Sophia, Class of 2010

  • Hometown: Hancock, New York, USA
  • Previous institution: Cornell University


In Islam, you always have to keep in mind that you need to give back to humankind. If you were given the resources, it’s your responsibility to help out.

When Sophia moved from New York to attend the UCSF School of Pharmacy, she was happy to discover the temperate climate, vibrant cultural, and welcoming attitudes of her classmates and professors, which often include social gatherings and lots of food. During the Muslim religious observance of Ramadan, which occurs during the ninth month of the Islamic calendar, however, Sophia has to routinely say "no, thanks" to the student fare. "I am the only one in my class who is fasting," she says, noting that she attends mosque every other day during Ramadan, rather than once a week, as she does the rest of the year, and sometimes attends mosque with students from other schools at UCSF.

Two coasts and two nations

Sophia was born in Los Angeles and lived there until she was 11 years old when she and her family moved to her parents' homeland of Pakistan. After three years in Pakistan, the family moved to Hancock, New York, where Sophia, the second of four children, attended high school, then Cornell University. At Cornell she majored in molecular and cell biology and earned a bachelor of science.

Volunteering at health fairs

As a pharmacy student, Sophia volunteers her time at local health fairs. "Many of these health fairs serve underserved communities. Many people in these communities don't have the time or resources to go to a doctor. They take what we have to say seriously. Sometimes it's as simple as suggesting to someone, 'You need to exercise regularly and eat more vegetables.' If you're wearing a white coat, they listen."

Putting personal and academic experiences to work


Sophia learned she had asthma shortly after arriving at UCSF. She learned how to deal with it and now uses that knowledge to help patients. "One woman told me, 'I have all these inhalers but they don't work.' I explained to her that her medicine was for prevention and should never be used during an asthma attack, because it takes two to three hours to work. This experience made me more aware that I need to be very specific, very detailed about explaining to patients how to use their medications for best results."

While Sophia is not sure where she will work as a pharmacist, she would like to spend time in developing countries, where the health care needs are great.

"Health care issues cause a lot of distress, family problems, and financial issues. Relieving that discomfort can improve the quality of life a great deal. In Islam, you always have to keep in mind that you need to give back to humankind. If you were given the resources, it's your responsibility to help out."

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