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Meet the IU School of Medicine Bicentennial Scholars

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In honor of Indiana University’s bicentennial, IU School of Medicine is awarding 11 highly accomplished students with four-year scholarships and inclusion in a leadership development program involving the school’s top executives and esteemed faculty. Learn more about the Bicentennial Scholars.

 

Yousaf Abughofah

Yousaf Abughofah

Hometown: Schereville, Indiana

Undergrad: Indiana University, biology & neuroscience

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

My favorite interest in medicine is the brain and nervous system, so I studied biology and neuroscience in order to get a foundation that I will build upon in medical school.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?

My interest in medicine began fairly early, which to me was rather unusual because neither of my parents were doctors. I was fascinated by the science of biology and physiology. However, I was not sure I wanted to pursue a career in medicine until I took upper level biology courses in undergrad. Those courses solidified my interest in the topic and made me decide this is a field I want to pursue as a lifelong career.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

I was born and raised in Indiana, so I wanted to be able to attend a medical school that would allow me to both study close to home and stay in the state as a doctor. To me, IU School of Medicine is a perfect fit for both of these goals.

With a medical degree from IU School of Medicine, how do you hope to impact health care locally, in the State of Indiana and/or nationally?

The country is currently having a shortage of primary care doctors. Given IU’s status as a national leader in training primary healthcare physicians, I hope to use my education to be part of the solutions to that problem. I have had experience working alongside family physicians in primary care clinics and have come to greatly respect and understand the importance of the essential work they do, especially in times like these.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I greatly admire my dad. He came to the United State when he had little and was very young, and worked his way to a more relaxed and comfortable life. His hard work not only brought him his dream; it also built the launching point for my own dreams.

 

Michael Alenikov

Michael Alenikov

Hometown: Long Beach, California

Undergrad: University of California-Los Angeles, microbiology, immunology & molecular genetics

IU School of Medicine campus: Bloomington

 

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

Through college, I knew I would pursue a career in medicine, so I chose a major that would be applicable to medicine and augment my understanding of the basic sciences. I found immunology and molecular genetics to be intrinsically interesting. I also took several classes in Greek and Roman history because I find ancient societies intriguing. Thousands of years separate us from them, yet myriad similarities hold true.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?

I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember, though my dream solidified into a plan when I realized I probably wouldn’t make it in professional tennis.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

I did not grow up in Indiana. In fact, I did not even grow up on this side of the United States. I have lived in Bloomington for the past few years after my wife, Lindsey, began medical school here, and I have fallen in love with the state and the people. In Bloomington I am involved with a few local charitable organizations, and I want to continue my work with them during medical school. I am blessed to have been welcomed into the community, and I could not have planned to study medicine anywhere else.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

I enjoy many physical pursuits outside of academics. Among these, most of my time is spent rock climbing, weightlifting and running. Because these activities are very accessible (outside of COVID-19), I plan to find time for physical activity on most days. I consider self-care to be an essential aspect of medicine because it enables you to provide the highest level of care. Physical activities are vital to my well-being, so any physical pursuits will contribute to my career in medicine and support my ability to care for future patients.

What is your personal motto or source of inspiration?

“Have you ever wondered if there’s anything more to life than being really, really, really, ridiculously good-looking? I mean, maybe we should be doing something more meaningful with our lives.” - Derek Zoolander, Zoolander.

 

Rabiah Amjad

Rabiah Amjad

Hometown: Lawrence, Indiana

Undergrad: IUPUI, neuroscience & biology

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

Where did you grow up, and how has that contributed to who you are—and who you hope to become as a physician?

I grew up in Lawrence, Indiana, which is just northeast of Indianapolis. The city is home to the Lawrence Township school district, and its educators played a formative role in shaping me into the person I am today. As a future physician, I hope to eventually serve as a leader, resource and mentor to others just like them.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

Indiana University School of Medicine has been a constant presence throughout my undergraduate career. Doing research at IU School of Medicine, interning at the IU Center for Global Health and shadowing IU School of Medicine faculty members at local hospitals were just a few of the experiences that confirmed my decision to attend medical school in Indianapolis. I am thrilled to continue to learn and grow professionally during my time here as a student.

