Dr. Mahwish Sharif, who is from a remote village in central Balochistan’s Kachi district, received a medical degree and was appointed the first doctor with hearing impairment in Balochistan at Fatima Jinnah Chest Hospital, the province’s only health facility for the treatment of respiratory and viral diseases in Quetta, despite years of prejudice.
Even after she lost her hearing at the age of four due to sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, the 29-year-old doctor dreamed of becoming a doctor as a child. It happens as a result of injury to the inner ear.
“When I was a little kid, I used to pretend to be a doctor while playing with my brothers,” Sharif told Arab News. “Doctors’ white coats and stethoscopes have always inspired me.”
Sharif’s graduation from Bolan Medical College in 2021 happened after years of prejudice and disrespectful comments from faculty members, despite her family’s support.
“I realised that my teachers were frequently complaining about my hearing impairment,” she explained. “Even in my most recent medical exams, they refused to let me use hearing aids because they mistook them for headphones.”
Reminiscing about incidents of discrimination
Sharif described how unsettled she felt when taking an exam and seeing the word “impaired” placed next to her name by an examiner. She recalled another incidence of discrimination, when she was obliged to submit a permission letter to use a hearing aid for a Balochistan University exam.
“When I went to the professor [to submit the letter], who was also the head of the surgical department, he noticed me and asked my name,” she explained. “When I told him my name, he said, ‘You can hear, you sent a false letter.'”
Overcoming all challenges
Dr. Sadiq Baloch, the hospital’s medical superintendent, said Sharif had “worked extremely hard” to overcome all barriers, adding that he had never had any complaints about the doctor from her patients or their attendants.
“Mahwish has become a role model for our society,” he told Arab News, “where people with impairments are even marginalised by their own family members.” “She has established a new precedent that people with disabilities can achieve their goals as well.”
Dr. Noor Qazi, the director general of Balochistan’s provincial health department, described Sharif as an inspiration. “While we have a special quota for people with impairments in the medical field,” he added, “Dr. Mahwish has accomplished her dream of acquiring this job on merit and set a new example for others.”
Sharif hopes to work toward achieving equality for persons with disabilities by encouraging more parents to encourage their children to confront “the hardships of the outer world” in the future. They aren’t disabled, after all; they are only differently abled!
“Parents should allow their children to gain other talents so that they can live independent lives rather than dependent lives,” Sharif remarked. “I am disabled myself, and I want to encourage all disabled individuals to not give up hope, but to embrace the challenge.” Society will not allow us to succeed unless we work hard for ourselves.”
Wamiq Hassan, Pakistan’s first deaf software developer, created an app to enable deaf and hard-of-hearing Pakistanis, particularly women, communicate more readily in a country with around 10 million hearing-impaired inhabitants.