It’s all about science, medicine and becoming a doctor!

Manchester Grammar School Medics

Growing up as a child in the UK from a South Asian Muslim background, my mother held high aspirations that I’d pass my SATs with flying colours and end up in one of the Grammar schools where I had taken my entrance exams, writes pharmacist Ghulam Esposito Haydar.

Her wish came true and I ended up where she wanted me to be. Fantastic right?

Those of you who went down the academic route of sciences and medicine will be able to relate with what I’m about to write. My school years were quite difficult. It didn’t really matter which subjects I found the most interesting, the subjects I enjoyed the most or the subjects that I seemed to be really good at.

I needed to excel in Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. These were the priority. If my grades were slipping in these subjects, my mother wanted to know why and would go out of her way to correct it. I remember getting 56% in an end of term biology exam when I was in year 7. When news reached home, I was immediately assigned a home tutor to teach me biology. (I was actually ill on the day of the exam, but my mother wasn’t going to take any chances).

Objective: Becoming a Doctor

Needless to say, I did very well in biology and my mother was very happy. I was on the right trajectory to become the medical doctor my mother wanted me to be. Like most South Asian parents, my mother seemed obsessed with the idea that being a “dahktar” is the pinnacle any man or woman can reach in society. It also pays quite well was the other incentive.

This is obviously a massive problem for two reasons. Let’s take my case as an example. As a young teenager, I grew up deeply frustrated at being denied the opportunity to do what I truly enjoyed, I was denied the chance to take GCSE History, a subject I found extremely interesting and would naturally excel in. It was a straight choice between Geography and History. Geography won as it was sciencey”. I was denied the chance to carry on taking French as I had to take single sciences as opposed to double science which meant I had no further options remaining, something that bothered me dearly. Still does till this day.

For some, they’d reluctantly carry on without much of a fuss. They’d go on to achieve the top level grades they needed to do the A-Levels required for a university place in Medicine or Dentistry.

For others like me, they’d lose motivation, rebel and do just about enough to do what they needed to do. The pressure coupled with the rebellion often leads to a compromise in the end objective. Mine became Pharmacy. The requirements weren’t as competitive as Medicine which meant I didn’t need to do well in all of my subjects (you know, the one’s that I wasn’t too interested in). I only needed to do well in the Sciences and I was willing to reluctantly put up with this out of respect I had for my mother’s efforts. She wasn’t too happy.

Sixth form and further education

My sixth form experience wasn’t too dissimilar. It was difficult juggling a 21 hour part time job, a social life and five AS subjects, so out went Psychology and Geography, in stayed Biology, Chemistry and Sociology. I thoroughly enjoyed Sociology. It was a breath of fresh air for me considering the mind toil of Biology and Chemistry, but when push came to shove, Biology and Chemistry took priority during revision.

University was a difficult time too. By the end of my second year, I was ready to pack it all in to find something else to do. It took a year out to go and do some of the things I enjoyed, focusing on myself and advice of others to return the following year to complete the remaining two years. I returned with a mature professional attitude and exceeded academically.

So I guess it turned out okay in the end? I would say that is the unfortunate attitude of many. Yes, it did turn out “okay”, but since when did we aspire to “okay?” One of the greatest travesties of this sort of attitude is the resulting lack of consideration for the person who has had to go through all of this drama.

Intellectual suppression

How does a person feel when he or she deep down knows that their potential has been suppressed? What affect does this have on a person psychologically? These are issues that need looking into. The other great travesty is the resulting lack of intellectual diversity within the South Asian community.

How many people have we lost to the medical world that could have potentially excelled in other areas such as the social sciences, politics, philosophy and economics? The subjects that have traditionally provided us with great thinkers and leaders, the very things that shape the world we live in. By leaving it to others, we lose the right to complain when the society and the government make decisions without consulting us.

It is nigh on time that second generation British Muslims born from immigrant parents realised the detrimental effect that incessant indoctrination to go into the medical field is having on an individual and the effect it is having on shaping our society.

You can follow Ghulam on Twitter @ghulestero

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