CARE alumni Dr Farah Azam hopes to one day open up her own hospital in Shahdara, Lahore.
The young doctor works at the Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. The eldest of five siblings, Azam grew up in Shahdara. Having completed her schooling at a CARE Foundation school in the area, she knew she wanted to make a career in the medical field.
“I just knew that I wanted to be a doctor for the rest of my life,” she says, “There are no doctors in my family, and for some reason, it used to give me a bit of an inferiority complex. That’s when I decided I had to get out of the career comfort zone that I saw so many of my family members stuck in.”
She was able to receive full scholarships from the CARE Foundation to complete an FSc degree at Lahore College and later, enrol into a 5-year MBBS program at Fatima Jinnah Medical University.
However, while she excelled in the classroom, her family life took a turn for the worse during grad school when her parents split up.
Money was scarce and she worried how her family would survive. “I kept thinking; if I give up now, what would become of my mother and my younger siblings? I had to be strong for them. I wouldn’t allow my mother to work and told her she could depend on her children.”
Azam began teaching at a nearby academy after university. From waking up at the crack of dawn, attending her classes and then taking a rickshaw straight to the institution and she would work late into the evening. Now, as the only doctor in her family and her town, Azam says that she’s grateful for what she had to endure. “I was never emotionally strong; I’d get sensitive and upset on the smallest of things. I’m not like that anymore; I feel I can take on any challenge now.”
Recalling her university’s graduation ceremony, Azam laughs when she mentions how much her mother cried with joy. “I was like, ‘Amma, please stop, people are looking!’ But deep down, I was elated that I had not only achieved my dream but also that I’d made my mother proud.”
Speaking about her experiences during her house job at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital, Azam says it has been an emotional rollercoaster.
“It’s two different extremes; there’s so much tragedy, yet so much beauty,” Azam says, “As doctors, we have to learn how to handle every kind of case, how to counsel grieving families and most of all, how to control our own emotions.”
Hoping to open up her own clinic in Shahdara, where the medical facilities are grossly lacking, the road ahead couldn’t be more promising for the young doctor.