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By Dave Jones on October 6, 2006 in University

Eisha Zaid: Premed student, senior genetics major from Davis, recipient of a Goldwater Scholarship for research and a Strauss Scholarship for community service

When my mother and I cook in the kitchen, she reveals the secrets behind creating round chapattis, spicy curries, and fragrant sweets. We create music: the clinks of dishes complement the melodies of sizzling onions and bubbling stews. The music played on, even during my mother's battle with Stage 3 breast cancer.

At the time of her diagnosis, I was 16, young and afraid. Although watching my mother suffer through the chemotherapy, mastectomy and radiation was unbearable, I found hope in her resolve to fight the cancer.

My mother would always tell me to believe in "muqadaar," a Punjabi word for destiny. She accepted the breast cancer as her muqadaar and inspired me to discover my own.

When I sat at her bedside and translated the doctor's words into a language she could understand, I was drawn to the patient-physician interaction. I desired knowledge and understanding, so that I could also heal patients, like my mother.

As a patient's daughter, I developed empathy, patience and compassion. I began to understand my muqadaar and calling — a career dedicated to healing.

When I work at the Shifa Community Clinic, one of UC Davis' student-run clinics that offers free health care to medically underserved patient populations, I am reminded of my mother. In serving each patient, either through performing intake, translating or educating a patient about diabetes, I believe I can make a difference -- one patient at a time.

To effectively deliver health care, we must make humanistic considerations; our patients cannot be reduced to medical record numbers or diseases. They are mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends. They are individuals, like my mother, who each have a beautiful story to share.

At Shifa, we believe that "vision with action can change the world." As a clinic photographer and volunteer, I have seen this change with my eyes and through my lens. Although my camera has captured a wide spectrum of images, it has not been able to capture the powerful images contained in our patients' stories -- the very images that have inspired me to pursue a career in medicine.

Breast cancer has become a part of my muqadaar. When I was 16, I vowed to cure cancer before I graduated from college. Since I started researching breast cancer pathogenesis, I now hope to better understand a disease that impacts over 200,000 women each year.

When I perform experiments, I always remember breast cancer patients and survivors, including my mother. In time, I hope to serve as a translator who decodes the mysteries of disease into a language that will advance medical treatments.

As I pursue a career in medicine, I embark on a journey dedicated to lifelong service, healing, learning and teaching. During each step, I hope to develop a deeper understanding of my muqadaar.

I encourage each of you to find your muqadaar. And I leave you with a personal quote that has guided me throughout my college journey:

Time is going to go by, so why not have done something over that time? We can't all save the world, but why not try?

Presented here are the speaker's prepared remarks.

Media contact(s)

Dave Jones, Dateline, 530-752-6556,