off record
Shaukat Ali Jawaid

Social issues of
Female Physicians

I have often thought of writing on this subject but then wondered whether should I or was I competent to write about it? Female now comprise a large number of healthcare professionals and the number of girl students in medical and dental colleges now far exceed boys and they have lot of social issues which needs to be addressed on priority basis. No one seems to be taking interest hence it is essential for female physicians who have assumed a leadership role, are occupying coveted posts in various medical institutions, establishment to come forward and take up this issue and try to find a solution. The first step towards this will be to ensure that all the fresh female medical and dental graduates do not leave this profession after marriage and we have some arrangements to utilize their talent for which different options can be considered.

First of all, we must have some flexible postgraduate training programmes so that those who wish to improve their qualifications have some options available. Secondly it is extremely important to ensure security at work place and comfortable working environment. Part time jobs can also be created where they can work in the afternoon from 2-6PM. Provision of safe transport, Good Baby Care Centers at work place will be yet another facility and incentive which will encourage married female doctors to continue to serve the ailing humanity and we won’t be wasting huge investments made in their training. With the advances in information technology and the experience that we now have got during the Covid19 pandemic, there are many disciplines of medicine in which these female physicians can work from home, radiology in particular. If Telemedicine Centers are established in big tertiary healthcare facilities, their services can also be effectively utilized. Above all ensuring that there are no cases of physical or sexual harassment at work place is extremely important. This is possible when we have more and more female physicians in Academic Chairs or administrative posts which should be encouraged by empowering the female physicians.

Parents of the girl students have an added responsibility as they are in a much better positon to counsel them, guide them and plan for their future career. They must make sure that these girls get married at appropriate time, do not wait for completion of postgraduate studies because then often it is too late. Then, they keep on waiting for an appropriate match which becomes extremely difficult. Often, some girl students are seen to be too ambitious which is good to some extent but one has to be realistic. It is essential to create a balance between family life and professional life wherein family life must get preference. They must never consider competing with their spouses, give them due respect, look after them and the family, earn the good wishes of the in-laws as well and most often they won’t object to them to continue to practice medicine of course with some adjustments so that family life does not suffer. After marriage first two to three years are very important in which one gets adjusted to the new family environment. This is the time when the parents have to play their role and counsel their daughters to be accommodative and adjust their family life. With good will on both sides, it is not at all difficult in majority of the cases. Most often the problem arises when they try to compete with their spouses which should be discouraged as they have certain inherent weaknesses. They cannot perform night duties most often, they cannot serve in far flung areas, small cities and towns without proper transport facilities and security at work place.

Issus of marriage counselling of late has assumed greater importance. Here not only the parents but the senior healthcare professionals with whom these young female physicians work should guide them, help them as academic parents. God forbid if the parents of these female physicians die early or these female physicians lose their when they are young and getting education, their worries and problems are multiplied. No one can replace the love and affection of a mother who are the best persons to think about the future of their daughters. I have often wondered and you have every right to disagree with me, how useful it is to have exclusive female medical colleges and have they served the purpose for which they were established? During studies when these young female medical and dental students live in a highly protective environment, they are not well prepared to live in the male dominated society, hence in real practical life they face too many problems and find it difficult to adjust. On the other hand, in co-education, many boys and girls who study together for couple of years, do understand each other much better and eventually many of them do get married.

During my professional life of over five decades, I have come across many cases in which some very brilliant postgraduates did not get married in time and then it was too late. Many of them then retired as faculty members of various medical institutions. Not getting married in time also affects their personality to a great extent. In some cases, the early loss of their parents or mother in particular had contributed a great deal to their problems and miseries. Many of them did share their personal life stories with me and they could have been helped, if counselled properly in time. Lack of any career counselling facility in most of our medical and dental institutions has also contributed to this to some extent. There was no one to guide them, hence we need to provide this facility in our professional educational institutions.

My passionate plea and advice to the healthcare professionals will be to treat the female physicians, young female postgraduates with respect and dignity as professional colleagues while the female physicians should also reciprocate the same way as healthcare is a team work. Similarly, nurses should also get due respect being the most important member of the healthcare team. It is also high time that some female physicians should come forward and compile a book highlighting the outstanding achievements, accomplishments of female physicians in Pakistan with special reference to those who have helped, encouraged other colleagues rather than self-projection and glorification. I will be too glad to have any feedback, comments and suggestions on the subject discussed in this column so that we can continue this debate on a very important issue which I feel has remained neglected for too long. I am also planning to write an Editorial on this subject in the forthcoming issue of Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences.

Tail Piece: Let us reduce polarization in the society, promote love and affection, harmony between different sections of the society. We can have difference of opinion but it does not mean we should become enemies. Let us do something good for this country which has given us a lot.

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