The other day in my surgery class we were discussing ethics in medical practice. Issues such as draping a patient while maintaining their privacy, receiving honest consents, and most important of all, developing a conscience. The professor spent almost an hour relating incidents of malpractice and improper documentation that caused physicians to lose their licenses. He spoke of health professionals stealing narcotics from the Praxis drawer and either abusing the drugs or selling them. Several stories of residents discussing personal patient information in public places were mentioned, while a cruel tale of a physician marketing cheap mattresses and expensive air compression beds to nursing homes was related to us. The take home message at the end of the day was to be aware that a false step can cause a physician to lose their career, and that as medical students we should begin to develop a conscience regarding these issues. Now, this sounded a bit silly to me. As Muslims, the first thing we learned as we grew up was that Allah SWT is watching us. Remember that story about the three brothers who had to hide the item from their father, and whoever was able to successfully hide it from anyone was the winner? It doesn’t matter whether the version you learned involved hiding a chicken or a chocolate bar, the end result is the same. The third brother confessed that he could not hide it from anyone because Allah is everywhere. One of my earliest memories is of a sticky note on the fridge that read “Allahu nazaeri, Allahu shateri, Allahu mutala 3alay” (Allah is the One who sees me, Allah is the One who is next to me, Allah is the One who knows everything about me). We read it, memorized it, and practiced it. It was not something taught in school, but eventually became an instinct. What baffles me is how people can stoop so low and risk their careers just for some extra cash. It takes at least eight years of schooling to become a physician, plus a minimum three years of residency. How are you willing to risk all of that just to increase your bank account? Allah SWT is the one who provides, and no one should be giving up their integrity and honesty for whatever reason. These issues that were drilled into us as part of our religion, are some topics that people need to actually review in school! We know that even when we think we are alone, in reality we are not. We don’t need to have an attending standing next to us so we can properly sanitize our stethoscopes or change our gloves from patient to patient. It is not necessary for us to have the security camera recording us as we dispense patients’ medications from the drawer. We are not waiting for Medicare to send a representative to audit our charges to ensure that we are not billing for treatment that was never performed. Developing a conscience is part of our deen, and with that, inshaAllah we will be the best and most honest of physicians, and are already a step ahead of everyone else 🙂
“..Say: is the blind equivalent to the seeing? Or is the darkness equivalent to the light?…”. Surat Al-Rad, ayah 16.
You’ve declined every invitation to a party or a wedding, stuck to a strict studying schedule on the weekends, and wake up early every morning in order to be the best student that you can imagine. However, once grades come out, you are disappointed that not only did you not perform as well as you had liked, but a group of students who you know have been hanging out and partying received same or better grades than you. This is not the first time, in fact, this pattern has been repeating itself. You attend every 8 AM lecture and study the material covered in class everyday, while some people sleep in, skip class, and cram. At the end of the semester, when you realize that you all received similar grades, it seems like you wasted your time while they had the same result, but with much more enjoyment. However, things are not always as they seem, and if you are thinking that way, then it’s definitely time to change your perspective!
First, being a dedicated student is never a waste of time. You are forming learning habits that will aid you throughout your career, in which you should be as well organized and efficient with your time as possible. The early bird catches Fajr and gets all the baraka, so do not ever think that those who sleep in and are catching a few extra dozes are ahead of you. You’re fresh and ready to start the day, which is great practice for those long residency rotations in which you’ll have 3 hours of sleep and will be expected to be on call. You snooze, you lose.
Also, the fact that you make a schedule and adhere to it is a good prediction to how well you will manage your time as a physician. You need to be able to balance both your work and your personal life, so the more you practice those skills the better you can fine tune them and the more prepared you will be for your profession. Maintaining good study habits is a valuable skill that will aid you when studying for boards as well. Everyone knows that procrastinating and cramming are not the way to go, and if it works once or twice, it won’t always work. Long term memory is what you need in order to keep all that information organized in your mental files; earning it quickly in a short period of time may help you ace tomorrow’s exam, but you won’t be able to recall any of it by next week. Also, as a medical student, you must be able to choose when you can relax and enjoy yourself and when you need to buckle down and hit the books. Those who are used to “having a good time” every time will find it extremely difficult to give up their activities for a few solid months in order to prepare for one of the most important exams in their career.
