Photo: Left to Right:
Sarah Khan (Public Relations Co-Chair), Bilal Asif (Vice President), David Ali (President), Usman Aslam, Farrah Khan (Secretary), Zaki Rahaman (Treasurer)
by Nimra Sarfaraz
Is there a community service event going on I can volunteer at post call?
If you say that to a layperson, they might look at you funny thinking you’re obnoxiously referring to an overhyped phone call. Anyone in the medical field however, will instantaneously grasp what you’re referring to. During a “call”, health care professionals are seeing patients, some of whom are emergently ill, and fielding phone calls while their colleagues get some well-deserved rest.
Volunteering post-call is a noble undertaking, but there are only a few opportunities for health care professionals to connect with each other and their communities after clinical duties. It was this sentiment, this lack of being connected to other students of the same mindset in the formative period of time after academic study yet before full fledged professional careers that drove David Ali, Farrah Khan and Mian Khalid, second-year medical students at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai to co-found the first organization of its kind, the Muslim Health Professional Students’ Collaborative.
This new organization connects Muslim medical, podiatry, optometry and dental students from New York City and Long Island. The group impressively enough started as a word of mouth meet up and is now touting an impressive 436 members from 15 partner schools as well as a fully developed leadership structure, all within a short four months.
Why this organization? After all there is a Muslim Students Association (MSA) for undergraduates on nearly every college campus. There are also incredibly established organizations for professionals such as the Islamic Medical Association of North America (IMANA), as well as the American Muslim Health Professionals (AMHP) who are doing laudable work both on the domestic and global front. There was however, no cohesive organization specifically for Muslim health professional students and trainees until now.
“The student experience is so incredibly different from what professional’s experience, and this organization is seeking to give that experience a much needed voice,” says David who is the current President.
Teasing out what the main goals this new organization wanted to achieve was pretty easy, it’s clear that community service is one of their foremost priorities. A quick scroll through their website shows they have already conducted events ranging from organizing a community health fair this past Saturday in a major Queens mosque to feeding the homeless in Manhattan. I asked why is it so important for you to serve the local community as opposed to doing work abroad?
“Service to the community is a core value in Islam. For health-professions students, it is important that we remain active in our own communities even while we are establishing ourselves, so that once we are established, it will be a familiar component in our lives” says Bilal Asif, who is the groups Vice President.
Hopefully this noble endeavor continues, as it is so easy to get engulfed in the tide of adulthood and forget some of the idyllic reasons that attracted many students to medicine in the first place. Role models definitely are present in the Muslim community; the Chapel Hill victims were cited as inspiration while talking with Zain Ali, the service chair.
“While an incredibly tragic and unfortunate event (may Allah (swt) grant mercy and forgiveness to the victims and their families), the very evident passion of Deah, Yusor, and Razan for serving their communities served as a catalyst for us to bring students together in order to serve our communities”.
With election season in full swing and Islamophobic hate speech flung haphazardly, moreso disappointingly by presidential candidates in a ploy for votes, the need for accurate representation of the true values and people of Islam is imminently necessary. This organization is trying to embody the true founding principles of Islam by serving their communities and helping each other flourish and attain their goals and aspirations. Hopefully with this grass roots effort, visible action and social activism (which are part and parcel of the faith anyways) public perception will gradually change by virtue of their character. After all, who can argue with altruism?
While the group does have a philanthropic backbone, they also offer an opportunity to network.
“In addition to service aspirations, there was a feeling by many of us that a large contingent of health-professions students in the nearby area would benefit from meaningful social connections with Muslim colleagues at near-by institutions. We felt this organization might be a source of untapped potential to provide social events catered to the time/commitments and sensibilities of the Muslim health-professions student community.” Says Adnan Haque who is the public relations co-chair.
Sarah Khan, also Public Relations Co-Chair, shared her excitement about the success of the Welcome Back Barbeque and has plans for an event dedicated for graduating students. It’s refreshing to see an alternative to social events where alcohol can be a key aspect of socializing, since many Muslim students would prefer an alcohol free environment. This concern has prompted ideas for events in the future such as movie nights, athletic tournaments, nature retreats and laser tag.
“We hope to provide a diverse array of events where Muslims of all levels of spirituality feel comfortable attending and enjoying time with their fellow sisters and brothers in the health-professions realm.” Says Zaki Rahman, treasurer.
As someone who has traversed schooling and training in medicine, I can see this organization quickly gaining traction seeing as it appeals to such a wide spectrum of Muslim students in the area. Only good can come from contributing to the community via public service, which this group is making an indispensable part of their identity.
While spending some time with them at their inaugural event, I found them to be passionate students trying to find a common ground and help each other along the arduous journey of health professions training.