Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji of Calgary is a Compelling Story of Honesty, Hard Work, Humility and Determination

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Calgary based Zul Premji’s recent book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Azim Jiwani (Vancouver), Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (Montreal), Shairoz Lakhani (London, UK), Shelina Shariff Zia (New York), Ali Lakhani (Vancouver), Nizar Sultan (Toronto), Nargis Fazal (Vancouver), Nazlin Rahemtulla (Vancouver), Azmina Suleman (Calgary), Alnasir Rajan (Mississauga), Shafeen Ali (USA), Mansoor Ladha (Calgary), Zeni Shariff (Toronto) and Shamas Nanji (Edmonton). We encourage Ismaili authors from around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses accordingly to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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“This memoir is a rags-to-riches tale full of material on human frailty…It anchors Zul as a superb storyteller…Candid, Honest and Stimulating” — Wafaie Fawzi, Richard Saltonstall Professor of Population Sciences, Harvard University

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Simerg’s Interview with Dr Zul Premji

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book?

Zul Premji: The title of my book Malaria Memoirs reflects my life story from birth to retirement. For almost forty years of my professional career, I devoted my life to control malaria in Tanzania; thus my life story is intertwined with malaria in Tanzania. I believe many migrants from Africa who have settled in Europe and North American would have suffered from malaria illness in their childhood while in Africa. This book gives them the nostalgic experience of such malaria episodes and perhaps may provide some insights into malaria as a disease and a public health threat. Through this book the generation that migrated will be able to relay their stories about mosquitoes, mosquito coils, the bitter pills and bed nets to the next generation.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Premji: This book is a tale of hard work, honesty, determination, failures and success. It is a humble story of a poor family and how one of the siblings becomes a Professor at the Medical School in Dar es Salaam. For the younger generation, it is a proof of concept that hard work, honesty and determination is needed to become meritocratic and achieve success in life. To many of my students, this will be an inspirational story of how teaching combined with research can be the most satisfying and effective career path. The book is also for those who are aspiring health related careers to think beyond clinical medicine like surgery, cardiology etc. and think the impact one can make in Public Health, infectious diseases, role of social sciences in disease control and overall research to prevent and minimize human suffering. This is a book that echoes, first, positive thinking in the midst of poverty, disease and suffering and, second, that there are no short cuts to success. 

Simerg: What inspired you to write Malaria Memoirs?

Premji: Upon retirement and relocating to Calgary, Canada, I started to reflect on the work I did at Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences in Dar es Salaam. I realized through research how we were able to lower the malaria prevalence. In the process, I built a strong bond with my students and research team, hence this motivated me to write how all of this was done. The result was my biography. Another reason was the constant curiosity my grandchildren exhibited; they wanted to know everything about life in Tanzania, about my work and how I ended up being a medical doctor. The short clips of my stories have contributed to this book.

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Malaria Memoirs by Zul Premji Ismaili author series Simerg
Cover page of Zul Premji’s book “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania.” Paperback, published by Mawenzi House, Toronto, 2021, 144 pp.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Premji: The book is available in softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher, Mawenzi House, Amazon Canada, Amazon USA and Chapters/Indigo.

Intentionally, the book is not of several hundred pages and is devoid of irrelevant details but the main relevant messages are clearly illustrated. In this era of screens and fast flashy digital clips, reading culture is fast becoming historical. Keeping this in mind, one can easily read this book overnight and feel the author’s pulse.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Premji: I had no clue of how to find a publisher for my book especially in Canada, because malaria cannot be an attractive topic in the cold Canada where there is no malaria. However, through a mutual friend I got connected to the Toronto based Mawenzi House.

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EXCERPTS FROM REVIEWS

“Tremendously interesting and entertaining. Prof Zul’s Malaria Memoirs is a truly Tanzanian story to which the average person can relate” — Billy Ngasala, Professor, Muhimbili University Hospital, Dar es Salaam

He speaks with the authority of someone who has met with success. With prose that’s well paced and matter-of-fact, Malaria Memoirs reads like an intimate conversation with a friend, someone who has lived a dedicated life full of achievements and is ready to share — in Compelling People – The Malaria Guru, from rags to research, review by Rachel Gerry, Literary Review of Canada, November 2021

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Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Premji: I wrote the first draft on my own and later the publisher did a wonderful job in editing my initial draft.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Malaria Memoirs from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Premji: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about two years.

