KARACHI: For years now, Muhammad Farhan Saleem has lived a double life.
In his hometown in Pakistan’s Bahawalpur, he has worked as an eye doctor since he finished medical school in 2009.
But for Kriss Berg, an American entrepreneur based in Colorado, 36-year-old ‘Mu,’ as he calls him, was a IT expert working on his business since 2011 when they connected through an American freelancing platform.
Last week, in a series of Twitter posts that have since gone viral, Berg revealed Saleem’s “amazing story,” catapulting him to Internet fame.
As the two worked together and grew closer over the years, Berg learnt that the freelancer who helped him daily with all of his programming needs was also a full-time ophthalmologist who passionately worked at a much lower salary than his freelancer fee to help people see.
“He was literally helping people SEE every day at his clinic. Cataracts, eye diseases, horrific injuries... this dude was a hero,” Berg wrote on Twitter. “But here’s the thing. In some countries, doctors and nurses are paid like laborers. There simply isn’t enough money in health care. He’s been making about $1000/month RESTORING PEOPLE’S VISION.”
He makes about three times more by “helping us fix our dumb websites,” Berg added.
Saleem’s double professional life was not only a surprise for Berg, but also his closest family.
When Saleem got married in 2018, his wife, also an ophthalmologist, did not believe he was an accomplished programmer.
“Initially, I didn’t tell her that I am also a freelancer,” Saleem told Arab News in a Zoom interview. “So, when she came to know that I’m a freelancer, she thought that I’m lying … She did her own research work on me and it came through that I’m a freelancer and a successful freelancer. She’s very happy with both professions.”
Saleem pursued coding despite opposition from his family, many of them doctors. In high school, he said, he was not even allowed to have a computer.
But he persisted and without his parents’ knowledge visited Internet cafes to browse websites and view their source codes.
“I came to know how websites works and how the websites are designed and how the coding is done,” he said.
Today, Berg has asked Saleem to move to the US and pursue medicine there.
“We’re going to help Mu get his green card so he and his family can become Americans,” he said on Twitter. “He’s going to be an American eye surgeon and out-earn all of us in time … I can’t think of a better way to reward such a talented, selfless man.”
Berg’s offer is one Saleem said he is considering: “I was astonished. I showed some interest that I am willing to come to the United States.”
But for now, he is satisfied to have recently collaborated with Berg to develop a project that combines IT and medicine, Saleem’s two professions and passions.
“Never give up your passion,” he said. “If you are in any profession and you have different passions, you can achieve them if you have the will.”