An Afghan Refugee’s Road to Becoming a Prize-Winning Doctor

Saleema Rehman, MD, was born and raised in refugee camps in Pakistan, where she saw a need for better health resources for women. Now a gynecologist serving displaced Afghan women, she has received international recognition for her work.

What to know:

  • Rehmanthe first female refugee doctor from Afghanistan’s Turkmen ethnic group, recently won the UN High Commissioner for Refugees’s regional Nansen Refugee Award for outstanding work for displaced people.

  • Rehman credits her father with setting her on the path to becoming a doctor by encouraging her, traveling with her while applying to medical schools, and working to pay for her education.

  • She decided to become a gynecologist because of her residency work with refugee Afghan women, as well as her mother’s difficult experience giving birth to her, when few health resources were available.

  • Rehman faced obstacles in setting up her own medical practice because of her status as a displaced person. After several rejections, she was granted her license to start her own clinic in Attock, Pakistan.

  • Today she speaks at schools for refugees. She provides advice for young women, encouraging them to pursue their goals with hard work and determination.

This is a summary of the article “An Afghan Refugee Girl Grew Up to Be a Prize-Winning Doc — With a Little Help From Dad,” published by NPR on October 5, 2021. The full article can be found on

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