This is the fourth blog post of our FemInEM Forward series, featuring blog submissions from the The FIX19 International Attendee Scholarship. The post below is written by Dr. Sameeta Sikander, an emergency medicine physician Pakistan. Dr. Sikander is currently a first year Emergency Medicine resident at the Indus Hospital in Pakistan, a charitable hospital which provides free health care services to vulnerable patients. She is an avid reader, loves water sports, and binge watches musical documentaries in her spare time.
8:15 P.M. I had just started my night shift in the trauma unit when an elderly patient collapsed. I called out for help and began to administer CPR; soon the nurses rushed in and one of them softly asked me to step aside. I asked him to start the IV medications while I performed CPR. Then, his tone changed and he sternly said, “Dr. Sameeta please step aside”. Confused, I let him take over. Soon, our senior casualty registrar arrived to the room. He looked at me with a frown and asked what I was doing there. I didn’t understand what he meant. I was an intern in EM, where else would I be? Silently, I stood and watched the code, and it suddenly hit me, everyone present there had one thing in common. They were all male. I was the only female in the room.
I tried to think of a single female casualty officer, but there were none. I suddenly understood why every time I told my colleagues I was pursuing EM, I was met with weird stares. For the first time, the world seemed strange to me and I was no longer a doctor anymore, I was a female doctor. It didn’t make sense. In medical school for every one male student there were three female students. But where did they all go? When did medicine became a male dominated field? So I read articles and had lengthy discussions with my colleagues but what I learned was the bitter truth that women could only become dermatologists or radiologists, or if they were courageous enough, general physicians and gynecologists. The world of emergency and trauma was beyond the reach of a woman, a world she could only dream of. So I dreamed.
My mother taught me from a young age that I could be anything I dreamed of as long as I was willing to work for it. In a society where as soon as a girl turns sixteen, her father starts selecting a groom for her, my father helped me select a college. I couldn’t give up now. So I struggled each day to improve my skills, practice CPR for hours and watch tutorials on how to run a code. I stood in front of a mirror and practiced commanding my team, so I wouldn’t be asked to step aside again. Many hours I spent in the hospital were simply trying to find a place in trauma management, even if it meant just applying a tourniquet.
Then the day came when a patient collapsed but our team lead wasn’t present. I quickly took charge and ran the code. The words I had practiced countless times in front of the mirror, I said for real “Push 1mg of IV epinephrine.” Things changed after that and I was no longer an outsider in a male dominated field; I was an equal part of it. I was included in cases and often was asked to do primary survey. My training ended and when the time came for my seniors to bid me farewell, they instead asked me when I would be joining the team as a resident. My next rotations in surgery and orthopedics were equally challenging and required longer hours and extra efforts as a woman, just to be given a chance. But in the end, I assisted with an appendectomy and reduced a shoulder dislocation; proving that women are equally capable.
Women in our part of the world are asked to leave their jobs for their families. They are told they can either be a good mother or a good doctor. But I want to change that OR to AND. There is still a long way to go, but the future has hope. The hospital I worked at has three other female doctors in EM. One, unfortunately, was forced to leave so that she can be a mother but her dream is still alive. I believe that every girl who dreams of being in EM will one day do so without being the only female in the room.