glucose Trail: Faizan Tirmizi

Welcome to the Tales of Glucose Trail! This blog series highlights members of the Glucose Trail community: from Patients to Healthcare Companions to Doctors to Developers to Administrators. Through these posts, we illustrate the stories of their human experience.

This week, our star is Faizan Tirmizi, the pod manager for our pilot project. He coordinates the operational efforts in the Bhara Kahu and Pind Begwal areas of Pakistan, recruiting and managing healthcare companions, patients, and growth opportunities. Being the critical first pod manager, Faizan has helped the Glucose Trail team learn so much about how best to serve patients in the long run.

Q. What’s your background? Walk me through your story.

I have been a science student and a musician for the better part of my life, preferring studying to teaching others. Realizing my inclination towards education and music, I trained myself to recognize the diverse range of potentials found within an individual. My aim is to nurture individual potentials, which can be fully unleashed through a passionate commitment to social justice. The music I began to listen to and assimilate within myself was by its content rebellious and subversive, and made me skeptical of the “development” and “progress” that the powers that be had brought about up till then. After a Political Science degree from Lahore University of Management Sciences, I taught at private schools and then joined Saving 9 as the Director for Development Operations.

Music has forged most of my relationships in life. Hence, communication for me with the universe is primarily non-verbal. It involves the whole body, not just a specific part of it. Concomitantly, the ideals of my utopia are characterized by a symbiosis between the individual and society. Justice, as an ideal to aspire for, achieves this symbiosis. This has been my guiding principle for the cure to the ailments of society.

In Saving 9, I found the most beautiful expression of justice at the level of the individual: healthcare. My education led me to reevaluate how to establish social justice in Pakistan. Aiming for a just society needs to start from the individual within. If the individual is not just with himself/herself in terms of being moral and healthy, the individual cannot let that society be just. Hence, my approach towards the championship of justice in society became inverse: it was to flow from within the individual and reverberate through the the society, as opposed to implementing policies from an office chair that would trickle down into the rural community.

Q. What inspired you to work on a project like Glucose Trail?

Before meeting the Lokhandwalas, I was skeptical of the how the concept of Glucose Trail could possibly work. How technologically dependent would we be? Would it completely eliminate the compassionate human out of healthcare? When I first heard Dr. Naaznin’s story of her parents trying to establish a diabetes treatment centre in Karachi for the better part of two decades, and failing to do so, I was immediately moved. I could strongly relate to her disillusionment of the healthcare system in Pakistan, just like I had experienced when it came to social justice. What amazed me was her insistence on still selecting Pakistan as a pilot for Glucose Trail. While it may seem that the project is technologically dependent, the main ethos underlying it is geared towards community mobilization and social activism. Focusing on diet, exercise and compliance to low cost local medication, Glucose Trail’s viability lies in its digital immunity to bureaucratic red tape and a meaningful engagement between the doctor and the patients, across continents.

Doubtlessly, Dr. Naaznin’s organic connection with her own tradition and proficiency in modern healing is the lifeblood of Glucose Trail. Her focus on self-reliance for health and embedding this value in the communal ethic is what inspires me most about this project. Moreover, Shafiq’s proficiency in troubleshooting problems and adapting technology to the Pakistani culture and context has been pivotal in aiding us with communication and transmission of treatment to diabetics.

Five months into the project, I feel everyday that my skepticism is increasingly replaced by the understanding of the messianic role that Glucose Trail is playing in Pakistan. The fact that the doctor is treating patients who lost so much money over going to the nearest hospital shows the convenience and low-cost potential of this project. My confidence increases each day that this treatment model, in its pristine refinement, will be capable of globally uplifting humanity from the ailments and socio-economic problems caused by diabetes.

Q. What’s a day in the life of Faizan Tirmizi like?

Each day after Saving 9 has brought its own set of uncertainties. As an aspiring musician, academic and social activist, my day is spent as a mixture of composing music, teaching, researching and handling development operations at Saving 9. My music and Saving 9 are nascent, and I have very supportive people in my life who help me sustain the two. Lately, my days have been filled with ambivalence: I have come across abysmal situations in Pind Begwal, the rural setting where we conduct our development operations, especially with reference to basic facilities for health and education. On the other hand, the kinship ties, magnanimity and hospitality that rural folk possess shows infinite potential for sowing the seeds of a model first-aid literate community- Saving 9’s vision for Pind Begwal. Besides Glucose Trail, in line with this ideal, I am currently looking over our ambulance system in Pind Begwal and overseeing our Scout System- a curriculum for teaching first aid to students in Pind Begwal. I am passionately devoted to these initiatives, and by God’s grace these fledgelings have taken flight after a year of nurturing, thanks to the hard work and determination of my colleagues!

Q. What’s it like managing healthcare companions who are helping their fellow community members treat their diabetes?

It has been inspiring and wonderful! These women are breaking stereotypes in terms of physical and intellectual labor which is unprecedented from women in their community. The most struggle that we have faced is to make these women tech savvy. Using WhatsApp for centralized communication and familiarizing them with the GlucoseTrail app is something which has finally been regulated and stabilized. This technological training, along with health care training for Diabetics is something which has empowered them to leave their houses for striving for the betterment of their community. Over these months, I have seen them come up with very creative ways of overcoming the hurdles in their domestic and professional lives. As we visit patients together (mostly they are holding a child) I can sense excitement, passion and confidence in their body language, although they are shy and rarely communicate looking at me directly. They share fun stories about the village and love gossiping (which I always discourage with a frown). There are so many dimensions to these HCCs (Healthcare Companions) as mothers, teachers, and housewives that it leaves me astounded how they have so much energy and focus!

I would especially like to mention Adeela Mehnaf, our administering HCC, who works passionately in educating and empowering these HCCs. Possessing a Master’s degree from Quaid-e-Azam University, she is woman of immense intelligence and diligence. Her work ethic has trickled down to inspire the HCCs, who admire her and trust her to guide them in making GlucoseTrail viable in their community.

Interested in getting involved with Glucose Trail? Have questions? Comments? Drop us a line.