A doctor’s symbol of hygiene: A (dirty) lab coat

Published: August 31, 2012
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With the Pakistani culture’s ostentatious tendencies, perhaps the doctors — often female, based on my observations — feel the need to display their profession to the world. PHOTO: FILE

Tariq Road perhaps becomes one of the filthiest shopping areas in Karachi after hours. As one passes by the next morning, blue plastic shopping bags scrape along the sidewalks, dragging in the dust along with numerous small scrap pieces of turquoise, hot pink and dusty beige coloured fabric.

There are also trashed plastic bottles, which one could have easily recycled.

It is strange, especially in Karachi — potentially the country’s most filthy city — that doctors, who are required to be sterile when dealing with different patients, wear their lab coats far from their practicing facilities; Dolmen Mall, where I observed one lady doctor, does not house doctors’ offices.

There are many doctors observed almost on a daily basis wearing their coats around the city, on buses, on dirty footpaths and at rickshaw stands. It is a question of wonder why they wear their coats before reaching medical facilities, something I have observed only in Pakistan.

In the United States, doctors, scientists and lab technicians are under strict rules against wearing their lab coats and other lab equipment outside the premises of their work areas. The reason is logical: the rules were implemented to mitigate the spread of germs and prevent the germs in controlled and uncontrolled environments from being exchanged.

However, with the Pakistani culture’s ostentatious tendencies, perhaps the doctors — often female, based on my observations — feel the need to display their profession to the world. They want the world to know that she (or he) is a doctor as if they want respect of the highest stature for the schooling and sleep deprivation they experienced during medical school — as retribution. Another explanation might be that the white coat is somehow protection from evil that might attack; maybe muggers will decide to rob a normal civilian rather than the doctor because the mugger deems the doctor’s job more important.

At any rate, let’s carry that education one step further and stop such breaches of hygiene. Hospitals and health safety administrations must implement strict measures regarding the wearing and use of lab coats and other sterile equipment that is used within the hospital. With enough germs lurking in even the world’s best-maintained medical facilities, doctors need not bring in more by wearing the same lab coats indoors as outdoors, around our cities.

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Amna Agha

A sub-editor on the Opinions and Editorial desk of The Express Tribune.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.