With a medical degree from IU School of Medicine, how do you hope to impact health care locally, in the State of Indiana and/or nationally?

I hope to have some impact on making healthcare more accessible to underserved communities both in Indiana and nationally. Women’s health is also an area of medicine I am passionate about and aspire to advance. I believe that earning a medical degree from IU School of Medicine will equip me with the skills and resources necessary to achieve these goals.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I admire my parents, Ramiza Ali and Muhammad Amjad, for their tireless dedication and support. I would not be at IU School of Medicine without their sacrifices and commitment to education.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

I love painting, reading and playing fetch with my energetic peach-faced lovebird. Making time for these hobbies even in the midst of school is very important to me, and I hope to form long-lasting friendships with fellow students who have similar interests. These pursuits and others will be good ways to destress and make wellness a priority as I embark on a career in medicine.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I want to publish a book one day! As a voracious reader, I am fascinated by others’ stories and would love the chance to eventually share my own.

 

Celine Aslinia

Céline Aslinia

Hometown: Bloomington, Indiana

Undergrad: Indiana University, neuroscience

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

Where did you grow up, and how has that contributed to who you are—and who you hope to become as a physician?

I was born in Paris but moved to the United States around the age of three. I have lived all over the U.S., and the experience of visiting and living in so many states (I’ve covered both coasts and the Midwest!) has given me a particularly unique and broad vantage point to overview a variety of issues which impact public and individual health across the United States, such as Indigenous history and health in California or increasing acidification of the Chesapeake Bay.

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

I majored in neuroscience because I have always found the concept of an intersection between the more humanist field of psychology and the more scientific pursuit of biology to be fascinating. My desire to know how people think while also understanding how to repair biological phenomena gone awry led me to pursue this degree over the other, more traditional hard sciences.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?

Becoming a doctor has been my career choice since I can remember, complete with photographic evidence of me donning a lab coat and trying to hear my grandpa’s heartbeat with a toy stethoscope as a five-year-old. To occupy myself in hospital waiting rooms until my mother could finish her rounds on the wards, I always viewed passing doctors and imagined them as confident heroes waiting to stride into a patient’s room and save the day. This sense of medicine as a calling has only intensified over time for me.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

There are many reasons IU School of Medicine was a great fit for me, but there were three big factors that contributed to my choice. The first was the presence of an MD/JD program at IU, which is only available at a few handfuls of other institutions. The second reason was IU School of Medicine’s renewed focus and interest in discussing inequities in social determinants of health, especially social justice and anti-racism efforts, which I found particularly appealing as an implicit bias instructor. The third reason was IU’s clear prioritization of student wellness, which fits perfectly with my own profile as a founder of a pre-health professions wellness student organization at Indiana University Bloomington.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

The hobbies I am engaged in the most, currently, are writing and reading poetry, which I see as a medium of both creative outlet and as a source of understanding the emotional undercurrents produced by our political and social systems, which is pertinent to understanding the lived reality of the marginalized. I play flute and piano, and I sing as well, all of which are forms of therapy that have been shown to have marked impacts on patients with neurodegenerative diseases. Besides reading abundantly to stay up-to-date on international and social medical issues, my remaining free time is monopolized by my puppy, Peppina, who also happens to be my daily living exercise in cross-species empathy.

 

Taylor Diedrich

Taylor DiedrichHometown: Marion, Indiana

Undergrad: Indiana University, economics

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

I majored in economics because I was interested in behavior and decision-making. I really enjoyed the level of analytical thinking required in this discipline.

With a medical degree from IU School of Medicine, how do you hope to impact health care locally, in the State of Indiana and/or nationally?