Do not ever believe that those who are having the time of their lives are the successful ones. They may seem like geniuses that need only a few hours to study to score an A one every exam, but in reality, they’re only harming themselves. By keeping yourself organized and maintaing the status of a dedicated student, you are one step ahead of them in building your professional career. They will struggle to perform tasks that will seem effortless to you, even if their GPA was a bit higher than yours. Are the blind and the seeing the same? Are the light and darkness equal? Can you compare the heavens and the earth? So why should you consider committed students and lazy ones to be equal?
“…But perhaps you hate a thing and it is good for you; and perhaps you love a thing and it is bad for you. And Allah Knows, while you know not”. Surat AL-Baqarah, ayah 216
You really wanted that job, but you weren’t hired. You were put in a position that you did not desire, but was forced to accept it. You wished to travel somewhere, but weather prevented your trip from occurring. You dreamed of attending a university, but was rejected there and accepted somewhere else. These are all issues that relate to us in one way or another; we all have been put into situations which we did not desire or did not receive what we would have preferred. It may have been something trivial, or something that would have altered our lives, but when we see the end results we are forced to reevaluate our opinions and ideas.
What I love about this ayah is that it really sums up so many experiences that I’ve gone through in my life. The most notable one begins with what I had envisioned as my career. If someone had told me three years ago that I would commute to study foot and ankle surgery, an incredulous look on my face would be to state it lightly. I had planned all my life to be a pediatrician, but when I was rejected from an MS/MD program in my senior year, I was devastated. I had an honors GPA, fine MCAT scores, conducted lab research on glioblastomas at that medical school, and great recommendation letters, including one by the chairman of surgery. My only deficit was my age, I was much younger than the average college senior and as the professor warned me, “They don’t want a kid hanging around with them”. He warned me that I was going to be rejected, and advised me to wait to apply to medical school until I was at least twenty years old. As he predicted, I was rejected. While I was wondering what to do with myself and my biology degree, I was introduced to the field of podiatric medicine. I was impressed with the vast amount of flexibility that it offered in terms of specialties, and as I shadowed a surgeon, I could imagine myself in this career. SubhanAllah, what I hated in the beginning, became one of the best things that ever happened to me. Maybe if I had became a pediatrician, I would not have found my career fulfilling, but as a pediatric lower extremity specialist, or as we call a “pedo-pod”, I could better serve society and really enjoy what I am doing.
We tend to become upset whenever things don’t work out for us, as we assume that what we want is the best for us. What we don’t realize is that we think we know, but in reality, its what Allah SWT chooses for us is the best. Upset that you missed the bus and now you’re late to class? Maybe if you were on that bus you would have gotten into an accident. Low exam score despite intense studying? Perhaps you would have gotten too cocky and full of yourself if you kept on receiving A’s. Yelled at by your attending in clinic when you made an innocent mistake? Now you won’t repeat that same error in rotations where the real stuff counts. It’s difficult to accept things the way they are, but we need to trust that Allah SWT is choosing the best for us. What you despised in the beginning may be what you need to leave your mark in this world, and what you’ll be thankful for in the future.
Whether you have been wearing hijab since the age of twelve, or someone who has just donned it recently, every day is a new experience for hijabis. Questions about why you wear it, comments about how it affects or restricts your lifestyle, and sometimes ignorant religious slurs are just to name a few of the encounters that hijab wearing females go through. However, I like to think of us hijabis as members of an elite female club, in which a piece of fabric and the attitude and style of dress that accompanies it makes us unique. It’s amazing as I look back at the past year and a half when I first started med school and remember events that occurred in which my hijab was the star player.
The greatest thing about hijab is that as soon as someone sees you they know that you are Muslim. With beards in style, brothers don’t really have that advantage, unless they’re wearing a name tag with the name Mohamed or Abdullah. Whenever we have clinical classes in which you need to expose skin or a body part, the course director takes one look at me and without me even mentioning it to him or her, accommodations have been made. For instance, in our casting workshop, every student was expected to cast a student’s leg and have their own leg casted as well. The professor arranged that I would cast someone’s leg, but did not have to be casted my own self. To make the balance even, a student offered to have both her own legs casted so that no one would miss out.
