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Maria Khan's vision for IU School of Medicine includes lifting more student voices and increasing advocacy.

Advancing student advocacy: Meet Medical Student Council President Maria Khan

Maria Khan

When Maria Khan started her surgery rotation at Indiana University School of Medicine, she noted surgery hoods were available along with regular scrub caps, and she did not have to ask. Scrubbing in for a surgery requires multiple steps including decontaminating hands, donning a sterile surgical gown and wearing a surgical cap and sterile gloves. 

For aspiring Hijabi physicians like Khan, a surgery hood makes scrubbing in easier and allows her to fully cover her hijab and focus on her training. It also permits her to train in alignment with values core to her beliefs and reduces barriers to entering the field. 

“Having systems and structures built in that support diversity is really important,” Khan said. As Medical Student Council president at IU School of Medicine, one of Khan’s main missions is to reshape the structure of the student governing body to elevate more voices. The Medical Student Council governs the IU School of Medicine student body, in close collaboration with the Wellness Coalition, Service Learning Coalition and Diversity Coalition. 

“We have a large school with many different opportunities,” Khan said. “I want to take this moment and lead Medical Student Council into becoming a strong peer advocacy group.”

Maria volunteering with fellow studentsKhan brings a wealth of leadership experience into her position. She previously served on multiple committees within the school, participated in the Cancer in the Under-Privileged, Indigent or Disadvantaged (CUPID) Program and serves as the vice chair for Indiana University’s Student Outreach Clinic in Indianapolis.

“Maria is socially conscious, compassionate and strategic about building community within IU School of Medicine and connecting students to their greater community. She is ultimately a strong advocate who listens to her peers and advances their concerns to institutional leaders,” said Niki Messmore, MS, director of medical service learning. Messmore serves as an advisor for Medical Student Council and provides feedback as students govern across the state. 

Khan’s vision for the medical student body includes four main platforms: voices, identity, unity and celebration. She plans to promote the rich and diverse voices of students by transforming the council into a house and senate structure. This will allow student interest groups to advocate at a more equal level.

She also aims to create more opportunities for student body voices to be heard through social media and other polling methods. Beyond restructuring student government, Khan aspires to better define what it means to be an IU School of Medicine student.

“We excel at evidence-based medicine, research, advocacy and wellness,” Khan said. “I want IU School of Medicine students to embrace this identity and celebrate what we are good at in our school culture.”

Other platform goals include unifying IU School of Medicine students around common threads. One possibility includes restarting the Medical Student Council House/Year Olympics. 

Antwione Haywood, PhD, assistant dean for student affairs, works closely with students to eliminate barriers and improve wellness, leadership skills and success. He also advises Medical Student Council and meets with student leaders as they advocate on behalf of the student body. 

Maria at student outreach clinic

“Maria is an inclusive leader who is always thinking about how we create voice for the voiceless and strive toward greatness,” Haywood said.

Khan’s vision for leadership ultimately centers around shifting infrastructure and making systematic change to make it easier for students to get involved. Even seemingly small structural changes, such as what she experienced during her surgery rotation, can send important signals to trainees about respect for diverse values and goals.

“I’m really excited about the amazing work my peers do,” Khan said. “I want to create a culture of asking our peers for feedback and gaining a good pulse on what people want so that we can work together on making IU School of Medicine a place students are proud to belong to.” 

If you have questions or feedback for the Medical Student Council, please reach out to your class representatives or email

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.
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Susanna Scott

Communication Specialist

Susanna focuses on communication for Medical Student Education, Faculty and Staff. She is also working toward her doctorate in health communication at IUPUI.