I hope to work in neurology or psychiatry and to be an excellent clinician, leader and advocate for my future patients. I also aim to be involved in committees that work to make healthcare most sustainable and provide education on the intersection between medicine and the environment.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I really admire my parents. They have always encouraged me to pursue my interests and to be unafraid to try new things.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

I love to travel and to practice speaking Spanish. During my time at IU School of Medicine, I am excited to be a member of the Medical Spanish Group and to be involved in global health initiatives. I am also an avid reader. Books give me the opportunity to connect with and consider the ideas of others, which is an important skill to possess as a physician.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I lived in Sydney, Australia, for three years after graduating from college. During that time, I worked as a management consultant before making a career change to medicine.

What is your personal motto or source of inspiration?

“If it is right, it happens—The main thing is not to hurry. Nothing good gets away.” - John Steinbeck

 

Maria Feucht

Maria Feucht

Hometown: Morton, Illinois

Undergrad: Baylor University, engineering

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

I studied engineering as an undergraduate because I love problem-solving. Engineering challenged me to think creatively and be open-minded to new ways of doing things. During my time as an engineering major, I became passionate about innovation and technology, and I hope to incorporate this passion into my medical practice.

What leadership experiences have you had as an undergraduate, and how will those experiences help you to become a student leader at IU School of Medicine?

As an undergraduate, I held leadership positions in several student organizations and served as president of the Baylor Society of Women Engineers during my senior year. These experiences taught me about the importance of setting a vision as a leader, as well as communication and organization skills, which will help me be an effective student leader at IU School of Medicine.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

My grandmother is someone I greatly admire because of her selflessness and resilience. My uncle has Down syndrome, and my grandmother has always been dedicated to supporting him as well as our whole family. Her perseverance through the challenges of raising a child with Down syndrome when much was still unknown about it, and her commitment to putting others’ needs before her own have taught me so much about compassion, joy and hope out of difficulty.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

I love playing musical instruments and singing as well as sports like tennis and rock climbing. I hope to continue to pursue these at IU School of Medicine by getting involved with student groups like Music in Medicine. My hobbies are a great way for me to take a break when I get stressed and process emotions, which I feel will be helpful for a career in medicine.

What is your personal motto or source of inspiration?

My personal motto is: “Assume others may know something you don’t.” It reminds me to be humble, understanding and always looking for opportunities to learn. I’ve found this motto helps me to listen to understand someone else’s perspective rather than listen to make a judgment or form a response. By doing that, I can be truly open to learning and to the possibility that I might be wrong. This motto also helps me to be generous in my interpretation of other people’s actions, knowing that I may not have the full picture of what’s going on in their life.

 

Nicole Gavin

Nicole Gavin

Hometown: Zionsville, Indiana

Undergrad: Xavier University, biology

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

I studied biology and chemistry as an undergraduate at Xavier University to prepare myself for a career in medicine; however, I purposefully took classes to earn an Asian Studies minor as well. In my Asian Studies classes, I focused mainly on Chinese history, language and politics, which not only challenged me to think beyond Western thoughts and ideas, but also taught me to recognize the similarities within the human experience which are independent of place, language and religion. My commitment to studying diverse subjects in addition to science lays the foundation for how I will seek to understand and relate to diverse patient populations.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

I am amazed at all the opportunities IU School of Medicine has to offer its students. Programs like Indiana University Medical Student Program for Research and Scholarship (IMPRS), Lead Advisors and Wellness Coalition showed me that IU cares about student health and success throughout their time in medical school, while also challenging them to learn beyond the curriculum through research or service. I saw countless opportunities for growth, student leadership and career development, which I will eagerly explore.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

There is a very special faculty member at Xavier whom I greatly admire. Fr. Al Bischoff (Father B.) recently celebrated his 93rd birthday, and he is truly inspiring because although he has lived through gruesome wars and seen poverty and suffering firsthand, he maintains such a positive outlook on the world. He is kind and generous with himself and with others, seeking to find the good in every person. He shares his light and joy with everyone he meets and continues to be committed to his community in every way he can. He has overcome unspeakable hardship, yet persevered and endlessly gives of himself to others. I hope to learn from his example and emulate some of his traits as a future physician.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

Some of my favorite hobbies are cooking and learning about food. I love to research new recipes and cook for my friends and family. Learning more about food—its history, its contributions to society and its integral role to health is enriching intellectually and pushes me to make healthy and ethical choices. I am continually amazed at food’s power to bring people together and foster meaningful conversations. As a medical student and later as a physician, the time I spend cooking and sharing meals will bring me closer to those around me and bring me joy.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

At Xavier, I was a member of a bird watching club. Ask me about Indiana’s state bird!

