Sara Rahman is a medical student at the Frank H. Netter MD School of Medicine at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. In this op-ed for the Washington Post, she writes about a difficult patient who, not knowing her faith, disparaged the Muslim community.
When she was examining the patient, she asked why he was stressed and he responded with: “ISIS and those Muslims. These Muslims think they can blow up our country! I want to take care of them for good and send them all packing.”
“Heat crawls up my neck,” Ms. Rachman recounts. “ I am a Muslim American. My parents emigrated from Pakistan nearly 30 years ago. I was born and raised in a small rural town in Western Maryland. Outwardly, I don’t ‘look’ Muslim, as I don’t wear a hijab. Because of my dark skin, I’m more often mistaken for an Indian Hindu.”
The medical student weighs the emotional consequences of her patients words. “How can I deny the sting of his words? My mind races: As a medical student, where are my boundaries? Should I tell him that I’m Muslim? Should I tell my attending physician…?”
Ms. Rachman chose to remain silent. She writes, “later, sharing this experience with my trusted professors, colleagues and Muslim role models, I get conflicting responses. Some believe that I was right to remain quiet; others, that I should have spoken up….I don’t regret my decision to respond not with wounded anger but with my best attempt at compassion.”
That said, if a colleague disparages her faith, the doctor-in-training has a response ready: “I am Muslim. But I am also a doctor. I can offer you my skills to the best of my ability, regardless of how you feel about my identify. It’s your decision if you’re open to working with me.”