With hijab comes great responsibilities, and that means a certain attitude and manner of speaking. This is extremely important since there are many misconceptions about the hijab oppressing females, so we always make an effort to speak intelligently and behave appropriately in all types of situations, even if there is inappropriate language targeted towards us. We learn to develop tough skin! That is really what makes us Muslim hijabis unique; we earn ourselves a reputation that remains untarnished as long as we continue to respect the hijab that we are honored to wear. I’ve had non-Muslim guys plainly tell me that they know not to mess with a hijabi because they are on a different level than the other girls that they know.
My favorite perk about hijab? You’re never forgotten. There may be ten girls with the same hairstyle, but once they see the hijab, you’re etched into a patient’s or an attending’s memory. Every clinical professor that I have dealt with in last year’s classes has seen me in the clinic and remembered me, not because of my amazing patient history taking skills but because of my hijab. It helps when asking for recommendation letters 🙂
The hijab has never set me back while in med school, it has only made me more confident and aware of my own potential. Along with the way I carry myself, it has earned me respect and has marked me as an unique individual. When people see you respecting your religion in all circumstances, they look at you from another point of view. So keep on rocking that hijab, and show the world that a slight modification in your dress is not going to stop you from changing the world!
“Oh you who believe! seek help with patient Perseverance and Prayer: for Allah is with those who patiently persevere”. Surat Al-Baqarah, ayah 153
Looking at your schedule for the next three weeks is really depressing. Not only do you have four exams, but you also have labs three days a week, classes from 8 AM-5 PM, and a group project to hand in. You are at an absolute loss of how to study and really need to do well on these exams in order to have a strong foot hold when finals roll around. You haven’t seen your family in ages, you miss hanging out with your friends, and you have no idea with what is going on in the world outside of neuroanatomy and pathology. Pulling your hair, you question yourself why are you even doing this if you have not even learned anything about how to be a physician, and briefly debate dropping out. Don’t give up!
Ask any student in the health professional field; we’ve all been there. We’ve all had moments in which we wondered why we signed away our lives for a four year contract when it seems impossible to even survive. In the first semester of my first year, I was literally at the end of my rope. I had given up many activities that I enjoyed and spent less time with my family in order to give my studies the full dedication and attention they deserved, yet still did not perform as well I expected on the first few exams. It was very depressing, the fact that I gave up everything, including my sleep, yet still did not achieve my goals was disheartening. I began to question whether this was the right place for me or not, and looking at the high averages, wondered whether I was intelligent enough to keep up with my class. Everyone seemed to be doing fine while participating in numerous activities, while I could barely juggle a few extracurriculars. I was tired of the long commute, and was ready to call it quits. At the same time, I was receiving letters of invitation to prestigious PhD programs that seemed so much more inviting than the life I was leading at that time. However, alhamdulillah Allah SWT granted me the patience to hold on and to have patience. After a few weeks, the studying became easier, the classes more interesting, I got used to the commute, and there was more time for myself. When the second semester started, I knew the drill and saw major improvement in all my grades.
When you feel like you are at your breaking point, stop and take a second to look around you. You are not the only person experiencing this hardship. The upperclassmen went through this not so long ago, your clinical professors sat in your seat twenty years ago, and the generations that have passed and will come all have and will go thorough this as well. You aren’t the first, and you won’t be the last, so have some confidence that you will overcome these obstacles in your life. If the Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessing be upon him) or any of the other Prophets (AS) had given up spreading the message of Islam when they experienced hardships and were abused and shunned by their people at times, where would we have been today? At the same time, those who have patience are rewarded many times over for simply holding on and not losing faith in Allah SWT. Isn’t that a blessing within itself?
When you are feeling depressed or overwhelmed, take a few minutes to pray two rakahs and make duaa for Allah SWT to grant you sabr, or patience. It helps to remember that Allah SWT has everything written down for you already, you just need to do your part and leave it up to Him, tawakal al’a Allah. Another strategy that a professor once mentioned was that whenever you wonder why you are here again, take a trip down to your school clinic and hang out for awhile. Follow some upperclassmen and residents, and you will remember what attracted you to the medical field in the beginning. It works wonders; you will feel encouraged to get through the semester so you will be a step closer to the real stuff. It’s a tough road, but he did it, she did it, I did it, and you can do it as well. Just hang in there!
