Student Spotlight – Farah Rahman

March 21, 2019

Farah Rahman’s most significant lesson from her Master of Public Health studies has been harnessing the power of human connections to bring justice and reform to those who need it the most. Her passion for refocusing the conversation in medicine and healthcare on the human dimension drives her to be a better physician and public health practitioner.

As an undergraduate, Farah volunteered with the United Nations Work and Relief Agency in Amman, Jordan where she began to recognize the larger socio-cultural factors behind health disparities in marginalized populations. Upon her return to the States, she continued to take part in addressing the refugee crisis by volunteering with the International Rescue Committee in San Diego, working with a student-run free clinic in Tijuana, and organizing community events through her student organization Refugee Connections at UC San Diego. She realized a deep understanding of these macro-factors was necessary to enact broad of change in alleviating health disparities in marginalized communities.

Now a student in the Department of Health Policy and Management, Farah has leveraged Yale’s interdisciplinary opportunities to take courses at the School of Management, School of Forestry and undergraduate college to develop a holistic skill set that will allow her to make a sustainable impact in public health practice. She has engaged in many projects and practicums that seek to bring people together for the common good and bring attention to our shared humanity. Through conversations with her colleagues in different fields, Farah learned that public-private partnerships are necessary to create sustainable societal change. It is all about being able to negotiate interdisciplinary solutions and aligning values across appropriate stakeholders. She was able to see the power of cross-collaboration in healthcare at her summer internship with the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) in Washington D.C.

Farah’s experiences in patient empowerment at PCORI solidified her belief in the importance of raising physicians who apply public health knowledge, financial stewardship and cultural competence in their practice. “For example, when treating an individual who is suffering from chronic diseases such as obesity or diabetes, it is essential to think about the upstream social determinants of health that have manifested in the condition, rather than only treating the symptoms. Without addressing their food insecurity, housing situation or nutritional habits, you will be treating a portion of their sickness, not the possible root causes,” explains Farah.

This passion for bringing the human dimension back into medical care connects many of her projects. For example, she is now working with the Yale School of Medicine’s Department of Internal Medicine on a pilot project to address health inequities that are furthered by healthcare providers through implicit bias, stereotyping and lack of understanding health disparities. She hopes the pilot will raise awareness for the importance of understanding public health issues and health inequities in the medical school curriculum. 

At the Yale School of Public Health, Farah and her roommate, Zainab Masood, are also keen to foster connections with other classmates by getting to know the personal experiences of their peers from different backgrounds. They have started a chapter of the group called “Ask Me Anything,” which provides a safe space to ask questions that in other contexts could be perceived as ignorant or hurtful. The first program, “Ask Me Anything, I’m Muslim,” was held in the fall where students were able to discuss topics from funny misconceptions to life as an American Muslim post 9/11. The next event is set to host a conversation around life experiences as an immigrant on Friday, March 29th at YSPH.

Submitted by Denise Meyer on March 21, 2019