My name is Taiba Shah and I’m a second year Physician Assistant (PA) student in CUNY York College. Reading, riding my bike, drawing and coloring are all things I absolutely love to do in my free time. As a minor in Studio Art, I especially want to make sure I don’t let that part of me get lost while I am studying to become a PA. I find art therapeutic which is especially important for days when I am stressed from school. I was born and raised in Queens, NY by a Bengali family that is very traditional in every which way. We are very family oriented, wear South Asian clothing most of the time, and eat Bengali food for most meals. Eid is always very packed with lots of cousins, aunts, uncles, and every family member. It makes for a very festive and exciting holiday to say the least!
I am very proud of my career path as a PA. In high school, I was still trying to figure out who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do. I loved clothes, so at the time, I foolishly thought just because I loved fashion I should become a fashion designer, but much more goes into the profession.
Sumaiya, my older cousin by 5 years, was a huge source of guidance during this time.
Sumaiya, my older cousin by 5 years, was a huge source of guidance during this time. She was majoring in Biology and wanted to become a PA for as long as I could remember. Eventually, when I began to find interest in the sciences (I loved anatomy and other science subjects- it always intrigued me), she was there to tell me all about what a PA does. She mentioned how I would be able to do a lot of what doctors do in much less time. In just 2.5 years of schooling, I would be able to treat patients, prescribe medications, even assist in surgery. It is also comforting knowing that I would be able to take away some financial burden from my parents in a few short years. Additionally, the Physician Assistant profession is about 70% female, which showed me that the power of women is recognized in the profession. This was all really appealing to me and I was lucky enough to end up knowing exactly what I wanted to when I went to college, which I consider to be a blessing.
Aside from offering me career advice, Sumaiya was that source of kindness and protection from a young age. When I would want to sit with the “older cousin” group while growing up, everyone would push me out and say I was too young to sit, and this group was adults only! Sumaiya would always advocate for me and be incredibly kind. Because of her constant support, she became a mentor for me. It was always so easy to go to her and talk to her about just about anything.
My middle school science teacher, Ms. Teng was also a great source of confidence for me. In my middle school, I was one of 3 South Asian students attending so it was very hard to feel like I fit in. Every lunch period, I would hate the idea of sitting in the cafeteria because I would stick out like a sore thumb. I remember Ms. Teng always had her door open for me and accompanied me for lunch in her classroom. At an age where all you feel is lonely and different, her kindness really stuck out to me. What’s more is that at the end of the year, Ms. Teng wrote every student a letter. I still have the letter she wrote me and consider it one of my most treasured possessions. I feel like sometimes teachers don’t realize the impact they have on their kids, especially for kids who feel different, either mentally or physically. Her gestures of being there for me during lunch and giving me a note that helped me believe in myself went a really long way in my self worth.
I was lucky enough to have so many strong females growing up. Aside from my cousin Sumaiya and Ms. Teng, my mom and sister, Suraiya were the beams of strength in my life. My mom is superwoman and is the glue in our South Asian household. Now that I’m older I can see the selfless decisions she made throughout her life for her children. She worked all day and still came home and cooked for us when we were growing up.
My sister was a huge source of pushing me in the direction I needed to go in. She has always been my motivator and calmed me down when I would be anxious before any exam. She would always remind me that I shouldn’t stress, I’ll be fine.
My sister was a huge source of pushing me in the direction I needed to go in. She has always been my motivator and calmed me down when I would be anxious before any exam. She would always remind me that I shouldn’t stress, I’ll be fine. I went to her for all my problems. She was always the voice of reason and her advice, and the way that she lived has been inspirational and has made me who I am today. Because I was so quiet while growing up, she would always be that one person who would tell me to take up more space. “Speak louder, I can’t hear you”, she’d say, and that would always motivate me. When I would ask her if I should participate in activities that were out of my comfort zone, like running for president of Fashion Club in high school, she would give me the confidence to do it. Today I am able to talk in a crowd, raise my hand to share my ideas, and take leadership roles because of her.
Because of these women, I finally grew out of my shell and broke free, I became more social, held the position of President in many clubs, and am much more confident with myself. If I could give advice to any young girl out there who feels different from the people around her it would my sister’s lesson to me- use your voice. Women try to make themselves smaller in these situations. We are told to stay timid, shy, and not talk. But it’s important to speak up and be loud. It’s important for the world to hear us. After all, what we need to say is important so why stay so quiet?