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As a child I had always dreamed that I was going to become a gynecologist and serve the women of my country. Since my upbringing was parallel to turbulent war and constant political turmoil, I witnessed the brutal consequences that war produced as I saw women's pre-destined death as a result of not being able to make it to a hospital for childbirth. Children became orphans and fathers became widowers because the mother was a victim of inaccessible hospitalization. Because Afghanistan has suffered decades of destructive war that has left people bereft from basic health care privileges, women are still struggling today.
I was awarded a scholarship to Simmons College and I started my undergraduate program in January 2006. In the beginning, I was a Biology major and took Pre-Med classes in hopes that I would attend medical school afterwards, but after taking a few classes in the Public Health program, I changed my major from Biology to Public Health.
My first public health class introduced me to a new side of my dream because there is a great need of Public Health professionals in Afghanistan due to dramatically growing health disparities.
To further my dream, I applied my public health knowledge to several internships. In Kabul, Afghanistan I interned at an empowerment seminar for women at the GTZ/gm office. I was a training assistant and I also contributed to writing the portfolio for individual coaching which included the following topics: Introduction to Empowerment, Core Beliefs and Values Manifestation Principles, Personal Power and Emotions, Self-Awareness and Gender Management, and Leadership and Power Dynamics at Work. Following this internship, I was able to work in Hingham, Massachusetts, shadowing the head of the Hingham Public Health Department and the Public Health nurse. My duties included inspecting food at restaurants, day care centers, as well as inspecting septic systems for houses.
Currently I am working towards a master's degree in Public Health at the Tufts University School of Medicine. In order to improve healthcare systems it is necessary to have knowledge of them. I want to perform my civic duty by taking an active part in the improvement of my country's health care system. Some of my goals are to define and measure public health problems so I can then develop viable and sustainable solutions. The focus of my Master's degree is in the field of health management services and policy so I can develop these quintessential skills. In a country like Afghanistan where institutions have been dismantled, one has to start from scratch. Though I am dedicated to improving systems within my country, I consider myself a global citizen and never limit my work scope to Afghanistan.
Since before I could even write I knew I wanted to go into the medical field, and I'd always thought the only way was to go to medical school. My reasoning was never for something like money or prestige; the reason that I wanted to become a doctor was the genuine satisfaction of knowing that I made a difference in someone's life. Like so many others, I started my undergrad in 2007 with the intentions of taking all the appropriate pre-med classes, and never letting out of site my ultimate goal of becoming a physician. At Simmons I learned about the success of public health efforts throughout time and all over the world, and I realized it was the field I was always meant to be in. The idea of prevention and control, rather than treatment, made much more sense to me. I think it was no coincidence that the Public Health degree was just getting off the ground when I began to have thoughts of switching my career intentions, and I haven't looked back since. My objectives had not changed, only broadened and clarified.
I gained an unexpected interest in Microbiology while at Simmons. Paired with my new found interest in public health I began trying to bridge the gaps between a life science and a social science, and learned that multidisciplinary approaches to infectious disease control was my real passion. I am currently working towards a master's degree in medical microbiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I plan to use my knowledge about disease agents to better understand how their behaviors apply to their interactions with humans. This understanding will help develop ways to prevent their transmission and from becoming problematic in different settings all over the world; not just in hospitals, but domestic and commercial environments, and developing communities. We are constantly changing and improving the way we implement approaches to disease control as we learn more about the organisms themselves.
Another career objective is working in the developing world. I've learned that this can actually be a hard thing to get involved in unless you have the right experiences and education. For my master's level research I have been given the opportunity to travel to Tanzania. Here I will be studying hand contamination among rural communities and the effectiveness of different intervention trials to help improve household drinking water quality. This was a competitive position with many other applicants with much more lab experience, but I was awarded this opportunity because of my background in public health. Simmons provided me with an excellent and broad foundation for this experience, preparing me for not only the biology behind disease, but the sociological and political aspects that you encounter in the field as well.
When I first came to Simmons, I was a double major in Biology and Spanish. It was not until the end of my sophomore year of college that I changed my major to Public Health. The Public Health program opened my eyes to a myriad of opportunities in the International Health and Health Policy arenas because it allowed me to analyze health issues affecting populations on a global scale, rather than just focusing on the individual. It has helped me see the impact of governments and states' decisions on the health outcomes of underserved communities.
In the Public Health program I was able to study abroad in Granada, Spain in spring 2010. When I returned, I was more determined than ever to keep pursuing a career in public health. I did an independent study in U.S. Health Policies with Professor Valerie Leiter. The following spring I interned at the Medical Legal Partnership (MLP Boston), an organization which integrates legal assistance into the medical setting as a component of patient care. I worked with paralegals and lawyers to provide assistance to underserved communities, and to improve local, state and federal regulations that impact the health of vulnerable populations. After that I interned at the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard School of Public Health, where I worked on the Haiti Project to help assess the impact of the earthquake with particular emphasis on issues of child protection, child welfare and psycho-social health as well as the medical well-being for Haitian children.
After graduation, I am heading to Senegal for two years to work with the Peace Corps volunteering as a Preventative Health educator. I aspire to attend graduate school after the Peace Corps, in hopes of working in the International Health arena to create intervention and prevention programs in countries in need, or working on health policy issues affecting underserved communities.