Hijabis in Healthcare

Hijabis in Healthcare

Salaam VELA fam! Today’s blog post is unique because it will be an interview style post featuring some hijabis who work in healthcare. 

Alhamdulillah I began my hijab journey shortly after I came back from Umrah with my family in 2013. I didn’t plan on wearing the hijab at this time because I was thinking of wearing it when I began university. My main concern when it came to wearing the hijab was the common misconception that I thought I would feel ‘’too hot’’ if I wore it. This misconception was dispelled instantly when I wore the hijab in Makkah and Madina, where the temperature was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and somehow I didn’t feel hot at all when I wore the hijab 24/7. I liked wearing the hijab and this is where I bought my first hijab a pashmina, which happened to be a very popular hijab material at the time. When I came back from Umrah, I was thinking about wearing the hijab because I no longer believed that I would ‘’feel hot’’ with it, after wearing it in the sweltering heat of Saudi Arabia. I started watching a few hijab tutorials on YouTube and I received encouragement from my family as well. 

The hijab gave me a sense of empowerment and strengthened my religious beliefs, and I liked talking about my hijab experiences whenever my friends and colleagues asked me. My hijab experience inspired me to interview a few hijabis that work in healthcare to share their stories. I would like to thank Dina Ghanim, Sharmeen Moinuddin, Salma Saifuddin, and Arhem Barkatullah for their time and for sharing their stories to inspire others!

Meet Dina Ghanim - Second Year Medical Student

How did you begin your hijab journey? 

My decision to begin observing the hijab on the first day of Ramadan in 2012 came with the understanding that it was fardh, or compulsory, after reaching puberty. Despite feeling nervous about the transition, especially considering how my peers in public school would receive my new identity, I had an extensive support system. My mother and sister had set an example of modesty and strength, and many of my friends outside of school wore hijab as well. My decision was supported and celebrated by those closest to me.

What does the hijab mean to you?

The hijab, to me, is first and foremost a fulfillment of a religious obligation commanded by Allah, which in itself is sufficient. However, this simple cloth has offered me so much. Hijab has been a cornerstone of my identity. It forces me to live up to my ideals by feeling like a walking representation of Islam, and it shelters me from distractions and harms. I recognize that hijab can elicit negative emotions from some people or subject me to stereotypes. I have the option of letting this chip away at my self-esteem or foster growth, and over time, have learned to do the latter. In this way, hijab is an everyday test of my resilience—and commitment to myself, my beliefs, and my identity.

How does it feel to wear the hijab in the medical field?

Being a hijabi as a medical student has been a powerful opportunity to represent the teachings of my religion while serving its purpose. It has invited patients, families, and preceptors to ask questions about the way I dress, allowing me to share about my faith and connect with others about spirituality. It has been an honor to represent Islam while practicing medicine, seeing as I find my purpose and “why” at the intersection of these two endeavors.

Meet Sharmeen Moinuddin - Ultrasound Technologist

How did you begin your hijab journey? 

I started wearing hijab full time at 13 years old. I went to an Islamic private school growing up and the hijab was a part of the school uniform. I would wear it in school and eventually it felt right for me to continue wearing it outside of school too. It also felt good to wear the hijab alongside my friends and classmates as we started our hijab journeys together!

What does the hijab mean to you?

Although initially wearing the hijab was just a means of fitting in with my friends, it became something more meaningful for me over time. I love that it identifies me as a Muslim and I appreciate it for the protection it offers. It makes me more aware of my actions and holds me back from partaking in activities that are not in line with my faith. I'm a strong believer in that you attract what you are and I believe wearing the hijab has brought people into my life that respect me and my values and have a positive influence upon me.

How does it feel to wear the hijab in the medical field?

As a sonographer, I’m constantly in close proximity to my patients and have an opportunity to talk and connect with them during their ultrasounds. I’ve seen that my hijab is met with curiosity above anything else. Often times, patients will ask me to tell them what it means and I love that I get to be the one to explain it to them. It feels rewarding to share my beliefs and experiences with them.

