The arrest of a doctor from Pakistan who practiced at a prestigious facility in Jacksonville raises questions about the vetting process for doctors from some other countries.
(Jacksonville, Fla.)—When Dr. Irfan Nawaz, 32, was arrested in Minnesota, he had traveled to St. Cloud to meet a girl he believed was 15 years old. He planned to have sex with her. Nawaz admitted he’d chatted with girls online, and he told the judge during the trial in February that American girls were promiscuous and stupid. The Florida Times Union reported remarks from his confession to officials: " ‘The only thing that I was thinking was I was laughing at how stupid girls are in this country, and I thanked God I did not marry someone from this country,’ Nawaz, a native of Pakistan, says on one recording. He told Circuit Judge John Merrett on Friday he was sorry but said those things because they were true.” Nawaz was a board certified internal medicine doctor practicing at Mayo Clinic.
The judge gave the would-be molester 20 years in prison. Nawaz will probably be deported and welcomed by his home country.
What does this say about the need for physicians in underserved areas in American cities? The Centers for Disease Control released a study pointing to a problem caused by a change in visa rules. “Over the past 30 years, the number of international medical graduates in the physician workforce has steadily increased. Many entered the United States on visas that allowed them to stay in the United States if they agreed to work in an underserved area for 3 years following residency (1–3). During the last decade, however, the number of international medical graduates on these visas declined by 47% as use of less-restrictive temporary specialized worker visas increased (4).”
The study found foreign physicians are treating poor people more than others.
We cannot paint every physician from another country with the same brush. One of the people I love most in the world owes her life to a physician from another country. But Pakistan has been on human rights radar for many years. The group Human Rights Watch released a major report on women’s rights in 1999, and Pakistan was among countries at the top of the list for infractions. The report said violence against women had risen to “staggering levels.” Specifically, Pakistan had “[a ]virtual epidemic of crimes of violence against women, including domestic violence rates as high as 90 percent, at least eight reported rapes every 24 hours nationwide, and an alarming rise in so-called honor killings.”
It is true that women’s groups are making small gains in Pakistan and some other Muslim countries where fundamentalist religion trumps secular law. But they have a long road to travel before they are anywhere close to full rights.
Nawaz’s cultural mindset on gender appears to be simple. Females=cattle. He’s in his 30s, so he is a product of a time when women legally equaled exactly what he thought they did in his country. The paper said Nawaz’s wife by an arranged Pakistani marriage was 8 months pregnant when he chatted about sex with girls online.
Imagine yourself a female on an examining table. Imagine being examined by a physician who had absolutely no respect for women and who apparently is disgusted with American females in particular. Would you want your wife or daughter treated by a doctor who thinks like Nawaz?
I realize we need medical talent from around the world in order to deal with astronomical demand in the healthcare market. But when a physician comes from a country where women’s rights are nearly nonexistent, and when he holds anti-American views, we should be smart enough to investigate him before he practices here.
I do fully agree with Nawaz on one matter. Thank God he didn’t marry an American woman.
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February 2, 2010
Nawaz is getting a new hearing and his sentencing will be revisited.