Interview with Aeesha Malik, global eye doctor and mother of two
Aeesha Malik, global eye doctor, mother of two girls and women extraordinaire of the week answers my questions!
I met Aeesha Malik about 4 years back at a personal development training in London. She always inspired me peace. Although we don’t get to see each other very often, I’ve been following her on social media and have been amazed by her work. Aeesha is an eye surgeon and has been travelling the world helping and training medical staff in under-developed countries. She’s also a part-time NHS practitioner and is regularly invited to events as an expert speaker. If that was not enough, she’s a single mother of two and an amazing human being. An extremely Cool Girl I would say.
I crossed London East to West to meet her at her home near Wimbledon and it was worth it!
Hello Aeesha, so tell us about yourself!
They’re two big things I do at the moment: one is primary care for children, catching diseases early. Because there are not enough eye care specialists my work is to educate the front-line workers (pediatricians) so they’re able to pick up issues early on.
The second big project of mine is retinopathy in premature babies. I’ve been travelling quite a bit with these projects. My team is part of a group of other 6 teams working together on programs across Asia and Africa.
How did you know you wanted to be an eye doctor?
The thing I’ve always known is that I wanted to work in different countries. Initially I wanted to be a journalist but somewhere in school I decided to do medicine. I went into medical school. I came across ophthalmology. I decided to go for it. It was really a gut instinct and a big switch from general medicine. I’ve always been very unusual in my training program. I took a lot of time out to pursue other things, I did a Master’s in Public Health, I worked at the Department of Health, I also had my daughters. There was no program that existed that would lead me exactly to what I wanted to be. I had to make it up.
That’s the thing today, there are so many different jobs out there that you could not get by just doing a Master’s. You have to go and gather your own tools, mix and match degrees.
There is a lot more to what we want. But because the system is quite traditional, you’re put off very early on. I always got a sense that I was being watched. (Laughs)
It’s funny how sometimes you know exactly what you’re doing but the rest of the world thinks you’re crazy. (laughs)
And sometimes you don’t know exactly what you’re doing! (Laughs)
As an eye doctor travelling to potentially difficult places, what’s the hardest thing you’ve had to see?
When I went to Pakistan, they did not have enough beds for babies so they had them lined up on a bench. We were in a big city where staff had the knowledge but lacked the resources. They have to get on with it. When the basics are not there, it’s hard. That keeps me motivated to keep going.
Are you living your purpose?
Yes but I think purpose is a journey. It’s always evolving.
What’s your philosophy around purpose?
I think that’s you following your own truth and your own passions. It does not have to be your work, but I purposely created my work around my purpose. My purpose is also to raise my girls.
How do you manage to be a single mom of two and still follow your purpose?
There is no magic wand. Since I had my first child I’ve never worked or studied full time. Having children does change everything and it’s important to be flexible. Everyone will do it in their own way. It’s about knowing what’s important to you and design your life how you want it to be. I think being true to yourself is the best for you and your kids.
In the pursuit of your purpose, what were the advantages and disadvantages of being a Muslim woman?
I grew up in a village in Scotland. When you grow up as a child you don’t see yourself as being different. I went to Sunday school because everyone else was going. (Laughs)
I was brought up as a Muslim but when I moved to London it was the first time I really connected with the Muslim community. My parents were protective, part of that is their cultural heritage. I was always very stubborn though. I think if you don’t feel it as a limitation then it won’t be one. I’ve never seen being a woman as a limitation. I’ve never used that as a reason not to follow my purpose and same for my religion. I think there are real limitations but also limitations we put on ourselves. My religion makes me stronger and a better person.
What is a Cool Girl and what does it take to become one?
Anyone who is true to themselves and serving the world. The first thing is to think that you are Cool! Why would you think you’re not? Take time for yourself, reflect on what is important to you, think about your values. It’s all within us. Unpacking it requires pausing. Society today is all about numbing ourselves from the biggest questions in life (who are we, what are we doing here?). Death is a certainty. Listen to what’s coming up from within and go for it!
Find out more about Dr. Aeesha Malik: