In the aftermath of President Donald Trump's “Muslim ban” and his administration's insistence in hurting America by standing by its rhetoric that anti-immigration policies will actually help domestic businesses, many are still dealing with the prejudiced hatred triggered by the political divisiveness.
But to brave young medical students like Sara H. Rahman, the passion for their craft and for helping others speaks louder than hatred.
In a blog, the Quinnipiac University medical student shared the story of how she remained calm in the face of racism. And now, the entire world is applauding not only her courage, but also her dedication to her passion.
The Muslim-American was reviewing an elderly patient's medications when she asked him about his back pain. The patient, who she refers to as Mr. Douglas, answered by saying that it had been “getting worse for the past couple of months.”
He then went on to say that he had been under a great deal of stress with his business, and that because “there's so much else going on — I've been feeling angry a lot lately.”
When inquired about what had been making him angry, the patient then said: “It's the news. ISIS and those Muslims. These Muslims think they can blow up our country!”
Rahman, the daughter of two Pakistani immigrants who moved to America 30 years ago, wrote that as she heard what he told her, she couldn't help but feel shocked.
“Excuse me a moment,” the medical student said she told Douglas, “blinking back tears.” Then, she walked past him feeling her “legs heavy.”
While she doesn't wear the hijab, Rahman said that in similar situations, she has always spoken up, revealing her religious identity and showing the prejudiced party that she is “'normal,' in hopes of changing the person's mindset.” But with a patient, she was suddenly at a loss and wasn't entirely sure what to do.
“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,” she wrote.
Growing up watching the 9/11 terrorist attack on the news and hearing from her mother that she should stop going on runs on her own out of fear of racially-motivated attacks, she admitted that the “fear [was] palpable.”
“Still,” she continued, “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 [doctor]?”
Choosing to put professionalism and kindness first, Rahman decided to go back, finish the patient's treatment, help him to understand his instructions, schedule another appointment, and then lead him out of the facility.
“Good luck! See you at your next visit,” she told him as she smiled and waved goodbye.
After talking to colleagues about what happened, the medical student came to the conclusion that, if a colleague disrespects her religion, she will say:
“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.”
But in the case of a patient, she's still not sure how to react.
“I don't have all the answers — but I do know, now, that I can keep my emotions from derailing my patients' care.”
While she said she knows that may have not changed her elderly patient's perceptions, she is aware that she at least “fulfilled my duties as a physician-in-training.”
“Perhaps someday he'll find out that I'm Muslim. Maybe I'll have a chance to change his opinion — and maybe I won't.
Either way, right now I don't regret my decision to respond not with wounded anger but with my best attempt at compassion,” she concluded.
Hopefully, her example will be followed by others, and her dedication to putting care first will serve as a reminder that prejudice should not be embraced but can be fought with compassion.