Why did you first want to go into medicine and then specifically general practice?
I was encouraged by my parents to study as education was seen as the route to freedom in my household. I wanted to have achievements in my own right and because of this, applied to study medicine. I wanted to do something that would transcend my gender, faith and the colour of skin and that's why I chose to become a doctor.
I went to Queen Mary University of London and Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry and was determined to become a gastroenterologist. As a junior doctor, I quickly realised I didn’t function well on a lack of sleep and the night shifts were a real struggle for me.
While working as a junior doctor, I did a general practice job and loved it. This developed into me becoming a General Practitioner (GP) and specifically looking at women’s health. I gradually came to understand the lack of research on women’s health conditions and how this impacts women so greatly.
You are fluent in Urdu and Punjabi, as well as English, and use these languages during consultations. How important is the use of multiple languages in healthcare?
I see a diverse set of patients from different backgrounds and ethnicities and English language is often not their first language. Therefore, conveying information about their condition and symptoms, and how they are feeling can be challenging. Being able to communicate in multiple languages means I can connect with more of my patients in their own mother tongue, which helps improve the quality of care they receive.
You are a passionate promoter of women’s health, in particular menopause care. Why do you want to bring attention to these issues?
Women's healthcare is complex. As a GP, I regularly witness the barriers women face first-hand in accessing care and even life-saving health measures, such as health screenings and regular check-ups. I believe that women should be at the centre of healthcare, and more should be done to achieve better quality care and attention to pressing medical concerns for women.
Women should be at the centre of healthcare, and more should be done to achieve better quality care and attention to pressing medical concerns for women
Improved healthcare for women requires change in a number of areas, and menopause is one area that has required urgent attention to raise awareness among women and improve healthcare support, including access to Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT). Education is important as well as changes in societal attitudes towards women’s health.
In partnership with OSD Healthcare, you run your own women’s health clinic. Was this always a goal of yours?
This wasn’t always a goal of mine, but I was approached by OSD Healthcare to work with them as a private GP and it seemed like the perfect opportunity. The thing I loved most about general practice was women’s health and I always wished I could have longer than 10 minutes with each of my patients when it came to discussing women’s health issues.
Also, I’d been wanting to set up a clinic that met my patients’ needs, including having things like Entonox (gas and air) for coil insertion or difficult smears. Thankfully, OSD saw my vision and accommodated these requests. Since opening in November 2022, the clinic has been so successful that I now need to look at expanding my days.
Why is it important to have specialist centres for women’s health?
Specialist women’s health centres can provide a safe space for women to discover more about their health, speak to a healthcare professional, and learn more about their specific health needs, without fear of shame, stigma or judgement.
As well as this, it’s about providing a place where women can make and attend a women’s health appointment that spans a variety of areas. As an example, if she’s experiencing heavy periods, seeking advice on contraception, or accessing preventative care, if she could do this all in one place and at one time, imagine the amount of time that could be saved, and ultimately, the number of women who would receive greater care.
You were a guest speaker on the Hologic panel of its Global Women’s Health Index. How important is research like this and what role does it play in the healthcare industry and wider society?
Hologic’s Global Women’s Health Index UK launch event brought together like-minded individuals all intent on improving women’s health and making women’s voices heard. Research like the Index – and events shining a spotlight on women’s health – are critical if we are to propel women’s health forward.
The Index data shone a spotlight on the stark inequalities that are visible among women across the UK, related to age, education, ethnicity and geographic region. And it highlighted that the growing divide between women in high-income and low-income economies, and in urban and rural communities, are preventing all women from achieving better health.
Findings such as these are vital to help us get a clearer picture on women’s health and work out where the gaps are. Without the hard data, it’s a guessing game.
Education is important as well as changes in societal attitudes towards women’s health
What is the one thing you wish everyone knew about women’s health? Or the one taboo you would like to break?
There’s still a lot of stigma surrounding smear and other women’s health tests. We need to make a concerted effort to get rid of the shame and stigma surrounding women's biology. Education is what is really important here. It’s also a case of holding better dialogue with women in health appointments, raising awareness on the importance of screening and personal risk factors, and normalising regular testing and check-ups for cervical, breast, and sexual health.
I’m very passionate about breaking down these taboos and think education and health literacy is key. Digital education resources, such as videos, are useful tools as they’re accessible to all and don’t have to rely on language.
What is your message to women who feel unheard by doctors or unsupported by healthcare?
I want women to know that I hear them. There’s still a long way to go when it comes to providing better healthcare for women but the more we shout about it, the more opportunity there is for actionable change being made in the world.
Women should also feel empowered – we need to hear their voices loud and clear to be able to put their needs at the heart of the care delivered. We need to listen, we need to support, and we need to help educate and inform.
Your platform goes beyond the consultation room, with your TV, radio and social media presence growing every day. How can media, social media, and medicine work together for the benefit of patients and the sector as a whole?
Increasing visibility of women from ethnic minorities groups when it comes to health is such an important step in women’s health and tackling healthcare inequalities
You can’t be what you can’t see. It’s as simple as that. As an example, I’ve never seen a woman with a hijab in a breast cancer advert. Increasing visibility of women from ethnic minorities groups when it comes to health is such an important step in women’s health and tackling healthcare inequalities.
Mainstream media and social media are everywhere. They provide methods to share information and educate those around us on the necessary steps to look after ourselves, such as preventative care measures. And even more than that, the physical presence of someone you can relate to on your screen, providing healthcare advice and empowering women, can help women take the necessary first step to take more control of their health.
Looking to the future, what changes do you expect and hope to see for women’s health?
The biggest challenge for women’s health, and something that I hope to see increasing in the future, is access to care. Not only is the NHS short of 6,000 GPs, but for women, the lack of specialisation in women’s health issues exacerbates issues further. We need to train GPs in women’s health and expand the range of care that we can offer so that it no longer excludes women.
A huge part of this is to do with knowledge around women’s health issues and the role of preventative care. The benefits of preventative care measures run deep, not only do screenings and other preventative measures have the potential to save hundreds of lives but will also be the saving grace of the NHS – catching the likes of cancer and other diseases early and taking the strain off the NHS. Educating women on the critical role of preventative care will increase screening attendance and ensure that all women understand their personal risk factors.