IWD 2020: Lessons from the generations

As part of a series of blogs celebrating International Women's Day 2020, Dr Farrah Jawad writes about her family, the impact they have had on her choosing medicine and the lessons she has learnt from them.

Medicine is part of the fabric of both my immediate family and also my extended family. I come from a line of doctors that include my parents, sister, aunties, uncles and cousins (12 of us in total) who cover everything from rheumatology and histopathology to gastroenterology.

Even when I was drawn to other things in my life, medicine has always been attractive to me. Like many, I was an anguished teenager on the cusp of adulthood, wondering how I was going to get through my A-levels and how life was going to change. My parents suggested I give my A-levels my best effort, and to work everything out after that. I was delighted, and relieved, to get into medical school.

Having parents in medicine impacted my decision to become a doctor. Their resilience and hardworking attitude made it look appealing, and easier than it was in practice. I always knew my parents worked hard; they just made it look so easy. But I’ve always known that working hard comes at a price. Like many parents, mine had to make tough sacrifices and difficult choices. If they had to miss a sports day or a school play, I always reminded myself that it was because my parents were doing important work that helped people.

For me, the real learning came after I qualified from medical school. One of the biggest surprises was realising that not all doctors were like my warm, jolly and good-humoured parents.

Dr Farrah Jawad

For me, the real learning came after I qualified from medical school. One of the biggest surprises was realising that not all doctors were like my warm, jolly and good-humoured parents. I later came to realise how important it is that not all doctors are – or should be – the same.

My parents gave me some very useful advice when I started working as a doctor, which still holds true today:

  • Listen carefully to nurses – they run the hospital

  • Always open any letters from the GMC and deal with them straight away. The GMC does not send junk mail.

  • You might not pick your specialty; your specialty might pick you instead.

My advice to anyone interested in becoming a physician would be to think about what you would find fulfilling from your life and career, and consider how medicine can help you achieve that. The beauty of medicine is there is something for everybody and the transferable skills you will acquire can open a lot of doors.

Expect to make sacrifices. If it all feels too much, remember the rotation will come to an eventual end and you will learn a lot. If it is a permanent job, try something new that suits you better. Most importantly, remember your colleagues have been through similar experiences, so reach out to them for advice or support when needed.