Stethoscopes and headscarves: female medical students in present-day Afghanistan

Mil Med. 2010 Jan;175(1):21-4. doi: 10.7205/milmed-d-09-00046.


Background: This descriptive study reviews the experiences and challenges of female medical students in Afghanistan in the post-Taliban era, addressing issues specific to them as women and also in the wider context of the practice of medicine as it currently exists in this country.

Method: Six female students were observed on in-patient internal medicine clerkships at the National Military Hospital (NMH) in Kabul, Afghanistan. The women also participated in a structured interview used to outline their values and perceptions as females in new roles and an evolving culture.

Results: Responding to the structured interview questions, the women called attention to gender-neutral issues and readily identified gender discrimination, but did not embrace uniquely feminine traits in themselves nor view themselves as women physicians to any appreciable degree.

Conclusions: Although women are now attending medical school and practicing medicine again, their integration into Afghan culture as physicians remains at the developmental stage.

MeSH terms

  • Afghanistan
  • Cultural Characteristics*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Military
  • Humans
  • Internal Medicine / education*
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Physicians, Women*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • Young Adult