This motivational episode will take you through my journey of becoming a physician and it will help you understand how passion translates into a profession. It has been a roller coaster ride, so brace yourselves!
Growing up in a small village in Pakistan, I was around people who considered only three professions to be respectable: a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. Hence, from a very young age, I decided to be a doctor, but there was a slim chance of that happening given that the schools in the village I lived in had classes only till eighth grade.
When we moved to America, I was so overwhelmed with the new language and culture that I thought it would not be possible for me to pursue medicine, and that I would probably lag behind the rest of my peers.
In college, I tried to attend every lecture that I could to overcome the knowledge gap that existed between me and my counterparts, and I ended up majoring in economics. It was at this time that I had started to question my career of choice. I came to know that it was a long four years ahead of medical school and a minimum of three years of residency. I was sceptical as to whether I was ready to dedicate so many years of my life to a degree, and whether I was pursuing medicine because of my will or whether it was because of cultural and parental pressures? In my sophomore year, I told my mom that I was not going to be a doctor, listening to which, she threw a massive tantrum. Surprisingly, my dad came to my rescue and told me that I am free to choose any profession I was interested in. This feeling was liberating, it made me realize that whichever profession I was going to pursue, would be for myself and not for pleasing my parents or society.
Medical College Admission Test and the United States Medical Licensing Examination
After the hurdles, I had faced previously came The MCAT this was a challenge however, I had managed to score well. I heard about Caribbean Medical schools from a friend and applied at Ross University. After securing the admission I moved to the island and started studying, even though the drop out rate was high, I managed to complete my degree. USMLE was the next challenging thing many foreign students are unable to clear these, therefore, I had a backup plan in place. In case, I don’t score well in the USMLE, I would drop out of medical school and become a teacher to pay off my loans. Fortunately, I never had to take this route because I did quite well in my USMLE.
Neurology has always been my love, so I chose to pursue this field and started my residency in Virginia. It was the toughest part as there was a lot of work pressure especially as I was going through a divorce at the time. I spent so many nights crying, days depressed and evenings questioning my career decisions during residency. However, as the saying goes, ‘nothing lasts forever!’
After finishing residency, I started my fellowship, remarried, and moved to New York. There I worked in Long Island Jewish Medical Center even during my pregnancy.
Managing work-life balance
Another challenge I faced was leaving my daughter at home and returning to work immediately after birth, thankfully having daycare at the hospital helped me a lot.
When we did move to New Jersey I struggled to find a good daycare for my daughter and so I had decided to live with my mother-in-law for six months. After a while, I got to know about ‘Intra operation monitoring’, this enabled me to work from home as a neurologist and supervise my kids at the same time.
Even though I had some doubts earlier, looking back it feels like all the hard work and sacrifices were worth it. I am happy and content with my choices. To all the ladies out there, never be afraid of chasing your dreams, whether you want to be a physician or choose any other profession, just remember one thing: When there is a will, there’s a way!