February 6, 2023

A Personal Twist on Global Emergency Medicine

Growing up, my siblings and I were told the many fascinating stories of my family in Pakistan and of our ancestors. While many of these tales seemed almost impossible to me as a child growing up in suburban Virginia, they were all too much the reality for my parents who grew up in Diplo, a rural isolated village in Southeast Pakistan. As I got older, the health inequities that existed became clear. The easily preventable illnesses and deaths that occurred in my family became a driving force for my interest in global medicine.

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Photo Caption: Dr. Rmaah Memon and her mother.

My mother grew up being the second oldest of eight children as well as the oldest daughter. As I became more interested in medicine, my mother divulged more information about her family, from how her younger sister passed away from untreated tuberculosis at the age of 4, to how her mother was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis at the age of 41 and passed away from isoniazid hepatotoxicity. Both were such easily preventable deaths, and sadly, my parents’ families experienced many other preventable deaths. However, these deaths in particular changed the course of my mother’s life. After her mother’s passing, my mother became responsible for caring for six younger siblings (the youngest of whom was only 2 years old). Consequently, she did not have an opportunity to pursue her dream of a career in medicine.

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Photo Caption: Dr. Rmaah Memon and colleagues at the Certification Program in Emergency Medicine (CPEM) in Karachi.

Inspired by my families’ background, I sought an experience that would take me back to Pakistan in a medical capacity. Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel to Karachi through the Certification Program in Emergency Medicine (CPEM), a 1-year training program aimed to equip physicians from fields outside of emergency medicine with emergency skills. I had the opportunity to work with over a dozen CPEM candidates and help with simulation, lectures, procedural guidance, and patient workups. Beyond the immense learning for me in regard to the practice global emergency medicine, it was even more inspiring to see so many women pursuing medicine while in Karachi. I met so many colleagues who I still keep in touch with today.

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My experience made me realize that, although we are almost half the globe away from each other, we have so many mutual experiences as women in medicine. It was a life-changing two and a half weeks for me to go back to my parent’s homeland not as a little girl, but as the first female physician in my entire family. It felt like I was completing the circle in many ways, and it drives me even more to give back to my family roots, and hopefully Diplo, as I start my career in global emergency medicine.

Rmaah Memon, MD, PGY-3
Harvard Affiliated Emergency Medicine Residency Program
Massachusetts General Hospital/Brigham and Women’s Hospital

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