The Med Sisters Series is a series of interviews of women in various stages of their careers in medicine: pre-med, medical school, residency, fellowship and attending physicians. As women, I believe we face unique challenges within any field, medicine included. As I’ve moved along on this journey, I truly believe one of the biggest support systems we have is each other. Society works so hard to pit women against each other in every situation you can think of but, as feminists, I think it’s so important to combat that urge to try to ‘beat each other out.’ There’s room for all of us on the other side of the glass ceiling. The goal of this series is to shed light on the challenges women face in the field of medicine and how they achieve a work-life balance that works for them. This blog has always been a place for me to share the realities of this journey, both the highs and lows. I thought of this series as a way to share the perspectives of the other extraordinary women on this journey too.
Amenah is a fourth year medical student in Karachi, Pakistan and is currently doing her rotations in Washington DC. You can follow her journey through medicine and travels through her beautiful Instagram account.
Q: Why did you decide to pursue medicine as a career? How do you stay motivated on the difficult days?
A: I’d say that I decided to do medicine because I wanted to make money, or help people or give back to the community because those are the most rational (and commonly given) reasons, but it wouldn’t be true. I don’t think I remember ever being at a point in my life where I didn’t want to do this. I was always intrigued by the human body and I wanted to be able to learn more about it. As far as your second question goes, I think reminding myself of how hard I’ve worked so far helps a lot. I think the fact that you’re always constantly studying for years and years until it actually starts to feel rewarding plays a huge role in bringing you down. It’s always good to remember that it’s not gonna be forever, and all of this work adds up to something bigger eventually.
Q: What has been the most emotionally difficult aspect of your career thus far? How have you coped? Does your passion for music play a part in your coping?
A: I think the most challenging time for me so far was my first year in medical school (and you would think that’s the easiest time!) I had just moved to Karachi from Singapore, and was dealing with a lot of changes and adjustments. I think I just felt very vulnerable and made a lot of decisions that I wish I could change. I wasn’t doing very well on exams, and I was regressing in every aspect of my life. It took me a while to get out of it, and a lot of different things helped me with the transition. My passion for music definitely plays a huge role in picking me back up, but so does art, photography and writing. So it’s always been a combination of things that I enjoy doing.
Q: What advice would you give to someone deciding if medicine is the career for them?
A: Medicine is not the kind of career you should pursue if you’re not truly passionate about it. It takes a lot of hard work and motivation to make it through medical school and the learning and growing is an ongoing process that never ends. If it’s something you enjoy, then you should definitely pursue it.
Q: How are you able to travel to so many different places?
A: I get this question a lot haha. After every school year we get 6 weeks off. I make the most of that time to travel and do everything else I have to put on hold all year round. I study while I’m traveling too, so it goes hand in hand with everything.
Q: Does your faith play a part in why you chose to pursue medicine as a career and how you interact with your patients?
A: I think my faith plays a huge role in helping me find direction on the difficult days, but wasn’t a huge driving force when I decided to study medicine and pursue it as a career.
Q: Who is a woman in medicine you look up to and why?
A: I have always looked up to Dr. Sadiqa Jafarey. She has done so much work for women in Pakistan and is a brilliant doctor. She has the kind of strength and poise that I hope to have in me some day.
Q: As a woman in medicine have you faced any discrimination (either blatant or more subtle)? What advice do you have for women who go through similar challenges?
A: I wouldn’t exactly call it discrimination, but more often than not, a lot of people undermine a woman’s ability and/or determination to actually end up as a practicing doctor. I think it has a lot to do with the fact that many girls who study medicine get married and never end up working – a gross generalization. It’s unfair to make that assumption and the fact that I’m a woman doesn’t determine how ambitious, focused and driven I am and successful I will be. Don’t let what other people think bring you down or ever demotivate you. Your gender, age, religion and/or ethnicity does not determine your capabilities.
Thanks for stopping by our corner of the internet Amenah! We greatly appreciate your international insight into the field of medicine and wish you the best with your career 🙂