Women In Medicine - Dr. Samrina Hanif

Women In Medicine Month: Dr. Samrina Hanif

September is Women in Medicine Month. We are pleased to share the stories of some of our female physicians.

Samrina Hanif, MD
Associate Professor

Meet Dr. Hanif

Dr. Samrina Hanif is our next feature. She is an Associate Professor at Marshall Neuroscience, and a busy wife and mom of three. Dr. Hanif is Director of the Epilepsy division & of adult epilepsy monitoring unit of Marshall Neurology. She is double board-certified by ABPN in Neurology and Epilepsy. She enjoys spending time with her family, and her three boys keep her on her toes. She enjoys hiking, swimming and gardening whenever she has free time.

A career in medicine is a collaborative experience, and support from others is incredibly important. Was there a female mentor in your life that helped you navigate any obstacles in your medical career?

Unfortunately, I did not have a professional female mentor in medicine or neurology to inspire me. There were, however, other male neurology attendings who guided me and inspired me along the way. Interestingly, both those male attendings had daughters who were also in medicine, so possibly, that was the reason they took the extra time to mentor me.

There were, however, other females who have always inspired me. My dad passed away in my second year of medical school, and my mom single-handedly took care of the finances and both mine and my younger sister’s medical school education. Her tenacity and courage has always been my source of inspiration. My two sisters, my three nieces and at least 13 of my female cousins are all physicians, so they all continue to inspire me and challenge me every single day.  Our WhatsApp group chat with my sisters and nieces where we discuss difficult cases and all matters related to work is called “married to medicine.”

Last year the #medbikini broke the internet when a journal article listed wearing a bikini on the beach on personal social media as unprofessional behavior. Do you feel that women are held to a different professionalism standard than men?  

100%. Patients and the general population want to see a stoic, grey-haired male physician as their doctor. First of all, they are surprised to see female physicians, and then secondly, even more surprised to see these females have a life outside of work.

If women want to wear bikinis, or even hijabs, it should be their choice. Especially on their time off when they are relaxing with family or friends. Stalking our social media accounts, and then “judging our capabilities based on our attire” is definitely a microagression aimed at undermining our abilities.

I’m surprised the Journal of Vascular Surgery even published this misogynistic article in the first place.

For those of you that have chosen to have children, do you ever feel that society (or even fellow colleagues) attempt to dictate that it is “impossible” to be both a good doctor and a good parent? If so, how do you handle this criticism in your own personal life, and how do you propose we navigate those wrongful judgements in the future?  

Nothing is impossible. Life is a juggling game, and we should not judge. We always have to set priorities at different stages in life. I am an older mom who had my last two children as an attending. No one talks about the stresses of residency and the toll it plays on a woman’s fertility. During residency training, I had miscarriages and a ruptured ectopic pregnancy requiring emergency D&C’s and surgeries. That was a very difficult and isolating time of my life.

I am blessed now to have my three beautiful children, and every day I juggled between breast-feeding, homework, kids' games and work etc. Thankfully, my neurology department is very kid friendly, and I had full support to have a fridge in my room, pumping breaks and a full maternity leave. Yes, I have to make sacrifices, but now that my family is complete, I feel I can get back to my career and concentrate more on my research, publications, and clinical work.

For the younger generation, I advise them to know and to say they will manage to juggle both family and career when the time comes. Also, have your village ready and nearby. Your family, your spouse, your babysitters. Having good help and outsourcing is the best way to keep your sanity when juggling a busy home and work.

What advice would you give to a young woman pursuing a career in medicine?

Be a trendsetter and shatter those glass ceilings. As each generation comes by, we learn from the mistakes and tribulations of our seniors and keep on going up. Women before me have been chairperson’s of departments, directors of epilepsy divisions, CEO’s and more. Now is a good age, and it is possible to achieve those dreams.

My aim is not only to set an example for my nieces or daughters who pursue medicine, but I want to set an example for my three boys and my nephews. I want for my boys to look up to their mother, and to other women in leadership positions who are working so hard, especially in medicine. I want them to one day also help and support their wives, their daughters and their nieces to pursue their dreams. 

Date Posted: Tuesday, September 21, 2021