HOMETOWN: Farmington, Connecticut
UNDERGRADUATE DEGREE: Georgetown University, government major, theology minor, pre-med
PROFESSIONAL DEGREE: medical degree expected 2019, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine
Aamir Hussain is a third-year medical student at the University of Chicago. He is a practicing Muslim committed to bringing different faiths together for service and dialogue and honoring diverse belief systems in the medical field. He is also joining the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy in the fall to marry his dedication to clinical medicine with his policy interests.
“Healthcare matters to people across religious faiths, and for those without a faith. Serving human life and preserving it is an important goal,” says Hussain. “I’m taking a gap year from medical school to pursue the MPP degree because health economics and policy are important for physicians to understand, especially with the recent and emerging changes in the marketplace.”
Hussain comes from a family of healthcare professionals. His father and much of his extended family are doctors, his mother is an occupational therapist, and his sister is also pursuing pre-medical studies as an undergraduate. The dinnertime conversation often focused on healthcare policy, which sparked Hussain’s interest from a young age. When the healthcare reform debates began on Capitol Hill, Hussain felt an even stronger pull to learn more about the ins and outs of policy. With a strong policy foundation, he hopes to practice clinical medicine, while also conducting research or consulting on issues related to healthcare economics and policy.
Hussain also hopes to continue his efforts to infuse healthcare with a better understanding of religious beliefs and their healthcare ramifications. For example, he recently wrote an editorial for the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggesting ways that dermatologists can be aware of Muslim practices that influence healthcare, such as the veiling of women. Because Muslim women may be hesitant to remove their clothes for dermatological screenings, Hussain suggests dermatologists offer alternatives like allowing a chaperone or having same-sex providers do the exam. Also, research shows that Muslim women in Chicago are less likely to get screened for breast and cervical cancer, and some don’t believe there are enough women providers to serve them. As a result, the rates of these cancers are higher in Muslim women in Chicago. Hussain extrapolates that because skin cancer is more prevalent than breast and cervical, the rates of skin cancer in Muslim woman are also likely higher. Informing Muslim women about the reality of the number of women providers could go a long way in the community, says Hussain.
Raising awareness about the medical implications of individual faiths from Jehovah’s Witnesses to Muslims has been a priority for Hussain since his undergraduate years at Georgetown. As an undergraduate, he was president of the Interfaith Council that focused on common values to bring people of various religious backgrounds together to conduct service projects and interfaith dialogue. He has since started a Spirituality and Medicine interest group at the Pritzker School of Medicine and received funding to implement a curriculum focused on how religion affects healthcare.
“I chose UChicago because it’s one of few medical schools that has a religion in medicine research initiative and has conducted various studies about how religion impacts the healthcare system. The Religion and Medicine program has studied the characteristics of American physicians and their belief systems, using religious institutions as public health partners, and bioethics,” says Hussain. “However, in our required course on Healthcare Disparities we focused on social determinates of health and racial and economic inequalities, but religion was conspicuously missing. It was important to me to address that, and working with the course directors, I implemented workshops focused on religious diversity.”
The choice to remain at UChicago to pursue a public policy degree was an easy one for Hussain. He explains that Harris Public Policy’s “reputation for excellence in economics and policy” was a deciding feature. He’s also keenly aware of the quality of the faculty, having already partnered with Professor David Meltzer, MD, PhD on research on emergency services.
Ultimately, it’s Hussain’s passion for doing good that has led him to the MPP program. He explains, “There’s a verse in the Koran that says, ‘if you save one life, it’s equivalent to saving all of humanity.’ The passage means more than rescuing someone from dying; it also can mean improving their life and helping them through a hard time. Healthcare does that every day, and good healthcare policy makes that mission easier to achieve.”