Simerg: Would you like to offer further thoughts about your book?

Premji: The book is based on three phases of my life, the early phase in Morogoro, Tanga and my secondary education at a mission school in the south part of Tanzania. The second phase is how through sheer hard work and commitment I pursued medical career and the last phase is my professional life, spent mostly in research and teaching medical students. After retirement, I worked for only three years as Chair of Pathology at the Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi and my not so pleasant experiences and observations are clearly explained and the needed remedial actions.

Date posted: June 30, 2022.

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Author Malaria Memoirs, Ismaili author series in Simerg
Dr. Zul Premji

Zul Premji was born in Iringa, Tanzania, and attended school in two towns before obtaining his medical degree from Muhimbili University of Health and Allied Sciences, Dar es Salaam. He later took an MSc in Medical Parasitology from London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, a Diploma in Tropical Medicine from the Royal College of Physicians in London, and a doctorate in Infectious Diseases from Karolinska, Sweden. His specialization included clinical trials, antimalarial drug resistance and malaria case management. Over a career of more than forty years, he has held numerous academic positions in Tanzania, and has been an advisor to National Malaria Control. He now lives in Calgary, Alberta.

We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click LEAVE A COMMENT. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021, and see also 15, below, by the same author)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)
  15. “A Portrait in Pluralism: Aga Khan’s Shia Ismaili Muslims” by Mansoor Ladha (June 8, 2022, and see also 3, above, by the same author)
  16. “Malaria Memoirs: My Life Journey as a Public Health Doctor in Tanzania” by Dr Zul Premji (June 30, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim H. Jiwani of Vancouver

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Vancouver based Dr. Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible (Memoirs of Engagement with a Global Development Network).” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert, Shairoz Lakhani, Shelina Shariff Zia, Ali Lakhani, Nizar Sultan, Nargis Fazal, Nazlin Rahemtulla, Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF DR. JIWANI’S BOOK “HUMANIZING MEDICINE” WILL SUPPORT THE PATIENT WELFARE PROGRAM OF AGA KHAN HOSPITALS FOR NEEDY PATIENTS

Simerg’s Interview with Dr. Azim Jiwani

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Azim H. Jiwani: I think readers will perceive levels of meaning embodied by the title. Each reader will draw meaning from the title after reading the book since it can have multiple interpretations. This reflection on implications is what I intended.

Today, many people perceive medicine and health care as cold, selective, fragmented and profit and technology-driven. It seems to lack the human touch, warmth, and empathy. Hence, many, particularly in the developing world, feel a lack of “tangibility” of competent, contextual, compassionate and affordable health care available to them. The health status of large segments of populations in many parts of the world is not improving, and gains in some instances are reversing. Never have so many had such broad and advanced access to sophisticated care, but never have so many been denied access to even basic health care.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Azim: Rarely in recent times has the world found itself gripped in conditions that pose substantial existential threats to lifeforms on earth, destabilize societies, impact health, quality of life, economic and cultural survival, and engender greater inequality and divisions between and within countries and regions.

The ideal of health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being envisioned by the WHO, not just the absence of disease. Hence, health is composite of a myriad of determinants, all constantly in a state of flux. This utopian state of health is unlikely to be achieved, but one can reimagine global health and its foundations and moral imperatives.

The recent onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the accelerating but belatedly acknowledged climate crisis and its devastating effects on human health have laid bare the historical, political, policy, and institutional deficiencies in health systems worldwide. The vast disparities in availability, accessibility and affordability, quality and equity are glaring in parts of the world, especially when comparing low-income countries of the global South to rich and industrialized countries of the North. This void is more apparent when healthcare systems worldwide are under tremendous stress. During the current pandemic, many in developing countries are denied access to even primary and essential care due to myriad reasons – a dearth of human and material resources, drugs, vaccines, deficits in health policies and local and geopolitical tensions.

I think one thing readers will learn is the complexity and challenges of the development process. The book traces efforts of large non-profit global development organizations — the Aga Khan University and agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network — mainly in the domains of education, healthcare, institutional capacity-building and the empowerment of civil societies. It underscores the mission to anticipate and respond to foreseeable effects of unaddressed inequalities, the poverty, program and leadership deficits in some of the most challenging regions of the developing world. It endeavours to enhance institutional capacities, establish collaborative networks, and promote best practices and international standards of excellence.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Azim: I had the good fortune of engaging with the early development of Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services internationally and its programs in medical education and fostering affordable, ethical and quality health care since the early 1980s.

