Female medical students: Doctors or housewives?

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It was my first day in dental school. “I was excited” is an understatement, considering what I felt. I looked at my seniors doe-eyed. I imagined myself where the faculty stood. I wanted to run to them and ask them about their experiences and struggles, I wanted to be assured that it was all worth it. I wanted to tell them that I dreamt of being in their place one day, my 18-year-old being was filled with exuberance; I felt elated.

What an adrenaline filled morning it was. I wore the classiest yet practical shirt I could find; wore my plain yet shiny new pumps; got my books together in the pursuit of finally fulfilling my dream: becoming a healer.

The first few hours passed as the teachers explained us how tough this journey would be. We were given a summary of what we will study in the coming semester. Our batch had an equal number of enthusiastic (and some not so enthusiastic) boys and girls. However, as we began interacting with each other, one of the boys ridiculed a girl saying,

“Why do you even bother, you will end up making chapattis anyway!”

As I heard these words, my blood boiled.

“Don’t you eat chapattis?” I answered back. “If it’s so degrading why do you eat them?”

“It’s not degrading. It’s just that you girls are wasting a seat by coming here,” he replied.

“Well, if you marry a doctor and provide her with a maid and all the opportunities, I’m sure her seat won’t be wasted.”

He was quiet for a while. Then he said,

“Well, as a woman, are you going to leave your baby at home just to come to work?”

“I would be with my child for as long as he needs me, when he/she is a little older I will play my part in society. At least that’s what I have planned.”

The point being, why can people not have a balance? Why do men marry doctors just as a trophy and women study medicine just for a proposal? If all you want is a proposal, I can assure you non-doctors get married too. And if all you need is a wife who stays home to look pretty, then there are many girls who can do just that without creating an unbalance in the health care system.

When you talk to girls in medical schools, you will find many who are extremely enthusiastic about practicing. However, their dreams are shattered when they are told it’s not a woman’s job and that it is better they stay at home. You will also find girls who proudly claim that all they want is a ‘Dr’ before their name on their wedding card, nothing less, nothing more. Then there is a third kind, the type that is so professional that their kids love their nannies more than their mothers. Where all their husbands eat is what the maid cooks; whose families see them only on weekends (and sometimes not even that).

All the three kinds create an imbalance in society.

The first two create it in the healthcare system, where there is a severe shortage of doctors. Many women want to be checked by female doctors only, and the hospitals are unable to fulfill the patient’s basic right. In situations like natural calamities, wars or other issues where doctors are needed to visit the healthcare camps, it’s often noticed there are not enough doctors including female ones, considering 70% of medical graduates in Pakistan are women.

The third kind creates a social imbalance. Families where the mother or wife is seldom at home, lack a bond, a bond that is formed by the woman and woman alone. Children from these families grow up to be emotionally unstable and difficult people to work with. A child needs his/her mother, husbands need their wives, and its utter unfairness to the individual and the society when these people don’t get the attention they need.

So how can the balance be maintained? The initiative has to be taken by the government/hospitals as well as the women who graduate as doctors. Here are my two cents:

Firstly, it should be made mandatory to work the first 3-4 years after graduation at least. The working hours should be made more flexible. If all the doctors are putting in the effort, then they would have to work for shorter hours. Hospitals would have to employ more doctors that way, but the efficiency would increase too as doctors would have the rest and sleep needed as they work with people’s lives.

Day-care centers should be provided in hospitals along with trained nannies. Yes, a woman needs to have a peace of mind that her child is near her and in good hands. I personally have never seen a day-care center for doctors in any hospital, but if there would be I can assure you the number of doctors would also increase.

Women need to understand the importance of family. They need to understand that giving time to their husbands and children will not make them any less of an intellect. In fact, nature has given them the power to shape an individual’s mind, how is that any less than a super power?

And finally, men, let the woman in your life pursue her dreams. An empty mind is a devil’s workshop. Your wife will either become the gossip girl of the neighborhood or a patient of depression as she also needs an assurance of self worth. Trust me; nothing will give her that except for saving a person’s life will.

Our society needs to understand this issue collectively; every person who can let their daughter or wife work, but doesn’t, is responsible when a woman doesn’t get a female doctor to treat her. Every girl who is lazy and doesn’t practice medicine should know she is responsible when a calamity-struck area doesn’t have a doctor to oversee a delivery, and the mother and child die due to poor vigilance.

And a woman whose only priority is her job should know that when her children grow up to be individuals who don’t connect with people, she is the one responsible.