Rafat Jan Rukanuddin, 04PhD, has shown perseverance and heroism not only in her professions of nursing and teaching, but also in selfless service to humankind.
Rafat Jan received a general nursing degree from Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi, Pakistan, in 1983, before coming to the U.S. to pursue an M.S.N. degree in nursing administration from the Medical University of South Carolina and a Ph.D. from the University of Iowa's College of Nursing. The UI soon recognized her potential, awarding her the 2005 Graduate Deans' Distinguished Dissertation Award for her studies into improving the health of women and children in her home country.
In March 2005, Rafat Jan returned to AKU to serve as an assistant professor and as director of the school's BScN program. On October 8 of that year, her leadership skills were put to an extreme test when a devastating earthquake erupted near Kashmir, claiming tens of thousands of lives. Rafat Jan quickly assembled a group of AKU nurses to assist disaster victims. Under dangerous circumstances and in stark living conditions, the nurses worked 12- to 14-hour days for two weeks caring for the wounded.
Rafat Jan proved central to her team's successful efforts. One colleague described her as "a symbol of strength for her junior colleagues, doctors, and other team members. Taking care of traumatized patients in an emergency setting requires strength and courage. She displayed both qualities and was a role model for the others."
Such outstanding leadership has been recognized at the highest levels in Rafat Jan's home country. Nighat I. Durrani, registrar for the Pakistan Nursing Council, says: "She has not only brought laurels to the nursing profession by her excellent academic achievements, but has also excelled in humanity and service to mankind through the unparalleled and selfless work for the unfortunate victims of the October 8th earthquake. Unconcerned of personal safety and poor living conditions, she rolled up her sleeves and got down to work."
Before and since the disaster, Rafat Jan has shown an exemplary commitment to nursing teaching excellence at the regional, national, and international levels. Today, she continues her academic work at AKU while also serving as chair of the Task Force of Higher Education Commission and as an active member of the Pakistan Nursing Council. She has played a major role in revising the curricula of two reputed hospitals and was recently selected to teach nursing students at Karolinska Institute in Stockholm through the Linnaeus Palme Foundation exchange program between universities in Sweden and in developing countries.
Beyond these achievements, Rafat Jan can claim a number of important "firsts." She is the founding president of AKU School of Nursing Honor Society, a chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) and the first affiliate in the Muslim world of this North American-based research and scholarship organization. She is also the first woman to serve as president of the Regional Ismaili Council for Karachi and Balochistan.
Clearly, Rafat Jan Rukanuddin is a remarkable humanitarian with a sense of duty and strength of character that shines brightly and reflects highly on the University of Iowa.