I was born in Egypt into a middle class family, the youngest of five and the only girl. My father was a high school English teacher and my mother a homemaker. We were a close family; close to aunties, uncles, grandparents and cousins. Ever since primary school, I had the ambition to become a doctor. They used to call me ‘Dr Faten’ in the family and at school. At school, we had a ‘health check day’ once a week. One student from each class would dress up like a nurse and be the teacher’s assistant as they checked the children. We ensured their hair was clean and neat, their fingernails trimmed, and that they had two clean hankies — one for the nose and the other for their hands. I used to look forward to that day and was so proud when I was chosen. At high school, I excelled in maths and physics. When I finished school, my father wanted me to be an engineer, like two of my brothers, but I was determined to be a doctor and he was unable to sway me from my dream. I managed the mental health program in the Canterbury Division of General Practice for years. The key issues with mental health are the time factor and being interested, because not everybody can listen. We all have patients who never talk about their feelings. As a doctor, you have to make your patient feel comfortable and then they may start to open up. I believe you need a minimum of 50 minutes to do a good job. In Lakemba, where I used to work before, there were many people from different Middle Eastern backgrounds, so being a female Egyptian doctor was an advantage. It’s very important to understand your patients’ culture and how they live their lives. Many people feel quite isolated when they move to a different country. My Christian faith is very important to me. I like sewing, crochet, knitting and handicrafts. I made my own wedding gown. I wish I had the spare time to do more.

Dr Faten Selim
Carlton, NSW