Submitted Photo: Zoha Aziz
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, senior Zoha Aziz had genuine interest in going into the healthcare industry. She was born into a healthcare environment, as both of her parents are healthcare professionals, and said she wanted to follow in their footsteps after taking principles of biomedical science, a Project Lead the Way class, during her freshman year.
Aziz has participated in a variety of activities related to healthcare throughout high school. In the summer of her freshman year, she started volunteering at IU North Hospital, and has continued to do so every other summer since. She has also joined clubs, such as Health Occupations Students of America (for which she is president) and Club Med, that allow her to explore the different professions in the medical field.
The pandemic has only fueled Aziz’s motivation to become a neurointerventionalist.
“If anything, (the COVID-19 pandemic) has just made me more interested (in going into healthcare), especially in pursuing research as an undergraduate in college,” Aziz said. “There is so much research going on just in the COVID field right now, and it’s crazy because these advancements are happening so fast and so quickly because we are in such a time of need and panic. And it has shown me what we are capable of as humans and has just inspired me even more.”
Junior Emily Hu said she agrees.
“I’ve always had the goal of helping others because the feeling when I help others is really rewarding and (healthcare) is something I want to do for the rest of my life,” Hu said. “The pandemic has not changed my perspective in going into healthcare. I still want to become a doctor—it is something that still hasn’t changed (and not) something I am considering any less.”
But as motivated as Hu and Aziz said they are, HOSA sponsor Jennifer Drudge said she has mixed feelings about what could be the effects of the pandemic on students’ aspirations overall.
“I think it probably goes both ways. I think there are certainly some kids that are a little bit more nervous about going into healthcare because it’s been a tough road for people in health care right now, both from the people having to work in the front lines and deal with COVID patients and the pandemic itself to people working behind the scenes and who are communicating all the data and giving all the guidelines and yet they are getting all of their expertise questioned.
“I also think there is that excitement of where I can do something where I can make a difference in this world. So for some kids, I think that this pandemic might be encouraging them in going into healthcare because they really want to solve problems and make the world a better place,” Drudge said.
Hu, along with junior Reva Patil, established MedLife, a new club at CHS, this past summer.
“What we do is help low-income communities and certain low socioeconomic communities such as Peru and Ecuador,” Hu said. “And we do certain fundraisers like our power hour where we raised $2400 in order to help feed families during this pandemic. So we have soup kitchens set up and we also provide masks.”
“Now, more than ever, we need students going into the healthcare industry,” Aziz said. “I know because of my parents, because of classes, and because of research that I’ve done that there is a physician shortage. Physicians are being overworked and facing long hours. And that just shows that we need more people involved in this field,” she said.
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) published an annual report before the COVID-19 pandemic that predicted in 2020 there would be a shortage of between 29,000 and 42,900 doctors. By 2033, when many CHS students will have already chosen their occupations, there could be a shortage of between 54,100 and 139,100 physicians.
Drudge said she believes that now, more than ever, teachers should actively encourage students who are passionate in the healthcare industry.
“If you are encouraging kids to go into healthcare, you are encouraging kids to make a difference in their community, in the country, in the state, in the world,” she said.
Hu said, “I think (healthcare professionals) are important because there is always going to be that need for help, and with our population rising there will always be a lot of people that are going to be injured, sick or just not feeling well, and we always want to be there to help and help them feel better to make the world a better place.”
As for Aziz, she had some final words of advice for students who may feel discouraged about going into the healthcare industry now.
“Right now it’s definitely scary. I mean, (COVID-19) has changed everyone’s lives the past couple of months,” she said. “But it’s important that during these unseen circumstances that we as humans just need to keep trying to help people. So if that’s what you sincerely want to do, then I would say, ‘Don’t give up and keep on pursuing that dream into becoming a doctor.’”
Click here to read about a CHS parent working in the medical field during the pandemic.