Let’s make this clear from the beginning: you CAN and WILL have a life while in med school while still succeeding academically. Many people decide to opt out of med school out of fear of losing their status of social butterfly and entering the life of a hermit crab. I like hermit crabs, they’re pretty cool critters, but I certainly do not live the life of one. Just like they told you when applying to undergrad, extracurriculars are important not only for your resume, but for your sanity.
Everyone has a talent or hobby that they like to indulge in their free time. However, once they start med school, they have trouble balancing their study time with their study breaks and end up either performing poorly or giving up all activities in order to salvage their grades. The trick is to have good time management skills and to stay organized. I started my first semester with the intention of joining every club and serving as a member of the student council. I was elected to a position in the council and participated in several clubs, but noticed that my grades began to slip and that I was having trouble with giving enough time to my positions. I decided to stop attending club meetings and finished my term in the student council without running for re-election in order to save my grades before it was too late. Basically, I cut all ties with anything that did not involve my books.
However, although I now had more time for studying, I was unhappy as I enjoyed being committed to something outside of my notes as it was a fresh breath of air in the middle of intense studying. Solution? I changed my study habits; instead of dozing on the train I began to study during those hours. I woke up earlier and spent some time reviewing my notes before class. I tried a different approach that allowed me to focus more and retain information well in less time. By making those changes, I was able to set more time aside for extracurriculars, and thus was able to strike a balance that benefitted me socially without harming me in the process.
Its important to socialize with other students and health professionals as everyone helps one another, and connections do make a huge difference when it comes to applying for residencies. Start by joining a club that you feel you are passionate about, and apply for a position. Even if you don’t win the election, participate as a member and try your best to get the most out of it. I’ve honestly learned most of my clinical knowledge at health screenings where I’ve seen cases you don’t normally get to see until rotations in fourth year, so those are a good idea to start attending from first year. Even if you don’t know what’s going on, observation will go a long way and soon you will be comfortable enough doing screenings on your own. If you enjoy sports, join the school team, or set an hour or two to play with your buddies during the weekends or a day in which you get out of class early. I study for most of the day, but give myself about an hour to write this blog every day, even the night of exams. It’s really a psychological kind of thing, if you are looking forward to doing something, you will have a goal and will be eager to complete your work as soon as possible. As Muslims, we should be the best time managers, and we learn from the example of the Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) who spent time with his family and Companions (RA) while spreading the message of Islam to all of humanity. Socializing is important, and being in med school is not an excuse. You wouldn’t like to be examined by a doctor who can’t speak to you about anything but his practice, so why should you be allowed to do so as a student? Study hard, but make sure to have some enjoyable time for yourself as well.
For all those who have received acceptance letters, mabrook! For those who yet to receive one, its still early in the game, and inshaAllah your patience will be rewarded.
So you’ve received several acceptance letters from numerous prestigious schools. Each one is better than the next, but you are unsure of which one to choose. Your professor advises you to choose one with research opportunities, your parents prefer for you to pick the one that will leave you with the least amount of debt, and your friends want you to choose one that is closest to home so you can still see each other on the weekends. You are confused and feel like your mind is in a whirlwind. How do you know which school is “the one”?
First of all, you should be choosing a school that tailors to your needs and desires, not what your friends think is best for them. Of course, take your parents’ advice, you know they are the only people who truly want the best for you, and discuss with them the pros and cons of each school. Think of what you want to achieve in your education, and whether this school will help you accomplish this. For instance, if you are interested in wound care, research schools that have great wound or burn centers, or are affiliated with outpatient wound care clinics. If emergency medicine or surgery is more of your forté, then choose a school that is affiliated with a hospital that has a trauma level one ER and allows its fourth years to scrub in during cases. You’ve got to think ahead, and if you are unsure of what this program offers, try to contact some students there or an alumni/resident and speak with them. They’ll answer your questions more efficiently than Google will.