 

Kayla Higgins

Kayla Higgins

Hometown: Valparaiso, Indiana

Undergrad: Indiana University, psychology

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

I majored in psychology because I wanted to pursue a degree that I could apply to multiple career paths and aspects of my life. I also thought it was interesting to learn about human thought processes and be able to relate topics to my everyday life.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?

I knew I wanted to be in the healthcare field starting sophomore year of undergrad, but I did not actually land on pursing medicine until junior year. I struggled to find a career combination for my passion for child advocacy and scientific knowledge, until I shadowed with a few child abuse pediatricians. They showed me how I could combine everything I wanted into a career.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

I want to study at IU School of Medicine because there are so many opportunities available to students. Not only will I be able to learn from the best, but I will also be able to make connections and experience everything that I want to experience during medical school.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I admire my mom, Pamela Hartsburg, for her determination to help me succeed in life. Her continuous encouragement and support is something I cherish every day. I cannot thank her enough for all the opportunities she has opened for me through her own sacrifices and hard work. She is the reason that I made it to IU School of Medicine.

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

People might be surprised to learn that I have twin siblings, Aiden and Brooklynn, who are 20 years younger than me! My mom had them just after my freshman year of undergrad, and I was the lucky one who got to drive her to the hospital while in labor. They are now starting kindergarten.

 

Emily Merritt

Emily Merritt

Hometown: Lebanon, Indiana

Undergrad: Indiana University, neuroscience & chemistry

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

Where did you grow up, and how has that contributed to who you are—and who you hope to become as a physician?

I grew up in a small town here in central Indiana, where that classic “everyone knows everyone” concept holds pretty well true. I still have teachers from way back in preschool who check in on me and are excited to hear about what I have been doing. This feeling of comfort and support that I have grown to love is something I carry with me and I hope to embody as I continue to pursue my career as a physician.

Why do you want to study at Indiana University School of Medicine?

Indiana University School of Medicine is the only school that was able to check every box on my medical school wish list, with some key features being an abundance of opportunities for service, research and development and a location close to my family. Every experience I have had with IU School of Medicine has left me feeling welcomed, supported and even more excited about medicine and the journey I am beginning toward my career as a physician. That is exactly the sort of environment I had always envisioned studying medicine in, and I am so excited to be a part of it!

What leadership experiences have you had as an undergraduate, and how will those experiences help you become a student leader at IU School of Medicine?

During my undergraduate career, I held positions as a teaching assistant for three different courses and served as a researcher in a behavioral neuroscience lab, where I was the lead researcher on a project from its beginning stages up through publication. These experiences helped me to better understand not only how to balance my time on a long-term scale and troubleshoot when issues arise, but also how to better collaborate with others to achieve a desired outcome. I look forward to applying and further developing those skills here at IU School of Medicine.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

My favorite thing to do is run! I am currently training for some virtual races and, fortunately, will be able to use my runs not only for exercise but also as a time for much needed “brain breaks” from studying. I believe my passion for being active in this way will not only help me to be a more balanced, well-rounded physician, but will also serve as an opportunity for me to share my excitement with my future patients and help encourage the adoption of healthy, active lifestyles.

What is your personal motto or source of inspiration?

“Stay positive” – my high school physics teacher gave my class elastic bracelets with this phrase on it right before we took our AP exam, and I have carried mine with me ever since. I keep it in my pencil case or on my water bottle and always have it in sight during exams. I love how it is such a simple phrase, and yet each time I look at it, I am reminded to keep my head up and keep looking forward even when things get tough.

 

Neal Patel

Neal Patel

Hometown: Fishers, Indiana

Undergrad: Indiana University, neuroscience

IU School of Medicine campus: Indianapolis

 

Where did you grow up, and how has that contributed to who you are—and who you hope to become as a physician?

