The Medical Mission
Sania Nishtar, SI, FRCP, PhD.

Dr. Sania NishtarPakistan’s first female cardiologist, Dr. Sania Nishtar founded Heartfile, the most powerful health policy voice and catalyst for health reform in that country which is recognized as model for replication in other developing nations.

Founded in 1998, Heartfile is a non-governmental organizational think tank. In just four years after its inception, Heartfile led the creation of Pakistan’s National Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Health in that country.

Heartfile’s roots can be traced to a simple question. “When I stood in the cath lab, I often wondered why we were performing coronary angiographies with new catheters in patients who could pay and then washing the same catheters and using them for people who couldn’t pay,” said Dr. Nishtar in a 2007 interview with James Butcher. “And in those days I didn’t know much about policy, or about charity or regulations. The only thing I knew was that I wanted to find a wider solution, a more sustainable solution. I had no interest in making money or in talking to rich people for hours about their hypertension. I was only interested in helping the underprivileged and making a broader based impact.”

The child of a physician father, Sania earned her medical degree from Khyber Medical College – Peshawar in 1986. After getting married and having children, she earned a PhD at Kings College in London.

Heartfile began with a desire to raise public awareness about heart disease. Her organization now encompasses all aspects of health-care policy while retaining its original moniker.

Internationally, Dr. Nishtar’s scope of work has several dimensions. She is a member of many Expert Working Groups and Task Forces of the World Health Organization and is currently a member of the board of the International Union for Health Promotion and the Alliance for Health Policy and Systems Research. She is also a member of the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council, the Clinton Global Initiative, the Ministerial Leadership Initiative for Global Health and many other international initiatives.

An advisor to the World Health Organization on numerous occasions, Dr. Nishtar has published over 100 journal articles and is the author of eight books and book chapters. Her recent book, Choked Pipes, was considered as a landmark publication by the United Nations. The impact of Pipes has been two-fold. It argues for a radical overhaul of Pakistan’s poorly performing health systems and charts a pathway to reform. Globally, it analytically links health systems improvements to pro-poor macro-economic reforms, institutional re-engineering and adequate resourcing of the public sector while strategically using technology and creatively harnessing of the private sector.

She has been honored by the government of Pakistan with the Star of Distinction, one of its highest civilian awards, for her meritorious services and is a regular op-ed columnist for The News, a daily newspaper with the largest circulation in Pakistan.