Future Physicians for Global Awareness and Empowerment

Nickey Jafari, Team Leader

Nickey Jafari was born in Tehran, Iran, raised in Overland Park, Kansas, and received her undergraduate degree from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa. She has always had diverse academic interests, majoring in Biochemistry and International Relations with a Philosophy minor in college. Her first international trip outside of visits back to her home country was Egypt the summer after her freshman year, but she fell in love with travel and has gone on to visit over 15 countries, including Morocco, Egypt, Spain, Italy, and Austria. Currently, she is a third year medical student at the University of Kansas. Nickey has always felt strongly about health being a human right and will begin her Master of Public Health at Johns Hopkins this summer before finishing her M.D. and pursuing a residency in General Surgery.

Hailey Baker, Team Member

Hailey Baker was born and raised in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, but has always wanted to experience life outside of the suburban Midwest. In high school, she went on a European tour where she visited 8 different countries and fell in love with spicy food. She went on to receive her bachelor of science in microbiology from the University of Kansas and studied abroad in Ireland. After college, she pursued medicine at the University of Kansas and has completed her first two years of medical school, but decided to trade out her desks for lab benches this year and work towards her masters of science in clinical research. She hopes her master’s degree will better prepare her to become a physician-scientist in medical oncology and perform international clinical research.

Hebron Kelecha, Team Member

Hebron remembers growing up enjoying sunny, 70° F weather days in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with her mother and younger brother. That life was soon left behind and transformed when her family fled Ethiopia as refugees and resettled in Kansas City, KS. Here her family struggled to adjust to the new language, culture, healthcare system and the day-to-day hustle and bustle of being an American family. Through the encouragement of her family, and help of her community Hebron graduated with her undergraduate degree in Biochemistry from the University of Kansas and is currently a first year medical student at the University of Kansas School of Medicine. She spends most of her time actively engaged in her studies but when she’s not studying she remains actively committed to advocating for marginalized and underserved communities focusing on the growing refugee population in the Kansas City area.

Bahar Barani, Team Member

Bahar Barani is an American-Iranian student currently studying to become at physician at the University of Kansas Medical Center. Growing up in an Iranian household while in America provided Bahar with a unique double perspective that cultivated a passion within her for advocacy work, especially in the context of health and health literacy. As an undergraduate student she was the chair of the Multicultural Affairs Committee and the chair for the Subcommittee on the Status of Minorities. These positions advanced her interest in systemic and institutional barriers that different intersectional identities face. She continues to be passionate about local and global health equity as the executive director of a local clinic called Bulldoc and as the community coordinator for Partners in Global Health-Engage at KU Med. She hopes to do her residency in Pediatrics after medical school. For fun, she loves to play soccer and spend time with family and friends.

Vusala Snyder, Team Member

Vusala Snyder is a second year medical student at the University of Kansas, School of Medicine. She graduated summa cum laude from Park University with a Bachelor of Science degree in biology and from Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences with a Master’s degree in biomedical sciences. Among her current academic pursuits is research in the field of Otolaryngology, with specific interest in Head and Neck Cancer biology/pharmacology.

An avid believer of lifelong learning, Vusala has dedicated her adult life to serving communities in various capacities in order to promote literacy and access to education. As one of the founding board members of New Frontiers Educational Foundation, Vusala aims to ‘promote excellence by providing educational programs and services as well as resources for new projects and creative approaches in order to prepare students at Frontier Charter Schools to successfully meet the challenges of the future’.

Vusala’s ultimate passion is encouraging diversity and inclusion in all aspects of her personal and professional life. She has been actively promoting the concepts of peace and pluralism as a board member of many institutions, such as the Johnson County Sherriff’s Department Community Advisory Relations Board, Pembroke Hill Diversity and Parent Education Committee, and Executive Vice Chancellor’s Diversity and Inclusion Cabinet at KUMC.  It is her firm conviction that knowing one’s self, respecting every individual and serving humanity should be the ultimate goal and outcome of every academic/professional and personal pursuit.

Team Essay

When we see people who look differently from us or live differently than us, it is easy to focus on those differences. Different is uncomfortable and intimidating. Different is unpredictable. Different challenges our worldview. But when we interact with people who appear different from us, we realize that they are actually the same as us. They are mothers and fathers working tirelessly to give their children a better life than they had. They are entrepreneurs trying to accomplish their dreams of owning their own business. They are children who aspire to be the first person in their family to go to college. When we learn about their cultural practices, we notice many parallels to our own – fairy tales, religious beliefs, and cuisine all spiced with different seasonings, but made with the same basic ingredients. When we realize that differences do not threaten our existence, but rather enhance it, only then can we truly embrace diversity.

Gaining multicultural international experience provides essential opportunities to interact with people who are different from us. These experiences remind us that the opportunities we have had and privileges we have benefitted from throughout our lives are not experienced by everyone. It opens our eyes to the struggles our patients may be facing on a daily basis. For example, when a patient repeatedly misses their scheduled appointments our initial reaction as physicians is often to become frustrated with them. We may assume that they can easily take off work or hop in their car to get to our office. We may not realize that they have to walk 3 miles to the bus station and then rely on public transportation with multiple confusing transfers. Without ever interacting with people who are different from us, we may easily forget to ask our patients “why?” and resort to the path of least resistance – blaming them rather than fulfilling our responsibility to come up with solutions. We need to ask why they missed their appointment or why they do not take their blood pressure medications regularly. Without empathy, we will not be able to achieve our true potential as physicians and treat our patients to the best of our ability. Multicultural experiences challenge our preconceptions and teach us empathy. Even with all the medical knowledge in the world, you cannot be a great doctor without understanding and compassion.

Global health experiences help us prevent alienation and isolation by teaching us to embrace diversity. They remind us that there is no such thing as a “noncompliant” patient, that maybe there is a reason our patients are not adhering to our prescribed regimen and it is our duty as providers to dig deeper. They show us the importance of listening. They challenge us to take it upon ourselves to break down these barriers and use our underlying humanity to better understand each other, to bring people closer together. If honored with the ability to pursue this global health experience, we will not only become better physicians, but better human beings.