Second-year Upstate medical student Ariba Jahan’s determination and her love of research have paid big dividends for her. But an even bigger payoff for others — her future patients — is on the horizon.
Ariba earned scholarships and fellowships that have allowed her to conduct research and travel – to Las Vegas to present her findings at the Academic Surgical Congress conference in February, and to Atlanta at the Student National Medical Association annual conference last month.
Ariba’s research has clinical implications for cancer patients. Her presentation was based on the work she did last summer as an American Association for Thoracic Surgery scholar at Roswell Park Cancer Institute.
Attending conferences reinforced for Ariba the crucial link between basic science benchwork and the clinical bedside. “I am now further motivated and inspired,” she said.
Those two words suit her well.
Ariba came to the United States from her native Bangladesh as a third-grader in 1994. Her family settled in New York City, where her real journey began.
“I never thought that within my first six months of being in America, I would find out I’m half deaf,” Ariba said. “Once the diagnosis (inner cochlear impairment) was written on paper, I became ‘the seven-year-old girl with hearing aids, disabled and just different.’ ”
That diagnosis shaped Ariba’s future in many ways. “I saw it as a driver, not a hindrance. I was never limited by my condition. I was limited by other people’s view of it.”
Ariba applied (without telling her family) to Brooklyn Technical High School, was accepted and majored in biomedical sciences. She became a Remembrance Scholar at Syracuse University, earned a degree in biomedical engineering and enrolled at Upstate. Her career plan is to become a surgeon.
“I want to be the type of doctor who gives hope and inspires my patients to not be ‘disabled’ by their conditions but to embrace their lives,” Ariba said. “I can use my experience to remind myself of the importance of listening to patients and making sure they understand what’s going on with their body, regardless of age, education or cultural barrier.”
Ariba said her many mentors have played a crucial role in her development as a person, a student, a researcher and as a future physican.
“You can’t get by without mentors, and it’s very critical to share whatever you’ve acquired,” she said, noting that she’s a mentor to two Syracuse University students. “You need people who genuinely care about your grades and your personal growth.”
As a physician, Ariba wants to set up a mentoring program in whatever large U.S. city she settles in. The program will involve high school students, their families, and medical and engineering professionals in the community. The idea is to motivate and guide high school students toward productive careers.
“You need to get to them early,” Ariba said. “I didn’t struggle because I couldn’t hear, but because nobody heard me.”