Through Your Eyes
Orthopaedic surgeon Khurram Pervaiz, M.D., H'10, finds inspiration, beauty under the sea
December 20, 2023
With an obsession for sea creatures and nearly 500 dives under his scuba belt, Khurram Pervaiz, M.D., H’10, doesn’t give the impression of ever having felt compelled to steer clear of the deep. In the last 14 years, he has traveled the world to swim with and often to hand-feed nearly every kind of shark.
His underwater interests don’t stop there. “When I go on a trip,” he says, “my goal is to see an animal I’ve never seen before.” He loves capturing colorful, exotic sea scenes on video, from a tiger shark tentatively nudging his hand to an ethereal-looking seahorse serenely floating by.
As a child, however, and even into adulthood, Pervaiz was hugely frightened of open water and the things beneath that he could not see, especially sharks.
His fears were fostered around the tender age of 6 when his father showed him “Jaws,” the blockbuster film in which a great white shark terrorizes small-town residents off the coast of Long Island, New York.
Pervaiz credits his dad for his love of cinema. But “Jaws” left him dreading the ocean and whatever dwelled below.
Even having moved as a teen from his native Pakistan to the United States – where Pervaiz discovered that beachgoing is a favorite pastime – didn’t ease his apprehensions. “I wouldn’t even set foot in the ocean!”
Pursuing a career in health care came naturally: His parents are physicians, his sister a dentist and his brother a cardiologist.
Midway through his MCV Campus orthopaedic surgery residency, Pervaiz was persuaded to try snorkeling. “Even that was terrifying!” he recalls. But once he tried it, he went on to give snuba, a cross between snorkeling and scuba, a go.
Next came scuba. “You don’t really have to be a good swimmer,” Pervaiz notes. “But if you just jump in and sink, you’re not going to be a scuba diver.” He taught himself to swim and now is a certified rescue diver.
Over time, his fear had turned to passion. “When I start talking about sharks, I lose track of time,” he says, laughing. So far, he most enjoys tiger sharks. “When you jump into the water with these animals, some are 14 or 15 feet long. Some are pregnant. They literally look like a minivan from above.”
Pervaiz remains undaunted. “When they are being fed, they come right up to you. It’s amazing how well-behaved they are.”
While he loves working as an upper-extremities specialist at the Maryland-based Centers for Advanced Orthopaedics, Pervaiz realizes the importance of getting away.
He also enjoys biking, hiking and land-based trips such as a recent trek to the Great Smoky Mountains to see black bears.
But underwater, surrounded by beauty and mystery, he can forget everything else. “It’s almost meditative. A whole new world.”
It’s a world that continues to reveal itself. “I have this real fascination with predatory animals now,” Pervaiz admits. “I would love to go to the Amazon to dive with anacondas and to Antarctica for the leopard seals.”
His more immediate wish list includes diving with American crocodiles in Mexico and searching for sperm whales, humpbacks and orcas.
For the record, Pervaiz has never been nipped. Unlike the “Jaws” crowd, he knows when not to go in the water.
See his underwater videography on YouTube and view more photos below (click image for full caption).