Dr Sadaf Khan

Trained as a colon and rectal surgeon, as well as a general surgeon, Dr.Sadaf Khan is currently working at Agha Khan University, Karachi, as both; a clinician and an educator. She is a mother to three teenagers and even though she has much on her plate, she is a constant learner and strives to keep adapting with time. Change was something that she used to fear but has learnt that accepting and adopting change is, in fact, healthy.

While Sadaf feels going through the strenuous process of becoming a doctor was not that difficult, since she came from a family on doctors, getting into a male dominated field was a bit of a challenge. However, she is glad about the fact that because women like herself continued to push for it, the current trend is much different and there are many more females preparing to become surgeons. “I decided to go to US for training and when you went into residency, for every 6 men there was maybe one woman taken in,” she explains. “Even now, patients are doubtful of a female surgeon till they get to know and trust her. In the general populous there still isn’t acceptance.” She admits surgery is a difficult field to be in and balancing professional and personal life is not an easy task for a woman who decides to pursue it. Your time is not necessarily your own and having the support of your family is imperative. Therefore, women must choose this field with caution. “When I am counselling young medical students or young trainees I say that look if you decide to have a family, all the success of your life becomes moot if your children don’t do well. Your children are your extension, something tangible that you leave behind in the world. If they don’t succeed in life it’s a very harsh thing for a parent to look back and say I should have tried harder,” says Sadaf. Female surgeons do have it difficult and the choices they have to make on a daily basis are not easy, she admits.

Sadaf was able to manage creating a work life balance as she had completed the bulk of her training when she had her children. She was much older and that allowed her to become calmer and wiser. “When you’re younger, little things seem big. When you’re older you shrug it off and say, so what if missed the first step what’s the big deal? That’s how I dealt with it, by not feeling guilty,” says Sadaf with a smile. As a surgeon, a woman has to understand that if she is not able to be there at all times for her children, it is because someone else needed her more. She is taking care of other people’s wellbeing and saving lives. Sadaf makes it a point to make up for the lost time later when she wraps up her work. She adds that when a woman decides to have children, she is responsible for them and their needs but at times, it is important for her to put herself first. “It is not healthy for anyone in any kind of setting to be the one to make the sacrifices while everyone else walks all over you but any relationship is a give and take so sometimes you put yourself first and at other times, your partner, child or a parent.” To maintain her own health, she practices yoga and makes sure she cleanses and moisturizes her skin to keep it fresh and young.

The soft spoken and the very beautiful Sadaf believes that in today’s fast paced life, it does not make any sense for a woman to be dependent on her male counterpart for monetary support. As far as emotional independence is concerned, she says “everybody should be emotionally independent, whether male or female. That doesn’t mean you should be cold but know what is best for you- emotional health is very important and it should start at the level of our children where we teach them how to deal with their emotions and how to be confident with their presentation.”

Even women like Sadaf who are very passionate about their work, feel weak at times. Sadaf felt weak at the time of the birth of her first child, just like any other working mother would. “I was still in the last year of training and right after 10 days of my delivery I had to be back at work. I used to be on a call every other night, so I’d leave home at 5 am and I’d come home the next day at about 2-3 pm. That was a tough time – when it’s your first born, you feel guilty.” Yet, she says “dig in your heels and keep going. Such a time too, passes.”

Miracle Woman Sadaf Khan’s journey shows how, if women stick it out, the hurdles that life throws your way become a thing in the past before they even know it. Sadaf explains how her mother had always set the bar very high for her and that has truly paid and made her who she is. Her Miracle Moments are many, including the days when she helps out a patient or a simple moment such as spending quality time with her children at the dinner table. It is the little things that bring the greatest of joys in life and it is the willpower that knows no obstacles.