Saba

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Hi my name is Saba and I am currently a student at Howard University College of Medicine. I am from India and moved to the United States when I was 2 years old &  have always been interested in the sciences. As I continue on my medical school journey, I am thinking of specializing in neurology. Trying bubble tea with my friends, reading, shopping, singing aloud, and just hanging out with family are some things I love to do in my free time. 

I am also now involved in the Muslim Student Organization in my school. The club actually began last year, when new students came up to me asked, “There’s a Christian Medical and Dental Association, is there a Muslim one as well?” At the time there wasn’t.  Because of all of our hard work and advocating for what they wanted, we now have a brand new “prayer space” in the school that anyone can use. I was fine praying in a stairwell or in the middle of a noisy room, but having a separate space is very soothing. Seeing what the students accomplished was very inspiring, especially because no one realized the power of our voices. We started out with no foundation or anyone to tell us exactly what to do, but kept pushing for our voices to be heard. We ended up catching the dean’s attention and as a result, have somewhere we can pray. Now, our closer knit community feels like we are all friends – regardless of what we believe in. And none of that would have been possible if we had given up.

I learned my patience from my mother – she always taught me to take a moment and consider the situation before acting out on my feelings. She always told me that before getting angry, think about why this person is acting the way they are acting. What might they be going through?

Throughout my life, my mom was a very influential person. She was the kind of person who took on responsibility and never complained. I learned my patience from my mother – she always taught me to take a moment and consider the situation before acting out on my feelings. She always told me that before getting angry, think about why this person is acting the way they are acting. What might they be going through? Years later, I learned that Islam also has that same teaching. There was an Islamic scholar who emphasized that 70 excuses should be given to a person before doubting them or thinking wrong of them. It was so nice to hear that something my mom believed in so strongly was mirrored by my religion as well. I feel like my mother taught me that it’s not always important to only think about what you’re going through. It’s important to consider how others might be feeling as well.

In third year, these people you read about aren’t a list of symptoms anymore – they are real people & they have things going in their life that you don’t know about. Patience is really something you need to have when dealing with different kinds of patients, especially in a teaching hospital.

This has especially helped me on my journey to become a doctor.  There are a lot of vocabulary words, body parts, symptoms, and diseases that you learn when you are in medical school. In third year, these people you read about aren’t a list of symptoms anymore – they are real people & they have things going in their life that you don’t know about. Patience is really something you need to have when dealing with different kinds of patients, especially in a teaching hospital. What happens in a teaching hospital is that a medical student will go in first to get the patient’s history. A doctor will go in after and ask the patient for the history once more, to make sure everything was jotted down correctly. Sometimes, some patients will have an attitude and be annoyed with having to answer questions two times. Once a patient said, “can I please have just one doctor instead of two?” It is in these moments that I think about what my mother taught me. Yes, these patients are annoyed, but if I react the same way, what good will that do? It will not bring forth a solution. Besides, these people are sick and we don’t know their full story. I don’t know what is going on in their personal life and I think that is very important to have in your mind as a doctor.

Aside from my mother, I also feel like my 4th grade teacher was a very inspirational role model for me in elementary school. We had a gecko as a class pet which made coming to class very exciting. She also did this activity every class called “Did You Know?”. During this time, she would present a random fact that would cause an entire class of 4th graders to get very excited. This always stuck with me, because I loved the way she would introduce new things to us. I always loved the sciences, but I feel like with her activity, I was able to learn more about the world. I felt like her class really made me realize just how big the world is, and how many possibilities are out there.

There’s the age-old stereotype that the woman working in the hospital must be the nurse – while the males are quickly referred to as “doctor”.

My advice to other women pursuing medicine would be as follows: as a woman, you will see a lot of male physicians and female physicians. There’s the age-old stereotype that the woman working in the hospital must be the nurse – while the males are quickly referred to as “doctor”. It can be quite disheartening to not be acknowledged for the position that you hold because of your gender. When I went to surgery during my OBGYN rotation, I saw a lot of female doctors. What I learned is that people will always want to find other people who remind you of you. I felt very comfortable in a room filled with female doctors, but that doesn’t mean that any other room or field wasn’t just as much mine as it was a man’s. We should try to make our place even if we feel as though we aren’t welcome, because one day when another woman or person of color walks through that door, she will find comfort in you.

My coworker, who isn’t Muslim or covers herself, helped me because she had seen another hijabi coworker use head coverings. She told me, “I am going to help you because this shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t come” and that meant a lot to me.

In my experience, there is no point in backing down because there will always be someone to help you. I noticed this when I observed my first surgery. In order to go into surgery, you need to have clothes that are sterile. My hijab, which is an non-sterilized clothing item, is not considered something that I can walk into the operating room with. Because of this, I have to wear a cover over my clothing. When I came into the room for the first time, I didn’t know where to go. My coworker, who isn’t Muslim or covers herself, helped me because she had seen another hijabi coworker use head coverings. She told me, “I am going to help you because this shouldn’t be a reason why you can’t come” and that meant a lot to me. I realized that no matter what, no one should be told they can’t do something. There is always a way around an obstacle. Afterall, we all belong in whatever we choose we want to do. I know I deserve to be a doctor and I hope one day to be that comfort for another physician, as she steps into an operating room and finds someone who looks like her.


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