In Focus: Aaqil Ali
Tell us about your background and what led you to be interested in the field of health.
One of my favorite quotes that I once read is, “The worth of a man lies in his ability to extend beyond himself, to go outside himself, to exist in and for other people.” The reason why I find this to be a noteworthy quote is because it sums up the type of person I strive to be. Throughout middle school and high school, I always had an innate attraction to helping others, usually through community service. While I was always interested in liberal arts classes throughout high school, science was a bit more interesting, and I knew I wanted to tie this into my professional career. After traveling to a third world country and actually witnessing first hand poverty and disease stricken children, mothers and fathers, I realized that something as simple as one’s health can be very complicated at times. That experience contributed to my realization that I wanted to help others achieve a life that is both healthy and happy.
What made you choose Hofstra University's B.S. in Health Science?
One of the most important reasons why I chose a B.S. in Health Science as my major was because of the broad range of professions it lends itself to. At the time, I was unsure of my profession; however, I knew a health science major would let me explore various options. Not only that, but I also found an interest in the interdisciplinary approach the program takes. While I do have a love for science, I still hold a great interest in liberal arts classes. A health science major allowed me to experience both rigorous science classes and explore liberal arts as well.
In addition, I felt that a department of faculty that was supportive, encouraging, and inspiring was important in my decision of a major. I found this to be evident after meeting with the Director of the Undergraduate Health Science Program, Dr. Israel Schwartz. His energetic exuberance of the field and what the program has to offer really solidified my decision.
Tell us about the work you do outside of the classroom. How do you handle being so involved?
Time management is essential. I knew coming into college that it would be academically demanding, however, I also wanted to step outside of the classroom and be involved, meet new peers, and experience all that is available (and there was a lot). Along with my Health Science classes, I am actively involved in undergraduate clubs that are part of the Department of Health Professions. I am a member of Hofstra Health and Wellness, Hofstra Rotaract, and Vice President of Eta Sigma Gamma Honor Society. Along with interning and holding an on campus job, I had the opportunity to be part of the Peer Teaching Program with Dr. Kyriacou (Associate Professor and Director of the MPH and Community Health program). One of my favorite sayings is, “when there is a will, there is a way,” which I try to follow when juggling multiple tasks, along with time management. At times it is overwhelming with taking five to six classes, however, the feeling of accomplishment at the end is worth it.
Have you found mentors in the Department of Health Professions?
The Department of Health Professions has truly been one that has provided guidance and encouragement. All of my professors in the department have been easily accessible and have provided support. The conversations I have had with many professors have been personal and helpful. Along with Dr. Schwartz, one of the mentors that I have found to be incredibly caring and kind is Dr. Corinne Kyriacou. I first met Dr. Kyriacou in her class on Health Care Reform. She made me think outside of the box and really exposed me to the different aspects of health care systems and the Affordable Care Act that I would never have been exposed to in any other class. Dr. Kyriacou has never stopped helping me and providing advice. Her passion and enthusiasm for public health is infectious. She has always made herself available to speak to and has made me view the world more analytically. In addition, Dr. Martine Hackett (Adjunct Assistant Professor) has also been a great mentor. She is very welcoming and always makes time to help even if I pop in outside of office hours. I have taken two classes with Dr. Hackett, both of which made me be more critical of the role of social determinants of health in achieving health equity. She has made me look at the broader picture of population health and has provided great insight into the real world.
What is your advice to prospective students looking for a degree in health?
The best advice I can give prospective students looking for a degree in health is to keep your mind open. I did and it led me to the discovery of health sciences and public health. Also, try new things even if it makes you feel uncomfortable at first. I would also encourage new students to try to make time to connect with fellow peers (I found many through the health clubs) and to take advantage of experiences outside of the classroom. Meet with professors during office hours to discuss class or life in general because you never know what you can learn out of a small interaction. Dr. Aleta Labiento, who is a club advisor for the health clubs, has really lent herself as a listening ear and has encouraged students to be active in many fundraising events on campus. My gratitude to many of the professors in this department is infinite.