Venn

The world of Islam and the world of medicine comprise the two most important aspects of my identity. You can imagine how you might lose a sense of self when you observe how little those worlds overlap. Everyday, instead of getting closer together, those worlds seem to get further and further apart.

In Islamic circles, I still have to fight to get my voice heard in certain situations, because my liberal, semi-feminist voice is still the tiny minority. With certain individuals who follow very traditionalist paradigms and insist on stagnancy, I am a nobody. I am an annoying nagging presence that needs to be swatted away before I attract the swarms.

In medicine, I am granted a respect that is automatic and expected, simply for having gotten where I am today. My voice is granted the same level of authority as a man’s, or maybe even more because of my insight into being a visual minority, a woman in medicine, etc. I never have to worry about getting a say. As my first year profs liked to say, I’ve reached the “top of the foodchain”, so to speak.

At the same time, these worlds diverge in other ways; yesterday I got a phone call from an old high school friend who told me her catastrophic and continually downhill experience with the healthcare system, poor medical management of her mother, substance abuse, ultimately homelessness… and it is shocking for me to imagine that this is someone I spent every day with about 6 years ago. Where the medical system (at least, the dehumanized form of it) would have me free from obligation in a case like this, it is Islam that draws me to her. Speaking from that social hierarchy that doctors seem to maintain, I have no reason to be associating with her, being the one who worked my way through university to land me here (please understand that I’m being facetious), but conscientiously, my heart strings are pulled every time she asks me a question about medical school and if I think she could ever make it. I want to see her succeed, and I want to help her through her circumstances, and I want to see her come back to loving Islam and its community.

I don’t know if there is any cohesion to these ideas, but they are simply what I’m feeling as of late. Instead of a Venn diagram in which my future is planned out and I’ve become fully comfortable in my identity as a Muslim and as a physician, and as a Muslim physician, my two worlds are constantly drifting apart. I had always assumed that I would get more comfortable along the course of my training and that disparity would indeed shrink, but that’s simply not the case.

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