By embracing her identity, Alysha Siddiqi has shaped her life’s path
As a Yale undergraduate, Alysha Siddiqi followed what may be considered an atypical academic path, choosing to major in political science on the pre-medicine track. But to Siddiqi, this combination seemed like a natural one.
As a woman, a Muslim, and an Oklahoman, she is well aware of how politics can affect lives. Embracing her identity has become fuel for her passion for both politics and medicine.
“My identity in and of itself has become political in a lot of ways because I’m Muslim, and my parents are immigrants,” she said. “Just the way that I’ve been brought up is inherently political, and I was very much aware of that identity growing up.”
“And a lot of medicine is political, especially now,” she added. “We see it with women’s reproductive rights and medical care available to undocumented immigrants.”
For Siddiqi, an important turning point at Yale happened during a class on historical perspectives and global health. In one class discussion, she learned about polio vaccine hesitancy in Pakistan, where her parents had grown up before emigrating in their 20s. It was the first time she’d ever heard Pakistan mentioned in an academic setting.
“That sparked my interest in global health because I realized that a lot of global health could serve the communities that I was so invested in,” she said. As a scholar in the Global Health Studies program at Yale College, she learned more about how social, cultural, and policy intersect with health care. Then, as a summer intern in the Global Immunizations Division at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, she was able to observe these concepts in a real-world setting.
As a research assistant in Dr. Saad B. Omer's lab at the Yale Institute for Global Health for the past three years, she worked on social-mixing patterns in Pakistan and maternal immunization. She also was a research assistant at the Yale School of Medicine in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology, and Reproductive Sciences in Dr. Mancy Tong's lab, and served as a research assistant at the Oklahoma Heart Hospital with Dr. Naeem Tahirkheli, where her research was published. Her research interests expand upon her interest in Pakistan, and in women's health and in the politics of care in South Asia.
This fall, she will pursue a master’s degree in public health at Johns Hopkins University, specializing in global disease epidemiology and control, and plans to apply to medical school.
Beyond her studies, Siddiqi this year was a counselor for first-year Yale students, helping them navigate their freshman year. She remembers how dramatic it was for her as a first-year student at Yale, shifting from the oven-hot winds of Oklahoma to the ivy-covered buildings of a New England campus. The Yale campus was more diverse than her hometown of Edmond, Oklahoma, and as a public high school graduate, she knew little about the pre-professional rigor some of her classmates had experienced in their private schools.
The friendships she has made, like her classes, have widened her lens. “That is something I am most grateful to Yale for is allowing me to have the opportunity to meet people that have truly changed and expanded my worldview.”
She’s proud that she has done the same for others. When people meet her, she said, they never guess she is from Oklahoma. She’s very proud of her Oklahoma roots. “I hope that I have been able to expand people's perceptions of Oklahoma or what it means to be someone from the South.”
Siddiqi has also continued to embrace her religious and cultural heritage since arriving at Yale, serving as president of Yalies for Pakistan, and as the treasurer of the Muslim Students Association she spearheaded fundraisers for Sudan and the Black Lives Matter movement.
All of these different pieces of her background, Siddiqi said, will shape her journey ahead.
“One of the most exciting things — when I think about it retrospectively — is that my passion for my identity, and for my roots and heritage, are things that I can use to fuel my passions for the future.”