An Emergency Room Doctor Who Lives His life Rooted in the Bonner Values to Make a Difference
Finding a Path that Satisfies the Ideological and the Practical to Embrace Social Justice for a Lifetime of Purpose
Staying motivated and connected to what matters most can be one of the hardest things to do in a busy life. With the need to be financially secure, independent, and pursue what matters in the long run, it can be overwhelming to remember why you care about something in the first place. Aakash Shah, an emergency room doctor at Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, has managed to find an area where he can fulfill his passions in an ideological and practical way. Aakash credits the values he learned in Bonner as a guiding lens to the work he does now.
How it All Started
The sacrifice of two hardworking, loving parents gave Aakash the foundation that would set him on his journey. His parents immigrated to the United States from India in the early to mid-80s with less than eighteen or nineteen dollars, and the phone number of a family friend. The family friend took them in. It wasn't long after that Aakash's mother was stocking shelves at the corner store, and his dad sweeping the subway platforms of New York. It was here that a huge decision would be made: the decision to stay in the United States for Aakash's future.
"I remember my five or six year old self coming home from school one day and running up to my dad to hand him my very first report card. He was sitting in his favorite chair. It was a folding chair, but it was his favorite. I handed him the small brown envelope, and he opened it and unfolded the single creased yellow paper. He scanned his eyes up and down. I forget whatever it said, but I think whatever I brought back was promising. I remember him breathing a sigh of relief and saying to my mom that they were going to stay because my future would be better here."
And so it began...
Aakash has not forgotten the sacrifice his parents made in their present for his future. After that fateful day, Aakash and his family would find themselves in New Jersey. Aakash selected Ursinus College in Pennsylvania for his undergraduate studies, which was where he first became connected to a newly forming Bonner Program. The values he gained in Bonner would inform his path to emergency medicine. When asked what makes his current position meaningful, Aakash replied,
“Going into emergency medicine resonated with me on both an ideological and practical level. Ideologically, emergency medicine allows you to work with an incredible cross-section of humanity. And, for better or for worse, when individuals fall through the cracks of our healthcare system, the emergency room is where they land. I knew that that was the population that I wanted to serve.”
On a practical level, “Emergency medicine also compartmentalizes well. You can spend half of your week in the emergency room helping patients clinically and the other half working on policy and nonprofit initiatives."
Aakash appears to have found his dream job doing exactly that, working as an emergency room doctor and serving as the Medical Director of New Jersey Reentry Corporation, a statewide nonprofit that helps the previously incarcerated reenter society.
Aakash is in his last year of medical residency at Robert Wood Johnson. Once he begins to work full time, he hopes to balance his professional life and personal life with his continued commitment to non-profit work.
To learn more about Aakash, check out the organization he currently works with:
Written by Kai Mangino, Bonner Leader at The College of New Jersey ‘19
Read Aakash's job profile here.
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