From War-Torn Afghanistan to Medical School— Working for a Life of Service

Susan Sherali

In 2000, Susan Sherali remembers being 6 years old when she along with her parents and eight brothers and sisters fled their village in Afghanistan to a village they were told would be safer for their family. Her family along with the rest of the village found out it was not.
 
“That night, the Taliban came and took over the village and I remember the bullets flying across the sky at night and all the sounds,” Sherali said. “That next morning we had to escape and leave everything behind. My parents were panicking. There was a fear for your life. It's fear of the safety of your loved ones. And you have no control over it, but only escaping to get out. When you go through something like that at a young age, you won't forget the details. Until growing up, reflecting back on it, I now know the true magnitude of it. When I was a kid, I didn't know why we were leaving home, leaving everything behind and most importantly why we couldn't leave with my father.”
 
Sherali’s father knew in order to get his family to safety, he would have to stay behind. He made the difficult decision to put his family on a bus and told them he would catch up with them.  He would not be able to have contact with his family for six years.
 
From Afghanistan, the family first went to Pakistan where they were listed as refugees. Sherali’s mother and brothers and sisters were one of the first families who migrated to the United States because of the war in Afghanistan during the Taliban regime. They arrived in Amarillo, Texas, in May 2000 without knowing a word of English and no family or friends in the area. The family worked hard through the years. Sherali said seeing the opportunities offered in the U.S. led her to think of what she could contribute once she grew up.
 

Sherali receives her white coat

“Here, I can become anything I want,” Sherali said. “And seeing all this, I didn't want to waste it. I thought, ‘What can I do that no one can take away from me?’ In Afghanistan, you could be stripped of your job at any time. But a physician was still a physician because that's knowledge and power that nobody can take away from you. I saw my own father always offer medical care and help people in our community growing up.”
 
As she grew up in Texas, Sherali said her experiences helped build her character by teaching her perseverance. She would be a first-generation college student and attend Amarillo College and then later transferred to Texas Tech University where she earned her undergraduate degree in biology with a minor in chemistry and Arabic. Knowing she wanted to become a physician, she completed a master’s degree in molecular pathology at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) School of Health Professions. She knew she wanted to continue her education at the TTUHSC School of Medicine.
 
“TTUHSC School of Medicine was my top choice because of the people and the quality of education,” Sherali said. “Because I've been waiting so long for this point in my life, especially for a girl from Afghanistan, to get to this point of receiving my white coat for medical school, I'm deeply honored and so happy. But at the same time, I realize the magnitude of responsibility that also comes with it. It's a privilege and humbling to know that I am training to be a person that people are going to put all their trust in their most vulnerable time. I will work hard to be the best physician for the patient.”

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