• Saturday, November 1, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Headline: Dr Doolittle’s At Home

    At a graduation ceremony. Credit: Fahim Siddiqi

    At a graduation ceremony. Credit: Fahim Siddiqi

    Zofeen Ebrahim

    KARACHI: Sana Yasir toiled through medical school five years to become a doctor, and followed up with a year’s clinical practice. And then, she got married and quit the workplace. As with Yasir, so with many in Pakistan.

    That means Pakistan could rapidly run short of doctors. Pakistan’s current doctor-patient ratio is about 1:100. In rural areas it can be as high as 1:600-900, says Dr Omar Farooq, pro-vice chancellor of the Dow University of Health Sciences and principal of Sindh Medical College. For every one specialist, says Farooq, there are 14,000 patients.

    “If female students, who form a majority of graduates every year, decide not to continue with studies, and the cream of male students leave for greener pastures, in less than 10 years there will be a severe shortage of doctors,” he says. “Fifty percent of the female medical students don’t practise after graduating, especially if they get married.

    “Of the 50 percent who do,” he says, “25 percent often quit once they have kids. Only 12 to 13 percent of the women go for specialisation.”

    Since medical schools began implementing open-merit admissions, more women have been able to pursue medical degrees. Today women make up about 75 percent to 80 percent of Pakistan’s medical graduates.

    “It’s either the husband who frowns upon night shifts or discourages his wife from keeping long hours that results in young graduates resigning,” says Dr Mariam Waqas. “A vast majority” of the women who graduated with her seven years ago are currently unemployed by choice, she says. “These were really promising, bright young women.”

    Nashrah Abdul Haq, a final-year student at Dow Medical College, says it is unfair that female medical students are expected to work after they finish their studies. “It should be (their) choice. Many girls from other professional colleges opt not to work, too. Why single out female doctors?”

    Haq, 24, also does not believe that ending the open-merit system would give male students a better chance of admission to medical school and eventually lead to a better doctor-patient ratio. “Few boys are opting for medical studies. And those who do want to go abroad in any case.”

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