Meet Dr. Saulat Sajjad Sheikh, one of the first female transplant surgeons from Pakistan

Professor Saulat Sajjad Sheikh, MBBS, is one of the first female transplant surgeons from Pakistan. She attended medical school at the Aga Khan University in Karachi and won the ‘Best Graduate’ award.

Dr. Sheikh completed her general surgery residency at York Hospital, Pennsylvania, and also holds Fellowship of UAB’s Abdominal Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery.

Her interest in transplantation was sparked after she experienced the joy of changing someone’s life by transplanting a liver or kidney. She fell in love with treating last-stage organ disease and offering someone a new chance at life.

However, becoming a transplant surgeon was not easy and she was met with a lot of challenges. According to statistics, the field is male-dominated, so, Sheikh knew it was not common for a woman to specialize in surgery, let alone abdomincal transplantation.

“It was a privilege to attend one of the best medical schools in Pakistan and complete the rest of my training in the US”, she said.

According to female surgeons in Aga Khan University Hospital, in a surgical career, there were cultural barriers due to gender. A lot of women aren’t allowed to specialize in this field by family too.

Not only did Dr. Saulat defy gender barriers, she also took care of her 7-month-old daughter, while she began her two-year fellowship.

“I chose University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) because of the potential for stability, growth and mentorship”, she added. She took a lot of inspiration from Dr. Jayme Locke, the only woman in transplant at the institute.

As a woman from a conservative family, she said she’s fortunate that her parents allowed her to capitalize on the opportunities.

“My parents were and continue to be supportive of me pursuing my dreams to become a transplant surgeon”, she said. In the start, it felt like a distant dream, but Sheikh is living her dream every day now.

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