“I’m a city girl at heart, and I really love the Lincoln Center area. You have Central Park, a variety of restaurants and theaters, and a lot of diversity here,” she said.
She also knew that she wanted to go into medicine. She had lost her father, Mohammad, during her senior year in high school to complications from a stroke, and the experience inspired her to pursue a career where she could help prevent similar tragedies.
At Fordham, she joined the pre-health track and chose natural sciences as her major, where she took classes such as animal physiology, neurochemistry, and neuropharmacology. She is applying for medical school in the spring, and looking for research assistant positions in the meantime.
The kindness of medical staff that she encountered while her father was undergoing treatment is part of what inspires her.
“I want to be that kind of positive light for families that are going through it,” she said.
Fellowships in Science and Humanities
Last summer, she participated in a University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry Undergraduate Research Fellowship, where she conducted research on mortality rates for patients undergoing pancreatic cancer surgery.
Though she majored in the sciences, Asha also enjoyed her humanities classes at Fordham. As part of a Teagle fellowship in 2021, Asha did a project tying the themes in Toni Morrison’s Beloved and W.E.B. Du Bois’ Souls of Black Folk to contemporary issues of racial injustice that were exacerbated during the COVID pandemic.
Her favorite course at Fordham was Faith and Critical Reasoning, which she took with Leo Guardado, Ph.D. It helped her see how theology can apply to scientific concepts such as artificial intelligence, she said.
“I also come from a Muslim background, so even though Fordham is a Catholic institution, I appreciate the fact that he took the time to go through the sacred text of each religion, and just made it all really easy to understand,” she said.
Prioritizing Mental Health
Just as important was the help she got when the road to graduation got a little bumpy. Her return to in-person classes after the pandemic was accompanied by notoriously hard classes such as organic chemistry, genetics, and anatomy.
Last year, Asha found herself battling anxiety and insomnia. She decided to prioritize her mental and physical health by going to University Health Services, working with a psychiatrist, and asking for accommodations for testing and assignments from Fordham. She still made the Dean’s list three years in a row.
“Looking back, I’m very grateful because things are just gonna get harder going forward. There are always going to be things that pile up. It was just really a learning experience, and because of last year, I’m in a much better mindset this year,” she said.
Hope to Spare
Deborah Luckett, Ph.D., a senior lecturer of biology, had Asha in her Concepts in Biology course as a first-year student and again this year in Science, Technology, and Society’s Values. She has no doubt that Asha will thrive.
“She’s going be my doctor whether she realizes it or not,” she said laughing.
In addition to drive and good grades, Luckett said Asha possesses a keen ability to pay attention to others.
“If you don’t really know Afsana and you’re talking to her, you may think she’s not listening, but she can say word for word just about anything you just said,” she said.
“She’s very dedicated, she loves what she does, and she loves being around people. If she’s caring for a person who is very ill, they will never feel neglected and will never feel like there is no hope. Because she will have hope for both of them.”