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Medical education, a status symbol for Female students?

Karachi, Jan 26: Female medical students enrol into the programme given the 'prestige' associated with the profession, said a doctor. The doctor in question, who graduated from Dow Medical College (DMC) in 2005, taught at a private medical college for over a year. However, once she got married, she had to resign since she was moving abroad for a while.

According to her, it is difficult to find a job in public-sector hospitals. Not only this but also, the work environment there is not conducive to women. Patients do not give female doctors respect. In fact, sometimes, female doctors are also subjected to maltreatment. She recalled that when she was doing her house job at the Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK), the father of a prominent political worker suffering from stroke was admitted there. His party workers ransacked the hospital for a "minor reason", and even mistreated the female doctors there.

She also said that it's not the poor salary packages and night shifts that discourage female doctors but the way they are treated that forces them to stay away.

She suggested that fresh graduates should be appointed in the areas from which they hail (which sometimes include rural areas) as doctors are needed there. Unfortunately, most of them prefer to stay back and work in urban areas.

Another female doctor who graduated from the Sindh Medical College (SMC) in 2006 said she was unable to practice because soon after her exams, she got married. Her husband is financially well-off, and she said that her in-laws preferred it if she "looked after her family" rather than go out and work.

The doctor in question is now the mother of a one-year old girl and says that she "cannot think of practicing along with raising my daughter".

Dr Sidra Ahmed, a graduate of Jinnah Medical and Dental College, said that it is unfair to generalise this issue. According to Dr Ahmed, there are a lot of girls from her class who are married and are practicing. "I think most women want to become doctors not because they want a good marriage proposal, but because this is the only profession that has scope all over the world and even one moves abroad, you can still practice," she explained.

Professionals call for male-only
Karachi: A large number of medical college graduates are showing an increasing reluctance to pursue their careers, with health professionals warning that the shortage of doctors in the country is likely to get worse in the coming years.

Many male doctors prefer to either practice abroad or join another profession owing to lack of incentives in the medical field, and it has been learnt that many female graduates refrain from finding any employment at all, even though the majority of students in medical colleges are women. "In almost all medical colleges, more and more females are getting admissions," said M. Rafiq Khanani, Head of Pathology Department, Dow International Medical College.

Khanani believes that this is because girls are more focused in their studies. Previously, there was a difference in the number of seats allotted for boys and girls in medical colleges, complete with different academic requirements for both. This changed following a Supreme Court ruling in the early 1990s which stated that all admissions be based on merit without discrimination, and not on quota. Both boys and girls are now on equal footing competing for seats, but regardless of this, the ratio of girls to boys in government colleges is 70:30.

"About 40 percent to 50 percent of girls who graduate from medical colleges choose to get married, become housewives and raise a family,' he said. "Just half of these lady doctors re-enter the field after a few years. The remainder never practice."

It has been estimated that five to 10 percent of female doctors leave the country after getting married. Many of them only practice or embark on their post-graduate studies if their husbands allow it. This lack of female doctors entering the field has proved to be a cause for grave concern among doctors in the country.

According to Dr Tipu Sultan, former principal Dow Medical College, "only women who face financial problems look for jobs while many of the boys begin work because they are the breadwinners."

In a study he conducted recently, Sultan discovered an alarming trend: the reason most families opted to send their daughters to medical schools was so that the girls could get a "good husband". After finding such a match, however, many find that they cannot work. Dr Samrina Hashmi, Secretary General Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) blames society for preventing many of the girls from practicing full-time.

"In developed countries, girls can get a part-time job and leave their children at day-care centres while they work," she said. "Here, many cannot work because their husband insists it, or because their in-laws do not allow them to perform night duties. As a result, the majority of female doctors sit idle at home. Manpower is being wasted."

Hashmi predicts that if this continues, there will be an acute shortage of doctors in the next five to 10 years. Already, she said, there is just one specialist for 14,000 patients and one doctor for 2,500 patients. In addition, private hospitals regularly advertise for doctors, particularly those who can work at night, but they get no response.

She said that employment should be made compulsory for a set number of years after graduation and be counted as training.

A quarter of the female graduates who do end up practicing have a preference for general practice. Fifteen percent opt for post-graduate training in OB/GYN, 10 percent for paediatrics, five percent in ultrasound and five percent in other specialties. "Around two to three percent enter other fields," said Khanani. "Many of them become school teachers."

Sultan believes it is time to reintroduce the quota system of admission, or barring that, opening up medical colleges just for boys. Out of a total of 73 medical colleges in the country, 29 are in the public sector. Sultan pointed out that six of these government medical colleges are for girls only, such as Fatima Jinnah Medical College in Lahore and People's Medical College in Nawabshah, but none for men only.

However, he is not optimistic about either of his solutions. "Nobody is interested in approaching the courts to review the decision in light of recent developments," he commented, adding "Health is not on the agenda of the government, and private medical colleges are more interested in making money." The News

Your Comments
"i think these old customs are changing now leading many conservative pakistani families to a moderation.Trends are changing.Here in peshwar an increase in jobs of female doctors has been seen.and i think now going back to the rules of 90s is not the solution of the problem.instead there are many other like increasing pay a little and taking day shift duty from them etc etc.times are changing and we should be satisfied with the court verdict regarding female students admission.also due to their hard work and concentration uppon studies they are much more brilliant than male students...thats why,our batch was being topped always by a girl..hehe."
City, Country: peshawar, Pakistan

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