Mubashir Mumtaz, MD, learned the values of helping humanity from an early age from his mother.
“She built these values of hard work, kindness, and compassion to your friends and family and your fellow human beings,” Dr. Mumtaz says.
Dr. Mumtaz took those lessons to heart. Today, he is the director of the Surgical Valve Program and surgical director of the Structural Heart Program at UPMC Harrisburg. For nearly 20 years, he has helped treat patients in central Pennsylvania and the surrounding areas.
But his help for humanity extends internationally as well. He performs volunteer relief work at the Tahir Heart Institute in central Pakistan, returning to his homeland for two weeks a month to help patients in need.
“We’re trying to spend as much time as we can and help the community there,” Dr. Mumtaz says.
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‘We Have a Gift Within Ourselves’
Dr. Mumtaz was born in Karachi, Pakistan, the southern part of the country. His father, a member of the Pakistani Navy, died in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, when the ship he was serving on was attacked and sunk. Dr. Mumtaz’s father saved several of his fellow soldiers but could not escape himself; he received a posthumous military medal for his heroism.
“I was 1 year old at the time, so my mother and my grandfather basically raised us,” Dr. Mumtaz says.
His mother went to school and became a teacher, working to put food on the table. His grandfather retired and took care of Dr. Mumtaz and his older sister and brother.
Dr. Mumtaz learned the values of hard work and helping others from his family and from his faith. He is a member of the Ahmadiyya Muslim community, which believes in helping humanity.
“Growing up in our household, my mother made sure that these values were embedded in all of us, that we provide that care,” he says. “We have a gift within ourselves, that we share it with other people.”
Both of Dr. Mumtaz’s older siblings became doctors — his sister a physician and his brother a congenital heart surgeon. He followed both of them into medicine, becoming a heart surgeon and coming to the U.S. in 1995. He came to UPMC Harrisburg in 2005.
‘Passionate About Helping Humanity’
Tahir Heart Institute is in rural Chenab Nagar, Pakistan, in the center of the country. One of Dr. Mumtaz’s friends, a congenital heart surgeon, began the department of heart surgery at the institute in 2007.
After spending four years volunteering at the hospital, Dr. Tahir’s friend left, leaving a vacuum. So, beginning in 2010, Dr. Mumtaz and other colleagues from around the world began volunteering their services to help the institute provide free or subsidized care.
“It’s a very underserved population, and it’s a small hospital,” Dr. Mumtaz says. “A good number of the population cannot afford health care. There’s no health insurance as such in Pakistan. There is government-provided health care, which provides some basic care, but it’s not optimal. I think they try their best, but resources are limited in that part of the world, so a lot of people travel from several hours away.”
To help the hospital keep its costs down, Dr. Mumtaz and other doctors pay for their own expenses and volunteer their services. That enables more people to get free or subsidized care.
“The Ahmadiyya Muslim community is passionate about helping humanity, ” Dr. Mumtaz says. “My community is active throughout the world in fundraising and providing electricity and water to populations in Africa. They’ve got several gift-of-sight programs. It is part of our community education, our expectation within the community.
“And then obviously, as Americans, our fellow citizens provide a lot of charity care throughout the world. Americans are known for their generosity all over the world.”
At first, Dr. Mumtaz would volunteer at Tahir Heart Institute once a year. But over the years, his visits increased in frequency. He brought his family and work colleagues with him on occasion, turning it into a family affair.
“It’s been a positive influence, at least on my personal life and all my family and friends and colleagues who’ve gotten themselves involved in this,” he says.
‘A Great Example for Us’
Dr. Mumtaz’s brother spent a three-year, full-time residency at the institute that ended in November 2021. When that time ended, Dr. Mumtaz replaced him.
Rather than working at Tahir full-time, Dr. Mumtaz decided on a hybrid approach. He would spend two weeks a month at Tahir and two weeks a month in Harrisburg at UPMC in Central Pa.
While Dr. Mumtaz is in Pakistan, his colleagues at UPMC help cover his cases.
“With the support of my colleagues here and the administration, it’s worked out well,” Dr. Mumtaz says. “Without their help and support, it would not be possible.”
He also has continued support from his family, including his mother. Although she is now over 80 years old and lives in Canada with his sister, she still comes back to Pakistan with Dr. Mumtaz to help where needed.
“Believe me, she’s a great example for us because despite being over 80 years old, she does not sit still,” he says. “If she finds that somebody needs any help, she would be there to help that person. So, she’s amazing in that respect, and she’s the role model for us.”
‘People Believe in Good Values’
Dr. Mumtaz specializes in mitral valve repair. The cases he treats in Pakistan often have a very different presentation than the cases he treats in the U.S. and are often more challenging or complicated.
The importance of building trust with patients is also crucial.
“The awareness for health care in general and taking care of yourself is much less because of the poverty,” he says. “People are worried about how they’re going to put food on the table rather than worrying about how they’re doing healthwise. So their challenges are very different. And that’s why when you talk to the patients, it’s a different conversation that you have over there.
“You have to win their trust and then try to convince them that this is the right thing for you. And then hope that they listen to you and agree with you.”
That’s something Dr. Mumtaz and his fellow surgeons have to do in general, as patients put their lives into his hands.
He’s built that trusting relationship at UPMC Harrisburg as well — with his colleagues, the administration, and his patients. He describes Harrisburg as a “big town with a small-town mentality,” where people share mutual respect and appreciation.
“We’re basically all extended family here,” Dr. Mumtaz says. “And I think it’s important to build that trust with the patients, with your colleagues, and with the community in general.
Whether it’s in Pakistan or in Pennsylvania, Dr. Mumtaz continues to live by the values his mother taught him so long ago.
“People believe in good values and they want to do the right thing, and this community, in general, is geared towards that,” he says. “I’ve been living here now for over 20 years. Three of my four kids were born here. So we’re embedding in in this community, and we’re so glad that we call this place home.”
The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.