I was born and raised in sunny Southend on sea, Essex, England. This picture is taken in the Punjab, Pakistan, where my parents, grandparents, and pretty much all my ancestors came from. I read medicine at Balliol College, Oxford, and did my clinical training at Imperial College London.
As a student in London, I lived in the “House of Fun” along with a few others who ended up becoming: a gifted neurologist, a Swiss finishing school teacher, a campaigner for The Syria Campaign, and a florid JFK conspiracy theorist.
After qualifying as a doctor in 2006, I worked at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, and with the support of several inspiring consultants (special thanks to Sasha Marks and Michael Fertleman in particular) took two months off my medical training to participate in a cross-platform documentary commissioned by Channel 4 and filmed all around the world. The doc aimed to challenge negative stereotypes of Muslims by illustrating enormous diversity and humanity within the Islamic world.
It was an incredible experience, and the film is sweet, sincere, and funny. While it was important and heartfelt work, my one regret is that it may have unwittingly pandered to a certain defensive sentiment that I resist today. (perhaps more on this later). You can watch it on 4od if you like and make up your mind – it’s called “Osama Bin Everywhere” and includes a cringeworthy scene in which an Osama teaches me to rap in Kano, Northern Nigeria, and a memorable Indonesian goat-milking interlude. It’s about 45 minutes long, and available here.
I trained for my postgraduate medical specialisation in Primary Care in Tower Hamlets. I worked in several specialities including Paediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Psychiatry, Forensic Medicine and Sexual Health, in order to become a GP. After finishing my training and membership of the Royal College of General Practitioners, I went to Harvard as a UK-US Fulbright Scholar and studied medical anthropology under Professors Mary-Jo and Byron Good, Professor Arthur Kleinman, and Paul Farmer.
Since moving back to London in 2012, I’ve worked as an inner-city GP in the NHS. I am passionate about our health service, and I believe the NHS is the most precious thing we have as a nation.
In 2013, I made my radio debut in a talk for BBC Radio 4’s “Four Thought” on cheekiness as a form of non-revolutionary resistance. You can listen to it here (but it is slightly rude, sorry). Since then, I’ve been a regular contributor on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC World Service Weekend show. I’ve written and presented various radio essays and programs, like this one on the subject of play first broadcast in Spring 2017. In 2016, I wrote and presented a major 10-part series for Radio 4 in which I explored my favourite subject: social anthropology. In this series, I asked how we have framed questions about what it means to be human over the years. In 2018, I wrote an essay on resilience for the BBC Radio 4 Keywords For Our Time series, and had the honour of being interviewed on the subject by Michael Rosen, of whom I am a big fan. Have a listen to it here, especially if you suspect that the buzzword is being used as a sinister neoliberal cosh!
As of April 1st 2019, I will be the 2019/2020 Alistair Horne Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, where I will be working on a non-fiction book for a general readership.
You can get in touch with me using the form below.