Match Day 2009 — Match Day is only the next step in a worldly journey

By Erin Prather Stafford

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On Match Day, Rebekah Ross moved one step closer to fulfilling her dream of providing obstetrical and gynecological care in Afghanistan. Ms. Ross learned that her residency will be at LBJ Hospital, which is affiliated with the UT Health Science Center at Houston, and though she is leaving the Dallas area, her next journey is much shorter than those in her past. 

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Rebekah Ross

A native of Ohio, Ms. Ross has dual citizenship in New Zealand, where her parents were born. When she was a young child her father suggested the family move to Pakistan to carry out language development work. They lived there for 10 years, before leaving an unstable political climate. Ms. Ross recalls sleeping in her street clothes in case the family needed to evacuate their home immediately.

After spending a short time in England, her family moved to Duncanville. Ms. Ross graduated from Rice University in 2005 with a dual degree in biochemistry and English. She came to UT Southwestern that fall.

“UT Southwestern has an incredible academic reputation, and my family is in Dallas,” Ms. Ross said. “The decision to move here was easy.”

It was during her fourth year of medical school that Ms. Ross contacted a family friend who resided in Afghanistan to ask if medical students ever ventured to the country to complete rotations. She expected a negative response; instead, she was directed to an online application. Within a few months she was on her way back to a familiar part of the world.

“For years I’ve been really interested in Afghanistan,” she said. “I did a family medicine rotation there for six weeks and then spent two weeks following obstetricians who performed recto-vaginal fistula procedures.

“The experience renewed my passion for women’s medicine. It was eye-opening to personally meet women who had received poor medical care because there are simply not enough female doctors to treat them. Some husbands do not let their wives see male doctors, and as a result women’s health suffers.”

Ms. Ross also had the opportunity to interact with female residents whose medical education had been stopped during the Taliban regime. Despite horrendous threats, these women went out into the provinces and practiced quietly out of homes. When the regime ended, they returned to the city of Kabul to complete their residencies.

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“They were inspiring, and they’re one of the reasons I wish to return,” Ms. Ross said. “Specifically there’s a northeastern province that has one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. I would like to go there and make a difference.”

When asked what her parents think of her endeavors, Ms. Ross laughed.

“They can’t really say much against it because they did the same thing to their parents,” she said. “I’m blessed that they are incredibly supportive.”

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