When I was in fourth grade, our neighbor bought a small black-and-white television. My siblings were so excited that they would ask her to leave her door open so they could peek at the 12-inch set from outside. Growing up in Pakistan, this excitement was common -- but I was not moved by the picture box. My hobbies were different; my television was my imagination. Ever since I could read, I had my nose buried in a book. I had a passion for learning which blossomed into a fascination with medicine.
My sister worked as a midwife at the Aga Khan University (AKU) in Karachi. That led me to its front doors. I wanted to become a nurse, but my family was not financially stable enough to support me. Still, I decided to test my luck and ended up with the biggest blessing I could have dreamed of. AKU hospital funded my education, introduced me to my best friends, and taught me patient care. The hospital encouraged my medical curiosity, and the meals weren't half bad either!
It is because of this grand opportunity that I am in the U.S. today. I married a wonderful man who saw how much I wanted to give back to the educational community. He encouraged me to continue by studies, and I soon received my Ph.D. in nursing from the University of Texas in San Antonio.
I still clearly remember the day I decided to select my dissertation focus. It felt so overwhelming! I wanted to write about something that could be used to help others, like I had been helped during my own journey. I instinctively thought of my family and its health issues and realized that our history of premature death related to cardiovascular disease was not unique among people who shared my background. In hopes of finding a way to raise awareness, I decided to study heart disease in the South Asian community.
While writing my dissertation, I gave presentations in several diverse South Asian communities to inform their members about health risks. Still, this did not feel like enough and I decided to volunteer at the Aga Khan Foundation Charity Walk in San Antonio with my students, giving free cholesterol and glucose tests and teaching the community about disease prevention.
Today, with my diploma in my hand and my dissertation on my bookshelf, I'm proud to say that I am still learning every day. My new wish is to inspire my students the way AKU inspired me.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the #GivingTuesday Team at 92nd Street Y, to celebrate #GivingTuesday. #GivingTuesday is a global giving movement, and the series (which will feature content throughout November) aims to celebrate how people are giving back around the world. For more information about #GivingTuesday, visit here. And to join the conversation on social media, use the hashtag #GivingTuesday.