Nuzhat Quaderi is a Community Health graduate student at Hofstra University.  For the several months, she has worked as a Health Leads Advocate at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow, NY.  Recently, Nuzhat shared what her Advocate experience has meant to her and how this work has reaffirmed her desire to pursue a career in the healthcare field.

There are two fundamental ideas I believe above all things. First, I think that life is about giving. In the words of Winston Churchill, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Second, I believe that healthcare is not a privilege, but a right.

When I first started my undergraduate career, I had my sights set on going to medical school. However, when I finally graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Biology, I found myself lacking enthusiasm to pursue this path. I soon realized that this was not because I didn’t want to be a physician, but because I wanted to do more than just treat a cough or mend a broken bone, I wanted to improve the system.  It was this realization that brought me to Health Leads.

I began working with Health Leads about a year ago when I was looking for opportunities that would allow me to truly serve in the heart of the community. To my surprise, Health Leads not only offered an opportunity to work in the greater Long Island area, but allowed for opportunities to work with community residents, hospital providers, and other community-based organizations. As I looked deeper, I discovered that Health Leads encompassed so many of the ideas I valued: service, patient-centered primary care, addressing the social determinants of health, and above all, that all people have a right to quality healthcare. As I wrapped my head around the idea of connecting families to basic resources through provider prescriptions, I realized that this was the change—Health Leads could really revolutionize healthcare.

It is an understatement to say the families with whom we work are remarkable. I have seen firsthand their strength, courage, resilience, determination, work ethic, and kindness, and cannot say with enough fervor what a privilege it is to work side by side with the families who weave the fabric of our community. There is one client, however, that has reaffirmed my belief in this work more than anyone. She was a victim of domestic abuse, a single working mother living in poverty, had a daughter with uncontrolled diabetes and behavioral problems, and had been unsuccessful in her attempt to find solutions to these problems for too long. Through our work together, she was able to connect to a local food pantry and cell phone subsidies, enroll in health insurance, and speak with a social worker that helped her meet some of her more challenging needs. Not only we were able to work with her on some of her most pressing issues, but the relationship we created also reassured her that Health Leads would continue to be there when she needed us.

Health Leads has opened my eyes to the barriers that so many families face in trying to attain affordable healthcare and shown me how necessary it is for healthcare providers and public health professionals to work together to create a healthcare system that better serves our country. I look forward to future semesters of growth and new experiences as I continue my work with Health Leads.

Nuzhat is one of nearly 1,000 Health Leads Advocates working in hospitals and clinics with a vision for a different kind of healthcare.  The majority of these Advocates go on to pursue a wide range of careers in health and poverty with a better understanding for the full set of factors that impact patients’ health.  Read more about the Health Leads Advocates.

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