For several years now, it seems that there is a no love lost between the Iranian public and the country’s doctors. This sour relationship occasionally manifests itself on social media during medical controversies, such as the case of late Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami, or when a doctor makes a bold statement that goes viral.
Reasons for this strained relationship are manifold. One common complaint among Iranians is that doctors often disregard their patients’ time by making them wait unnecessarily for examinations. On top of that, there are concerns about the quality of care provided. Put such complaints alongside the “good life” that doctors are perceived to live, and you might begin to understand why there is so much hostility towards physicians in Iran.
One part of the problem might be the fact that different sectors of Iranian society usually cannot communicate well with each other. More often than not, there are misconceptions and even myths about professions in Iran, and medicine is no exception. However, doctors are not helping since they usually act like a clan, excluding other people from their circles, or defending their peers even when they are wrong.
Yet, it would be very difficult to refute the role doctors play in any given society since they are our saviors, the ones we turn to when we are facing dangers to our well-being. What perhaps the Iranian public does not know, is the fact that these heroes in white coats spend many years in training to become doctors, and have to spend their entire careers studying to remain updated.
In order to gain a better understanding of the medical training Iranian doctors receive, and the challenges they face in their careers, we turned to Negin Namavari, a 28-year-old, recently graduated medical doctor, who is serving in a disadvantaged village in southern parts of Fars Province, between Shiraz and Jahrom.
“The village I’m practicing in right now didn’t use to have a residing doctor,” she says, adding, “So the people here really appreciate me, which makes me feel good.”
For many of us, the idea of spending the early years of our careers in an underprivileged area might be off-putting. Yet, young Iranian doctors are welcomed into the profession by practicing in health care centers scattered across the country, many of them located in villages in underdeveloped regions.
“Although, it’s good to be able to grow as a doctor, and become able to take care of a patient all by yourself,” says Negin.
The path for her and her peers to become physicians is a long, exhausting one – one that many of us would not dare to cross. After taking on the national university entrance exams head on, they start their training by learning so much, so fast about basic science.
“It takes five semesters, and after that there will be a general exam to check if we have learned the basics of the profession well,” Negin says.
Passing the exam, they qualify for the physiopathology, where in a year they learn all about diseases, and how they affect the organs.
“This is when our lessons become more clinical and functional,” she says, adding, “So, that makes it three and a half years of training just to gain a theoretical basis for medicine.”
Then they become medical stagers, which goes on for two years. One year as a medical student and the other as an extern. During this time, they come into contact with patients, and are required to learn the proper ways of examination. Spending time in hospitals, dealing with sick people is no picnic.