Loyola University Chicago

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing


Student Spotlight: Afshan Hussain

Student Spotlight: Afshan Hussain

"A Magic Formula"

She takes patient vital signs at a community clinic. She studies enzyme function in a biochemistry laboratory. She mobilizes relief projects for Syrian refugees. She supports a free clinic serving the uninsured. HSM junior, Afshan Hussain, has no empty minutes.

What drives her to do it all? Dial back to when Afshan was 12 years old. She attended a fundraiser for people disfigured by acid throwing, a particularly violent form of attack found in many parts of the world. Far from unsettled by the survivors she met, Afshan vowed to understand their trauma, know their experience, and help change their lives for the better. Social justice.

Social justice is a difficult concept to pin down yet Afshan seems to define it in her being. In her humble way, she acknowledges the privileges we take for granted. “Maybe it is healthcare, or a face unmarred by violence, or simply someone to talk to.” She wants only to make a difference for those without the privilege. 

And make a difference she has. Sometimes though the difference made is as much inward as outward. Afshan credits her volunteer experience at a senior living community with helping her learn how to approach challenge head on. Speaking of one 97-year old resident in particular, Afshan says “people will challenge you.” It’s how you handle it that makes a difference. She helped her resident come to terms with a female caretaker and never shied from his direct questions on her Muslim heritage. Speaking of success, Afshan says when you are challenged, you want it even more. “I was happy at the end of the day. It was a great experience”

Afshan is an HSM major on the pre-med track. Her sights are set on becoming a reconstructive plastic surgeon. Her heart is with the survivors of acid attack she met as an adolescent. Forever altered by their meeting. Afshan is a beautiful blend of humanism and science.

Any aspiring medical student knows the importance of resilience, and Afshan has shown hers in no uncertain terms. Afshan’s initial inquiries into a biochemistry research assistantship met with failure. The professor said he wanted scientists, not health systems managers. Afshan shrugged it off, kept going back to the professor, explaining what she could do and why she wanted to do it. He was resolute with his refusal, until one day simply giving up in the face of Afshan’s persistence. Much more than a lesson in resilience, Afshan found her love of research. Afshan described her immersion in the lab as the learning experience of a lifetime, and went on to earn a prestigious Provost Fellowship to continue her line of research.

“Open your eyes and connect.” Afshan’s advice is spot-on whether the goal is to someday be a plastic surgeon or a healthcare administrator. And with a true appreciation of holistic health, Afshan reminds fellow HSM students of the need for self-care. “You can’t get far without it.”

Afshan exudes confidence in her manner and presence. She is single-minded in her goal. “I do everything I do because I want to be a surgeon. I want to change lives. I want to boost the confidence of patients who are disfigured.” Afshan describes a “magic formula” that moves her closer to her goal: a combination of volunteerism, academics and discipline. “If you put these three things together, you are on your journey.” Afshan’s journey began as a chance meeting with the patients who would forever change her life, an incredible journey that will in turn change the lives of so many to come.