Meet Salma Saifuddin - Third Year Medical Student

How did you begin your hijab journey? 

The hijab was a part of my Islamic school uniform when I was in elementary school. After I switched to homeschooling, I continued to wear it because every woman in my immediate family wore one, including my older sisters. Initially I wore it because I wanted to be just like them, and to be honest, fitting in with my family was easier than sticking out. It wasn't until I moved out for college that I made the conscious decision to continue wearing it. 

What does the hijab mean to you?

Choosing to wear the hijab is my one consistent struggle for the sake of Allah. I choose to wear it every day. Some days are harder than others, (especially after I mastered my curly hair routine). I continue to wear it because it is a constant reminder that no matter what happens, this life is temporary, and my true reward lies in the Hereafter. On the difficult days, I remind myself that the Prophet (pbuh) said: “Islam began as something strange and will revert to being strange as it began, so give glad tidings to the strangers.”

How does it feel to wear the hijab in the medical field?

Being hijabi in medicine doesn't feel too much different than being a hijabi in tech. In both experiences, I've come across people who genuinely want to know more about Islam and ask me questions about my faith. As a hijabi, it's been nice that my clerkship directors are able to teach me how I can scrub into the OR while also covering my hair. Alhamdulillah I haven't encountered a prejudiced patient yet, but my school's implicit bias and professionalism training have taught me that if that happens and I am uncomfortable, I am allowed to simply excuse myself from the case. I recognize that several of my medical student peers don't even have to know what they would do in that situation since they've never been subject to microaggressions or xenophobia. That comparison used to bother me a lot. However, I have come to believe that even if I come across even one patient who is Muslim and seeing me openly practicing my faith makes them more comfortable being in my care, then it is all worth it. 

Meet Arhem Barkatullah - Internal Medicine Resident

How did you begin your hijab journey? 

In the spring of 2019, I was in the midst of applying to medical school and feeling quite lost and anxious about my path in life and whether I would get into medical school. During this time, I heard a khutbah at Friday prayers that emphasized putting your best effort towards your goals, but finding solace in leaving the outcome up to Allah (SWT) knowing what is best for you. This message was exactly what I needed to hear at the time, and for whatever reason, in the following days I kept thinking about starting to wear the hijab. I had always wanted to wear the hijab “eventually,” but had never fully thought it out and didn’t have any close family or friends who wore it that I could go to with my questions or concerns. On Wednesday of the next week, I took down all my photos online without a hijab, which prompted a few girls in my community to reach out to me via DM to ask if I had started wearing the hijab. This gave me the chance to ask them the questions I had, and on Thursday, I decided to start wearing it. Subhanallah on Friday morning, I received my acceptance to medical school at Dartmouth College, and I’ve been wearing my hijab ever since.  

What does the hijab mean to you?

I like to think of my hijab holistically, rather than just the cloth covering my hair. It serves as a reminder to myself of my faith, my values, and my personal relationship with Allah (SWT).

How does it feel to wear the hijab in the medical field?

Being a hijabi in healthcare has been a complicated experience, especially while I was living in rural New England. Unfortunately, I have experienced many instances of bias, discrimination, and violence directed towards my faith. Conversely, my hijab has connected me with my patients of similar backgrounds, challenged stereotypes, and inspired me to advocate for greater cultural understanding within the healthcare system.

3 comments

  • Areebah on

    Salam! Would have liked to see hijabis in all aspects of healthcare represented

  • T Khan on

    Hey salam! Would have love to seen hijabis in other fields of medicine like dental, pharmacy, PA/Np. Nursing, therapy (physical, speech etc) also represented and sharing their stories

  • Ameena Farha on

    As a hijabi nursing student, I love to see our representation in all fields especially healthcare. May Allah bless you all<3

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