Distance is sometimes an issue, especially if you are a Muslim female who is not comfortable with living alone. That in itself will limit the schools that you decide to attend. If planning to commute via mass transit, have the train and bus schedules out and plan the route. Decide if you will be able to reach campus at 8 AM, or if the area will be safe for you to be walking to the station after dark. If driving, check out the roads and highways and ensure that there will be alternate routes in case of snow or traffic accidents. The last thing you want to experience is road rage or a delayed train the morning of the exam! I have a two hour commute which consists of taking two trains and a car, so I always try to leave early in case there’s a delay or traffic on the way to the station. Its always better to arrive early than late, and it will be detrimental to your grades if you are consistently late to class or enter an exam flustered and agitated.
Last, but certainly not the least, the most important step to take before deciding on a school is praying the Istikhara (duaa mentioned in a previous post). When I was submitting my applications, I visited the open house at my two top schools. Both my mother and I prayed Istikhara before leaving the house. Upon arrival at the first school, we noticed that the area was not particularly inviting. I noted that the nearest subway was approximately two blocks away, and would have a hefty commute trying to enter the city in the mooring. Nonetheless, I did not want to make a decision without evaluating the school first. As I entered the building, I felt a tightness in my chest that continued persistently as the open house presentation went on. Everything seemed wrong to me; the students were prejudiced, the staff seemed unorganized, the building was run down (I almost freaked out then I saw one of the labs..talk about outdated!), and the program itself was not what I had in mind. By the time we reached the car, we had already reached a mutual agreement that there was absolutely no way that I was going to attend that school.
On the other hand, when I visited the second school, I experienced completely opposite feelings. Again, mom and I prayed Istikhara before heading out to the school. The first thing we noticed was that the commute, although took the same amount of time to reach as the previous school, was significantly easier and smoother. As we entered the building, it seemed to glow and the students were particularly warm while the staff was inviting and friendly. The presentation and discussion of the program tailored to my needs, and offered more than what I had expected. As I toured the campus, I felt a sense of belonging and could easily envision myself there for the next four years. When we returned home, we prayed Istikhara again, and felt a renewal of those good feelings. Several months later, I began my first semester at the school and alhamdulillah, never had a cause to regret it.
There are several factors that you must consider when choosing a school, but the most important part is if you feel comfortable. You’re going to be stuck there for four years, so you better love that place! Put your trust in Allah SWT and it will all work out, but listen to your parents’ and experienced people’s advice because you may think something is good for you, but a fresh pair of eyes can notie something you may have missed. There are many more issues involved in this lengthy process, and if anyone is interested I can post a second part to address those concerns.
(Allah will not give anyone more time, once their time has come. Allah is aware of what you do)–Surat Al-Munafiqun, ayah 11.
A few months ago, I had one of the most extraordinary and frightening experiences on the train on my way home. As my daily routine, I finished class, walked to the train station, and was able to catch an earlier train that I usually missed. I settled in my seat, pulled out my pharmacology notes, and proceeded to study for the upcoming exam quietly. Two stops later, a young gentleman entered the train, and sat across the aisle from me. After a few minutes, a woman sitting in front of me turned around to ask if I had a napkin. I handed her one, and watched as she gave it to the man, whispering to me that his mouth was bleeding as I noticed his swollen cheek. He inclined his head to me in thanks, then spit out a wad of blood soaked cotton into a plastic bag and stuffed the clean napkin in his mouth. Naturally, I assumed he had gotten into a fight given the fact that this was a city noted for its high crime rate, and decided not to make much of it as he seemed fine.
However, the bleeding scenario continued and progressively became worse as the man started to bleed profusely from his mouth. I looked up from my notes to see his face ashen and his hands shaking. SubhanaAllah, the words “he’s coding” popped into my mind as I watched his eyes roll and his body slump into the lap of the passenger sitting next to him. A nurse who happened to be sitting behind leaped into action and began performing resuscitations as the conductor stopped the train and called 911. As the man began seizing, he became pulseless, and numerous people began to shout, “pray to God!”. Alhamdulillah, his pulse returned, and the ambulance was able to transport him to the hospital.
No, I did not jump into “doctor mode” and attempt to save the man’s life. It would make a great story if I did, but there was an experienced nurse who took charge of the situation better than I could have at this stage in my education:) However, this incident really forced me to reevaluate myself and my approach towards life. This was a young guy, in his mid twenties, who (as I found out later) had a minor dental procedure that did not clot properly. A simple injury lead to what could have been dire consequences for this young man.
