January 24, 2014
An internship at a government-owned clinic in Merida, Mexico during the Christmas break gave Muzamil Khawaja real-life experience that will be useful in his quest to become a Spanish-speaking physician who specializes in the treatment of kidney disease.
“Because I am majoring in Spanish and biochemistry in the hopes of becoming a doctor, my internship was perfect for me because I got to work alongside physicians and gain a different perspective of health by observing the Mexican health system while also speaking just Spanish with my host family and new friends,” said Khawaja, a Millsaps junior.
Khawaja shadowed three family physicians and learned how to administer injections, examine infected ears, check a patient’s blood pressure and blood sugar and read X-rays. He also learned how to draw blood, to administer advanced pregnancy tests and HIV tests and to prepare and analyze urine samples to check for infections.
A host family who was “incredibly funny, kind and helpful” and showed Khawaja the local sites enhanced his experience, he said. “I went to a bull fight, deep sea fishing, visited historic Maya ruins and went bike riding through the downtown city on Sunday when the roads are closed for bike riding. I visited the historic city of Campeche and just around the city to enjoy the night life,” he said.
Khawaja said he shared his Muslim culture with his host family and learned about their Christian traditions. “My family, for instance, did not know any Pakistanis or Muslims like myself so we had several lengthy discussions about our cultures and religions. I also learned a lot about the Christian traditions in Mexico as I witnessed their unique Christmas celebrations, both at home and at church,” he said.
Khawaja plans to apply to medical school at the University of Mississippi this summer and eventually become a Spanish-speaking nephrologist.
“I want to ameliorate communication issues that exist between Hispanic patients and doctors who can't speak Spanish in the South,” he said. “I want to be able to use my Spanish, English and Urdu language skills in order to help patients feel more comfortable and communicate better so that I may provide them with the best personal care that I have to offer.”
He chose to attend Millsaps because of the excellent quality of the professors. “I like the fact that the classes are small and the professors truly want you to succeed and treat you like an individual rather than just a number in a large pool of students,” he said. “I also love the fact that Millsaps is all about going global. The study abroad programs here are amazing and can take students almost anywhere they want to go. One simply has to show the interest in studying abroad and, with the help of a professor, can easily organize an opportunity to travel and experience new cultures.”
Khawaja serves as the vice president of Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society, the president of the Islamic Cultural Association, treasurer of Millsaps Masala, a researcher in Dr. Wolfgang Kramer's photochemistry lab, an on-campus Spanish tutor, a research and technician assistant for the Millsaps-Wilson Library and a Foundations leader. He is a member of Beta Beta Beta, the honor society for biological sciences, and Sigma Delta Pi, the Spanish honorary. He participates in intramural basketball, football, soccer and volleyball.
“Whether someone is a collegiate athlete, a bookworm, a gamer, or a social activist, Millsaps has a wide array of activities and events to offer to all its student body,” he said. “This ultimately makes it easy for students to find their niche and enjoy their own personal interests without having to look far and wide. I also like being close to UMMC where I can go to work, shadow or do research if need be. But in my opinion, the best part about Millsaps is the fact that it is a liberal arts college. I personally feel like learning about other disciplines and subjects is extremely important and interesting and helps stimulate undiscovered passions in college students. My life motto has always been "balance" and so Millsaps really upholds that belief because it focuses on graduating students who are well rounded in many areas rather than just one sole academic area.”