I held various leadership roles in academic, administrative, clinical and planning positions in several major organizations within and outside the AKU and interacted with some outstanding leaders and thinkers. Early in my medical career, I developed an interest in the global arms race’s health, social and economic impacts, particularly on developing countries. This interest and other public health and justice questions led to a life-changing meeting with Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan at his chateau in Geneva in 1983. I was deeply inspired by his efforts and roles to foster a more just and equitable world.

As narrated in the book, the impetus and inspiration essentially derived from our faith’s essential ethical and moral foundations, as articulated by Hazar Imam in his numerous utterances. The lockdown periods of 2020/2021 finally induced me to chronicle almost four decades of engagement in aspects of medical education, global health, development, marginalization, and comment on historical imprints on development and questions of justice and human dignity. It was impressed upon me that the experience and skills I acquired over decades of engagement in global health and medical education were too valuable to be wasted. My friends and colleagues strongly encouraged me to chronicle my observations of the times and places, ideals and realities of just and compassionate societies and my wide-ranging engagements.

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Ismaili authors Series by Simerg Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani's book "Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible", Friesen Press
Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible”, 300 pp., Friesen Press, August 2021.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Azim: The book is available in hardcover, softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher FriesenPress and Amazon, Chapters/Indigo in Canada, Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and many other retail outlets. It is also available in many countries like the U.K., Australia, Europe and India.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Azim: As I was writing, I received many unsolicited offers to publish the book, mainly from the U.S. and Canada. I ignored these until towards the end of the initial draft. I decided to pick a large, established and reputable Canadian publisher, as I was aware of some of the books published by them. They were expensive but of high quality. The publisher FriesenPress partners with a large American publishing and printing house called Ingram; hence the book is printed in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Azim: Basically, the publisher provided the editorial services, printing and distribution, but I selected the photographs and illustration with the kind permission of the AKU and the United Nations. Not being very tech-savvy, I needed some technical help from friends for this.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Humanizing Medicine from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Azim: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about eighteen months of hard work since I could only focus on the book a few hours a day. The book was published in the Autumn of 2021 and launched in Washington, D.C., about three months ago.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Azim: The book interweaves three stands. Since it is essentially written from a personal perspective, it tells a unique story spanning almost five decades. It intertwines this strand with the efforts and the ethos of the AKU/AKDN in empowering civil society, human development and equity, the global conditions over the last century, and the historical and national and regional evolutions in health care and development. It includes many short anecdotes and vignettes set in various world locales, from Morocco to Cambodia, illustrating many of the points. I hope that the book provides a longitudinal perspective of global challenges and their relevance in today’s uncertain and trying times. I believe it could be informative and inspiring to professionals and volunteers who seek to broaden their careers and horizons through engagements globally in an interconnected world.

I should inform you that all proceeds from the global sale of this book are donated through the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to support the Patient Welfare Programs of the Aga Khan hospitals to care for needy patients.

Date posted: March 9, 2022.

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We welcome feedback from our readers. Please complete the LEAVE A REPLY form below or click Leave a comment. Your letter may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation.

Ismaili author Dr. Azim Jiwani Humanizing Medicine Simerg special series
Dr. Azim Jiwani

Dr. Azim Jiwani worked in health care and global health development for several decades, holding various leadership positions in academic, hospital, and community settings. His work included teaching, research, medical administration, strategic planning, advocacy, consultancies, and advisory roles. Dr. Jiwani held senior faculty positions with the Aga Khan University (AKU) and at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Medicine as a clinical professor. He interacted with many local, national, and multilateral organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, universities, and global health institutions-and he continues to play a consulting and voluntary advisory role in health care, education and international development.

As an avid traveller, Dr. Jiwani’s journeys have taken him to locales in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Australia and New Zealand, where he explored local cultures, traditions, social, historical and environmental aspects of life and development. He has lectured at many higher learning institutions, professional organizations, civil society groups, and community groups. His interests include natural sciences, moral philosophy, architecture, civilizational histories, and anthropology. Dr. Jiwani lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, with Nilu, his wife of 45 years. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.