Dr. Maria Ishaq Khattak is the youngest female hailing from Peshawar to earn a Ph.D. in Dental Public Health. She received her doctoral degree from University Sains Malaysia, which ranks 34th on the QS Asian University Ranking list. Dr. Khattak's research project focused on "A longitudinal qualitative study on lived experiences of oral cancer patients during the COVID-19 pandemic in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan." She is currently an Assistant Professor in Dental Public Health at the Institute of Public Health & Social Sciences, Khyber Medical University Peshawar. She received a research grant worth PKR 0.5 million to support her doctoral activities and partial funding for her work from University Sains Malaysia's School of Dentistry.
Her dissertation was supervised by a multidisciplinary team consisting of Professor Norkhafizah Saddki (Associate Dean at USM) as the main supervisor; co-supervisors included Pioneer Professor Zia ul Haq (Vice Chancellor KMU), Dr. Zohaib Khan (Director ORIC KMU), and Consultant Maxillofacial Surgeon Muslim Khan. In addition to successfully defending her thesis before three international reviewers - Chairperson Jennifer Geraldine Doss (University of Malaya), Clinical Psychology expert Azizah Othman, and Social Sciences specialist Intan HM Hashim – she also earned recognition as Graduate of Time for completing within the minimum time period specified.
Dr. Khattak has published two papers stemming from this work: one appearing in the Malaysian Journal of Public Health Medicine (SCOPUS); accessible here http://mjphm.org/index.php/mjphm/article/view/902/392 while another appeared in International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (JCR Q1); accessible here https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/19/14/8508/pdf. Her findings illuminated how complex and expensive cancer care can be under normal circumstances particularly so during pandemics like COVID-19 when barriers are magnified substantially especially in low-middle-income countries such as Pakistan where resources remain limited.
Dr. Khattak’s work highlighted patient-centered care strategies that could improve quality-of-life outcomes for oral cancer patients navigating difficult circumstances due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Maria completed undergraduate dental surgery studies in 2015 followed by a master’s degree with distinction from the UK-based University of Leeds majoring in dental public health. She became the youngest diplomat with the Royal College of Surgeons London from Pakistan.