We can die at any moment, but are we prepared? When I heard the people shouting at the man to pray to God, I thought of how when one is dying, you may be unable to even say the Shahadah. Not only that, but it’s also too late to repent, and you will be resurrected on the Day of Judgment in front of Allah SWT in the last position that you held when you died. We as medical students have tons of information to study for and so little time, but we need to stop and reconsider if we would rather meet Allah SWT while holding our lecture notes and delaying Salah, or taking a study break to pray and meeting our Lord while in sujood? As a tip from someone who has been and is still there, when you take those few minutes from studying to pray on time, the amount of baraka and blessings in the time that you use to study will become tremendous. The notes that you struggle to memorize will become effortless, and what you thought would take you several hours to accomplish will be completed in half the time.
If the man had died that day, people would have mourned that he was so young and had his whole life in front of him. But as Muslims, we know that’s not true. Allah SWT doesn’t cut anyone’s life short, but we are to make the most of it with the limited time that we have. Like an exam, there’s no extra time to be given. We don’t know which breath will be our last, but let’s make it a point to make it one in which we will be pleased to meet Allah SWT with.
“…And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely..” (Surat Al-Ma’idah, ayah 32).
Fun Fact: I started off my essay for my application to medical school with this ayah and used it to explain why I chose medicine as a profession.
A timeless classic asked at every medical school interview. Friends and family have questioned this at every party or gathering. You’ve even pondered it yourself in your darkest moments when you feel like you can’t take it anymore. Yep, its the most popular question, without a single right answer. Why do you want to become a doctor?
As a freshman in college, I remember the premed advisor discussing the fact that this question has a correct answer but it is up to one to find it out for themselves. However, I disagree. Just as we go through several phases in life, my opinion is that the answer to this question undergoes an evolution of its own and the answer will vary depending on one’s motives. For instance, if you decided at an early age that you aspire to become a doctor, the basic reason why was “to help people”. Although it seems like a childish answer, in reality, that is what most applicants reply (but with a much larger vocabulary) when asked this question in interviews. It’s not a wrong answer; in fact, it forms the framework of what you expect as the role of a physician in society. Another answer may be, “to have six figures on my paycheck”. Before you storm about and argue that is an inhumane way to go about studying medicine, the harsh reality is that some people really do become doctors to reel in the big bucks. Some do change their perspective once they enter practice, but many will continue to maintain the same mentality throughout their career. Will they become great doctors? Allahu A3lam (Allah knows best).
Later, once you begin enrolling in premed courses and start to become serious about studying medicine, you may start to modify your previously simplified answer. Its not just about helping people, its about making a difference in the world. Whether you genuinely are excited about joining Doctors Without Borders or just heard that it seems like a nice way to impress the interviewers, working for a cause is usually what most students add to their reasoning as to why they would like to become physicians. When I was in that stage, my answer was something along the lines of wanting to benefit the community and to use my skills as a physician to benefit third world countries. An acceptable answer, but the past two years have taught me better and challenged me to modify my answer again to reflect what I have learned.
In the middle of your dry basic science courses in your first semester (why are they making me take biochemistry again!?!), you get a rare treat called your first clinical medicine course. Although your first “patients” are actors and not ill people that need to be diagnosed, learning how to communicate with people under your care really changes your perspective. You learn to ask how you can make this patient better, or to maintain their health. You become more concerned with addressing issues of community health rather than curing a a celebrity patient miraculously or saving the world from a deadly parasitic infection. The idea of practicing medicine becomes your lifestyle rather than an occupation, and you live altruistically to serve people to make them feel better without expecting fame or a lump sum.
The reason why you choose to study medicine is entirely up to you and differs from one individual to another. Over the years, my own idea of why someone would dedicate their lives to the practice of medicine has undergone extensive reconstruction. The basics are still there, and I still want to visit impoverished and war torn areas to surgically repair their club feet and save their limbs from amputations, but I want to be able to make a difference in my community as well. The Ummah needs me as a Muslim to help care for my fellow human beings and I want to be the one there for them. It’s a beautiful feeling when you are able to help bring someone relief, and it is the greatest blessing of all if its someone who will remember you in their duaa for the rest of their lives. I want to become a doctor because it is the profession in which I can serve both my religion and humanity, a rewarding and fulfilling career that brings new challenges every day and provides with the chance to positively influence someone’s life forever. These are my reasons, what are yours?
