Meet Shuaib Siddiqui
This month, Shuaib Siddiqui walked across the stage to accept his East Tennessee State University diploma and begin the next chapter of his education in medical school. However, he will never forget his time at ETSU. While on campus, he served as an SGA senator, president of the Muslim Student Association and as an active member of the Multicultural Association of Pre-Health Students. He also connected with the surrounding health care community by volunteering at the James H. Quillen VA Medical Center and Johnson City Medical Center, as well as working as a CNA at the Unicoi County Hospital. He graduated from ETSU’s College of Public Health with a major in health sciences and a culture and health minor.
Why did you decide to pursue a major in health sciences?
I was born in Florida, but when I was less than a year old, I went to India to live with my grandparents. My parents were moving around a lot and wanted me to experience their culture. So I lived in India for 10 years before I came back to America. When I lived with my grandparents, they emphasized that I needed to pursue a high goal. I was going to become a software engineer because both of my parents are software engineers, but I have always had an interest in science. I decided I wanted to go into medicine. Medicine is valued in our culture.
How did your experience in India shape the kind of doctor you want to become?
When I came to America from India, I had culture shock. I had amazing friends who helped me feel like this is home and made me feel like I am part of their family. I take pride in giving back the same way. So I like interacting with international students, trying to hear their stories and trying to see the world through their eyes. That has made me more interested in learning about other cultures. As a physician, you need to have cultural competency. For example, in India, people don’t look in the eyes of their doctors out of respect. In America, that could be found to be disrespectful. So understanding these types of rules, being aware of them, and trying to incorporate them when you’re treating patients could help form better relationships. Even the small things like trying to follow their culture even in the smallest ways possible will help you give the patients the best care possible.
What achievement are you most proud of so far?
One of the things we value in our religion (the Muslim faith) is the memorization of the holy scripture. From 9th through 11th grade, I studied at a religious school and memorized the entire Holy Koran by heart. That is one of the biggest accomplishments I have had in my life. Whenever a challenge comes now, I figured if I can memorize the Koran, I can overcome this challenge, too. It has given me the motivation to accomplish anything.
Where do you hope to practice when you complete medical school?
I don’t plan to go back to India to practice, but I like working with underserved populations, especially through my work at RAM (Rural Area Medical) clinics. When I came to ETSU, I went to a RAM clinic my first semester. It was a long weekend, and I didn’t have anything planned that weekend, so I accompanied my friend. That experience was so satisfying – seeing people get free dental clinics, free vision clinics, and just the smile on their face. I knew when I came home that I wanted to do something like that.
How has ETSU shaped you into who you are now?
When I first came to ETSU, I was that kid who used to be shy to talk to people. I used to finish my classes and head straight home, not involved in anything, not knowing what is happening on campus. But it changed when I made several friends. You know that hardest thing to do is start a communication with someone, but once you start it, it is so easy-going. Everyone is actually so nice around here. The key is to start it. You never know if that person you opened up a conversation can be your life-long friend. And ETSU is a great place because of its small campus. There are many people you see over and over again.
That’s when I started to spend more time on campus and doing things with my friends. I got involved in many activities and organizations. Coming from a shy person not involved in anything to becoming an officer for multiple organizations has truly been a great experience for me and I appreciate every part of it.