I grew up as the son of an immigrant in New Jersey to eventually living in an affluent community in a suburb of Indianapolis. Because of this upbringing, I have seen and experienced some hard times as well as great times later on. I hope to use these perspectives to better aid patients and respect their stories regardless of where they are coming from.

What did you study as an undergraduate, and why?

I studied neuroscience and was in a business program (LAMP) at IU as an undergrad. The reason I studied neuro was because the brain is fascinating to me as it determines who we are, and it’s basically just a series of electrical impulses. The reason I added business in there was to gain a more wholistic perspective that I can use while navigating my career.

With a medical degree from IU School of Medicine, how do you hope to impact health care locally, in the State of Indiana and/or nationally?

I hope to practice as a physician at the start of my career, but my end goal is to get into health administration and health policy. I believe the only way that we can truly help patients is by mitigating the conditions that cause them to become sick in the first place, so I hope to dedicate my career to helping people get the resources they need to stay well.

Who is someone you admire, and why?

I probably don’t tell him this enough, but I admire my dad immensely. Coming as an immigrant to America with a family was probably extremely difficult, and he worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known to make sure that my brother and I had a good life. I hope I can be as hardworking as him in my career and keep that with me as I grow.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

Most of my hobbies are just to relax, like playing volleyball, hanging out with friends, watching Netflix and whatnot, but one hobby that may complement a career in medicine is playing sudoku. Sudoku is a very analytical game and works the brain to come up with novel ideas and think outside the box; that kind of thinking style will be very useful when confronted with difficult cases!

 

James Warrener

James Warrener

Hometown: Kendallville/Lagrange, Indiana

Undergrad: Butler, Spanish

Graduate degrees: Western Governors University, MBA; Asbury Theological Seminary, MDIV

IU School of Medicine campus: South Bend

 

Where did you grow up, and how has that contributed to who you are—and who you hope to become as a physician?

My roots are in small town, rural Indiana, and that has probably contributed to the fact that I love parks, open spaces and just being physically active. I’m sure those places have impacted my view of “health” in general. We often talk about health care as though it consists primarily of medical and pharmaceutical interventions, but at its root, health is about daily choices. As a physician, I hope to encourage people to have that proactive mindset.

When did you know you wanted to pursue a career in medicine?

I’ve taken an unusual path, but the decision to circle back to medical school originated in the fall of 2018. My wife had outpatient surgery, and it sparked a renewed interest in me to directly help people in the way that healthcare professionals are privileged to do. I missed that in my daily work and realized I should pursue it.

What leadership experiences have you had, and how will those experiences help you to become a student leader at IU School of Medicine?

My most recent leadership responsibility has been in a program called Celebrate Recovery. It has stretched my ability to listen actively and to encourage (i.e. give courage to) people.

With a medical degree from IU School of Medicine, how do you hope to impact health care locally, in the State of Indiana and/or nationally?

Mentors have taught me that great health care happens one person at a time. We all have the capacity to make life better for those around us…if we can take time to give them our attention. It often feels like systemic forces are working against that, but I’ve been fortunate to observe docs who are intentional about it. I hope to follow their example.

What are your hobbies, how will you continue to pursue them, and how might they complement a career in medicine?

My family is the focal point for me, but I love podcasts, reading and learning from others through conversation. I enjoy a good hike, or even a good walk spoiled, a.k.a. golf. A healthy career requires outlet valves, and a fun one involves continually learning and growing!

What is something people might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m 41, which doesn’t feel old but definitely sounds old for starting med school! I’ve been married for 18 years and have four daughters.

What is your personal motto or source of inspiration?

I’m currently studying the Biblical letter of James, which has a ton of wisdom. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.” Good words to a medical student.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
Author

Laura Gates

Laura is a communications consultant with the Office of Strategic Communications. She brings 25 years of experience in communications, having worked with news media organizations, small businesses, corporations and non-profit organizations. She is a native Hoosier who recently moved back to Indiana from Florida, where she was editor of a lifestyle magazine serving the community of Estero, Florida.