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Neda Farzan: A Medical Student With a Big Heart

PARSA Community Foundation

In the summer of 1999, a group of young volunteers would wake before dawn, board a van loaded with coffee and egg sandwiches, and drive to their "customers." The coffee and food was free, and their "customers" were Washington's homeless community. Neda Farzan, a recent Stanford University graduate, was on board the van - a converted ambulance - and she credits those early morning outreach sessions as inspiring her to become a doctor. "It was my time doing outreach, building relationships with people and seeing how the streets were a catalogue of diseases - HIV, hepatitis, substance abuse and addiction - that inspired me to become a doctor," Farzan says today, while in her last year of medical school at the University of California, San  Francisco School of Medicine.

Many medical students seek volunteer opportunities as part of their required studies. For Neda Farzan, community service is not just a requirement to complete. It is a major part of her life, and a pivotal element in her drive to help others. Farzan has traveled all over the world, which shaped her decision to concentrate in Global Health as a medical student. While studying towards her Bachelor's degree in Human Biology at Stanford University, Farzan traveled to Senegal in 1998 as a volunteer for the Senegalese Association for Research and Aid for Development. While there, she worked on environmental, youth and women's issues with the local community.

The next year, Farzan interned for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Congress House Subcommittee on Africa. During her time in Washington, D.C., Farzan was also the Assistant to the Director and Community Kitchens Liaison for the DC Central Kitchen, a nationally-recognized nonprofit organization dedicated to food recycling, meal distribution and job training for the homeless.  Farzan not only helped build a national network of similar community kitchens, but she was also a part of a street outreach team, spending her mornings on those coffee and egg sandwich runs that helped seal her decision to become a physician.

This experience led Farzan in 2003 to become a case manager and volunteer for the Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, providing medical care, housing services and substance abuse treatment to the homeless. Farzan soon returned to working on issues affecting Africa and in 2005, Farzan traveled to Uganda and Rwanda to assist with research on compliance with international laws during civil war.

Farzan's medical volunteering experience has also taken her to Iran, where she volunteered in 2006 at the Iranian Research Center for HIV/AIDS, studying HIV among IV drug users in Tehran. Through this invaluable experience, she spoke at UCSF's Global Health Diplomacy seminar series about her time in Tehran's public hospitals.

In 2008, Farzan traveled to Nepal to conduct research for Acute Mountain Sickness in the Everest Basecamp region. During her stay, she provided medical care to foreigners and locals on trekking routes. Most recently, Farzan has traveled to Kenya, where she worked with Family AIDS Care and Education Services, an HIV clinic where she implemented research to identify barriers to the initiation of anti-retroviral therapy amongst HIV-positive children.

Farzan's exceptional experience has earned her the Dean's Scholarship for commitment to community work, and she has been as involved as a volunteer on-campus as she has been outside of it. She has managed a student-run homeless clinic, liaising with shelter staff and coordinating student volunteers. In addition, she has been a recruitment coordinator for the American Medical Student Association, and participated in Model SFGH, a clerkship program at the San Francisco General Hospital for students with demonstrated commitment to underserved populations.

Farzan is slated to earn her M.D. this year and plans to specialize in emergency medicine with the hopes of continuing to advocate for urban underserved populations in the U.S. as well as doing global health work in Africa and the Middle East. If the past is any indication, Farzan is poised to make a significant impact on public health in the years to come.

... Payvand News - 04/29/09 ... --

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