You’ve finally made up your mind and decided to pursue a career in medicine, a field that you feel passionate about. As you announce the news to your friends and family, you receive numerous responses that aren’t all positive. Your parents are proud and pleased that you chose a “useful” career. Your extended family is curious about the amount of debt that you will be in after completion of medical school. Your friends want to know why you are willing to give up your social life and spending your life in the library. And finally, the ladies of the community. Their questions range from exclamations that you will be at an unmarriageable age by the end of your residency, while others attempt to dissuade by informing you that it is improper and indecent for a young lady to perform surgery or to witness someone bleeding profusely. There are those who cluck their tongues and predict that you will not be able to survive the premedical courses, some who will calculate the age you will be when you graduate from med school and finish residency, and others who have the audacity to loudly whisper to your mother that it’s a smart strategy to send your daughter to medical school because it’s easier to catch a husband there. I’m being serious, these are all issues that I personally experienced and which I’m sure many sisters have endured once they have decided on the medical field as their career of choice. How does one deal with these issues without insulting anyone?
Number one rule is to stick to whatever you decide to do, no matter what anyone says. If you are confident that this is what you want, then it should not matter what people say. I always knew that I wanted to be a physician, and by the grace of Allah SWT and the support of my beloved parents, I will be one inshaAllah because that is my dream. Do not allow anyone to change your mind because they feel like they know what’s best for you, that honor is reserved for your parents, the only people who truly want you to be better than them.
For those who are attacking you with a “its haram and indecent”, politely educate them with the story of Rufaida (RA), the first Muslim woman doctor, who was appointed by the beloved Prophet Mohamed (peace and blessings be upon him) to treat wounded and injured Companions in their battles. She set up a field hospital, and overlooked the care of a large group of men. If the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) thought a woman could do perform the job and that it was not haram nor indecent, then why should anyone else think so? In the history of Islam, and in the books of the great scholars, there is nothing to discourage woman from pursuing higher education in the fields of science and medicine. A nice question to also pose as a rebuttal would be that if women should not become doctors, then will you be comfortable allowing a male instead of a female to be involved in your healthcare, especially in obstetrics and gynecology?
My favorite question is the marriage one, as that is the easiest and yet most controversial issue. Every woman has to understand that this is naseeb, and that if she is meant to marry at a certain age, no matter what the circumstances are, what Allah SWT has decreed is what will occur. A lovely way to answer those sisters concerned about your future wedding date being pushed back is to allow them to calculate your age when you will finish medical school and/or residency. Then, calmly ask them that if a woman’s naseeb is meant for her in her late twenties or early thirties, would it have made a difference if she had stayed home, worked or completed her education? And if you are meant to be married while in medical school, then Allah SWT chose that for you because he knows that you will be able to balance both schoolwork and a family life.
To answer your friends’ jokes about the next time you will have lunch with them will be ten years from now, reassure them that medical students have lives too. InshaAllah I will have a separate post discussing what to expect in med school academically and socially, but realize that there will be time to meet up with your friends and socialize. Unfortunately, this will also be a time when you will discover your genuine friends and those who are shallow. Your true friends will stick with you throughout your road to success, and will be your cheerleaders. Understand that some people will be jealous, especially since their parents may start using you as an example of the “perfect child” and compare their children with you. Don’t be upset with those friends, they are great at what they do and study in their own fields of interest. Maintain a good relationship with them, and make duaa that Allah SWT grants you all success in your future endeavors.
I apologize if this sounded more of a rant, but I’m sure there are many people out there who have dealt with one or more of these issues. It’s tough when religious and cultural expectations become tangled, and you are unsure of how to unknot yourself without making a bigger mess. Ask Allah SWT to grant you patience and politeness of speech, and remain steadfast to your hopes and dreams.
“Good things come to those who believe, better things come to those who are patient, and the best things come to those who don’t give up”-Unknown