Monday, February 29, 2016

HEAL- Doctors, who also happen to be Muslim

A couple of weeks ago, I faced another unfortunate, racist interaction with a patient I was trying to treat. I got in my car that day, still parked in the hospital lot, called my mom and cried. I cried my eyes out. I could hear the pain in her voice as she coaxed and comforted me, promising me that for all the horrible patient encounters I've had--plenty more appreciative, future patients were still out there.

Reflecting on that encounter for the past couple of weeks, I've had several thoughts:
  • Does this patient know what I've sacrificed and been through to get to this point, the pinnacle of my medical school career, just months before graduating as a physician?
  • Why does a piece of cloth over my head discount the white coat on my shoulders?
  • Has she ever met a Muslim face-to-face before?
  • Were her hurtful words a reflection of the tainted images and stories seen in the news?
  • Is this lady going to vote for Trump too?!
As I near the end of my medical school career and anxiously await match day and graduation, I can't help but feel overwhelmed by all that I've gone through to get to this point. I think back to all the sleepless nights as an undergrad, cramming for my biology or organic chemistry finals. I think about the occasions I've missed and times I've sacrificed with loved ones for school. I think about the early mornings my alarm blares at 4:30am and I drag myself to the hospital. I think about the anxiety-provoking board exams I studied months for. And I think about my dad, who sacrificed so much for his family, praying they'd have a true chance at the American dream. Being belittled by a patient I was striving to heal (again) felt like my work thus far was laughable and insignificant. What encouraged me though, was thinking about all the other Muslim, hijab-wearing physicians and physicians-in-training I know who are keeping their heads up despite this all.

Therefore, this blog post has become very important to me. I want to introduce you to some bad-ass, amazing, determined, smart and special women in my life. They are all physicians or physicians-in-training, they are all American, oh, and yes--they so happen to wear the hijab and be Muslim too:

Emman Dabaja
Medical School: Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine
Specialty Interest: Pediatrics

Susan Edlibli
Medical School: Michigan State University College of Human Medicine
Specialty Interest: undecided

Badrea Elder
Medical School: Wayne State University School of Medicine
Residency: TBA
Specialty: Family Medicine 

Nour Al-Hadidi
Medical School: University of Michigan Medical School
Residency: University of Michigan
Specialty: Internal Medicine 

Maria Diab
Medical School: University of Damascus School of Medicine
Residency: Wayne State University 
Specialty: Internal Medicine

Sarah Jukaku
Medical School: Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons
Residency: New York Presbyterian Cornell University
Specialty: Psychiatry 

Omaima Boukhari
Medical School: Wayne State University School of Medicine
Residency: Wayne state University/ Beaumont-Oakwood
Specialty: Physical Medicine and Rehab

Marwa El-Bohy
Medical School: Wayne State University School of Medicine
Residency: Helen DeVos Children's Hospital
Specialty: Pediatrics

Nada Beydoun
Medical School: Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine
Residency: Oakwood Hospital and Medical Center
Specialty: Internal Medicine

Hebah Hefzy
Medical School: Northeastern Ohio Medical University
Residency: University of Pittsburgh Medical Center
Fellowship: Vascular Neurology, Henry Ford Hospital
Specialty: Vascular Neurology

The important thing for you to know is that these women are not only Muslim and in medicine. Among them are mothers, wives, artists, poets, runners, foodies, fashionistas, international aid-workers, researchers, philanthropists, and activists. They are just as "American" as the next person. And just in case you were wondering, all of them have fabulous hair too.

The funny thing is, this list is still only a fraction of the Muslims I know who are physicians, let alone other healthcare practitioners (pharmacists, PAs, OTs, PTs, nurses, etc). It also doesn't include the plenty of Muslim women physicians who choose (yes, I said choose) not to wear the hijab.

What unites people who work in healthcare is their ability to put the patient first. When you go in for a check-up or end up in the emergency room, you trust your doctor with your life. You divulge your biggest secrets and most embarrassing truths (sometimes you divulge too much, just sayin'). You feel comfortable knowing that your physician's purpose is to help and heal you. You trust they will make judgment calls in your best interest. So why should it be any different of an experience if your physician so happens to have an extra piece of cloth on her head?

That's right, it shouldn't.

So, the next time you see some crazy portrayal of Muslims in the media, or you question the motive of what a Muslim's holy book commands of them, I want you to think of these women. I want you to remember their faces and their names. Not only have the defied stigmas of what it means to be a woman or minority in medicine, they're also doing it while being obvious and bold representations of their religion.

*drops mic*

PS: This video of Dalia Mogahed's inspiring TED talk, "What do you think when you look at me?" recently came out and I loved it. Watch it!

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