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Rushd-o-Hidayat se Rushda: Finding the Right Path

LedBy Interview Rushda Patel, an alum who is in in the final year of her undergraduate study in Pharmacy. She is currently pursuing an internship at IIT Bombay’s Proteomics Lab and joining Cognizant as a Drug Safety Officer. She also won the DigiEdu Hackathon EIT Health Spain challenge in 2020.

Q. Could you tell us about yourself?

My grandfather always explained my name as ‘Rushd-o Hidayat se Rushda,’ a person who guides you to the right path. I am a person with many interests and passions that range from studying pharma to pro-bono tutoring. I am someone who many would describe as a versatile, resilient, and solution-oriented person who loves having conversations. I aspire to empower people by fostering their potential to become change-makers in their own right.

Q. Do you have any role models?

My parents were progressive, which has impacted the person that I am today. While society preached subservience, I was encouraged to dream, aspire, and be independent.

Growing up, I had three talented and ambitious individuals who are my sisters. My eldest sister is currently a scientist at the DKFZ Cancer Research Centre in Germany; the other is a healthcare technology professional, and the youngest is pursuing a BSc. Economics. I am very grateful to be raised in a family that has provided me with such a strong sense of agency. They have been my biggest cheerleaders and critics when needed.

I don’t particularly believe in the concept of role models. I firmly believe that we imbibe some admirable qualities of the people close to us and end up being an amalgamation. I credit my gratitude from my mother and unwavering faith from my father.

Q. Did you face any struggles growing up?

I’ve led a very comfortable life so far and haven’t faced any severe struggles. For a significant part of my childhood, I struggled to find a voice and feel empowered enough to use it when I wanted to, outside the confines of my home. As a child, I had a ‘speech disability’ that made me stammer frequently and discouraged me from taking part in in-class activities or making friends as I was afraid of being laughed at.

I can still recall my first stint with public speaking at the age of eight, where I froze in front of the microphone for 30 seconds only to say a short sentence. For many years after that incident, I struggled with any form of public speaking. I did not participate in any event until I reached VIIIth grade when my teacher Mrs. E Dias encouraged me to join the debate club in school. I’ve never looked back since then.

Now, I don’t hesitate to put forth my opinion even in the presence of a large audience. The transition only took place because I found myself thriving in school. At the age of six, I was put into a particular class in school for children with learning disabilities.

My mother made me believe that it was a class for special children, which boosted my morale. I flourished in this class as I received one on one attention. It is why I believe you can’t judge a child’s future or make decisions for them based on their performance in school. I think safe spaces like these in school can help children with learning or speech disabilities in their formative years.

Q. What inspired you to pursue a degree in pharmacy?

My eldest sister, Areeba, has played an instrumental role in my professional choices. When we were young, she would demonstrate little experiments at home, and my love for science stemmed from the sessions she took. When I was in high school, I started enjoying biology. There were many conversations around diseases, hospitals, and medicines. We also watched a show called ‘House MD’ which intrigued me to choose pharmacy as a profession.

Q. How has been your experience with hackathons?

During the pandemic, I found a new favorite - ‘Hackathons.’ I took part in three international hackathons conducted by organizations like the European Institute of Technology Health (Spain), SwissNex, University of Edinburgh, and I am currently participating in a hackathon for rare diseases. My team emerged as the winner of DigiEduHack EIT Health Spain’s challenge 2020, which used data to transform health systems into learning organizations. The solution we proposed was 'to utilize blockchain in healthcare services to maintain and share medical data.'

Q. How was your LedBy Fellowship experience, and what interested you the most?

LedBy was the best thing that happened to me in 2020. It gave me the platform to express, experience, empower and excel. People make places, and I believe what makes LedBy so special is the co-fellows, mentors, and the team. LedBy honed my storytelling skills, and these skills have been very beneficial for me. I learned how to negotiate effectively, pitch-perfectly and realized that storytelling is the most potent form of communication.

I put my learnings of storytelling from the HubDot sessions into practice for my team’s winning pitch at the DigiEduHack EIT Health Spain challenge and make the audience understand the need for the solution I was proposing effective way known- by narrating a story. LedBy also allowed me to work towards causes I wanted to champion and has given me my tribe, who I can count on for any help.

Q. What are your plans for the future?

Through future initiatives, I endeavor to empower and not perpetuate a system of dependency based on charitable donations, which I realized growing up. ‘You give a man a fish you feed him for one day, you teach a man to fish, and you feed him for life’- this revelation helped shaped my perspective. I've witnessed how a single, educated, ambitious individual creates long-lasting ripples of change in their community. By fostering the potential of those who lack resources, I hope to empower them and create a long-lasting, sustainable change.

Q. What is one message that you would like to give to the community?

The Holy Quran starts with the word 'Iqra,' which means ‘read’ and I believe it's essential that we give utmost importance to education. The Indian Muslim community needs to forgo gender discrimination and ensure that girls and boys are given the education they deserve. As a community, it's about time we shatter the metaphoric glass ceiling that we've limited ourselves within. I dream of a time where people from our community's grassroots level get a platform where they can learn, earn, and most importantly, 'be heard.'


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