The "Wheel of Time" Series and My Passion for Medicine

NOTE: This essay was the winning entry in the Robert Jordan Memorial Scholarship, named after the renowned fantasy author who passed away in 2007. Applicants were asked to reference the Wheel of Time books authored by the late Mr. Jordan and to answer "How do you plan to use your studies to become a Servant of All?" A version of this essay was originally published in 2015.

As a practicing Muslim, I am called by my faith to build bridges of inter-religious cooperation across chasms of intolerance. I strive to be a Servant of All by learning how to harness the common values in all spiritual and philosophical traditions towards improving the practice of medicine. If I lived in the universe of the Wheel of Time, I would dream of a world in which people of all backgrounds--Aiel, Seanchan, Ogier, Tuatha'an, Aes Sedai, and numerous others--would pool their collective talents towards Healing.

Having completed my first year of medical school, I have come to realize that faith plays a major role in many aspects of medicine, especially public health. Religion is an important part of life for many; indeed, nearly 9 in 10 Americans report a belief in some divine or spiritual power, and several studies have shown that organized faith communities can play important roles in promoting healthy behaviors. For example, organized religious communities can serve as focal points for culturally-tailored patient education programs that improve outcomes in chronic conditions such as diabetes and depression. This is especially true where I live, on the South Side of Chicago, where faith communities can be the only source of support for people facing major health challenges while living in extreme poverty.

This year, I founded a new student organization for the Pritzker School of Medicine: the Spirituality and Medicine Interest Group (SAM). The mission of this group was to create a safe space for discussion of how spirituality and religion affect healthcare. Over the past year, I have sought to draw attention to various intersections between religion and medicine through lectures and facilitated discussions. All were welcome, and I especially invited students who did not affiliate to share their perspectives. Recent events have focused on the role of hospital chaplains, church-based diabetes interventions in Latino populations, and the role of religious communities in reproductive health debates. My classmates and professors have expressed interest in expanding the program in the future to include community service projects.

I am interested in further studying the intersections between interfaith cooperation and medicine, and developing new models of healthcare delivery that can help address healthcare disparities.

In my career, I seek to emulate Nynaeve. She was an excellent Yellow Ajah healer in her own right, as well as a brave and selfless warrior of the Light. She was also vocal about her personal opinions, and was never afraid to challenge major leaders such as Rand, Lan, and Egwene, if she disagreed with them. Thus, I intend to be a doctor who not only treats the marginalized, but also works to reform national policy so that all people have access to quality, affordable healthcare.

My passion for medicine stems from a declaration in Islam and various other religious traditions that saving one person's life is equivalent to saving all of mankind. Given the widespread intolerance in our world, I feel called to break down barriers of bigotry and find common ground across differences. By working for a society in which all people--regardless of their identity--receive the best healthcare possible, I strive to always be a Servant of All.