Class of 2012
Nasim Khadem ’08, MD ’12, makes her path to medicine sound both simple and inevitable. “I’ve always known that I wanted to be a doctor,” she says. “When I was growing up, I really loved my science classes, and as I grew older I realized that I just wanted to help people.”
For seamlessly intertwining her intellectual interests with her passion for serving the public, Khadem, who graduates this month from Weill Cornell Medical College, will receive a Doctor of Medicine with Honors in Service.
Helping others, especially the underprivileged, has always been in Khadem’s consciousness. In a paper titled “Closing the Gaps in Safety Net Healthcare: The Important Roles of Free Clinics,” she argued in favor of using doctors-in-training. “We still have a very troubled, uninsured population in America who need medical care, and there is a role that medical students can play to help address the gaps in healthcare,” she says.
Putting her insight to practice, Khadem volunteered more than 200 hours at the Weill Cornell Community Clinic (WCCC), a student-run clinic that provides free basic primary care services. “When I was in college, I volunteered at the Share Our Selves Medical Clinic, a free clinic for the indigent. I wanted to be able to continue doing this sort of work in medical school,” she explains.
At WCCC, Khadem served as a junior clinician during her first year, taking physical exams and medical histories. She quickly assumed more responsibility. In her second year, she volunteered for Heart-To-Heart—a medical outreach campaign that traveled to different boroughs, holding free medical screenings for blood pressure as well as glucose and lipid levels, while building awareness for the clinic’s services.
In the same year, Khadem became the clinic’s referrals coordinator, a position in which her main duty was to connect patients with networks of specialists providing services for free or on a sliding scale.
“A simple phone call and setting up this relationship between the clinic and the outside provider gave so much to these patients,” she says.
As referrals coordinator, Khadem expanded the clinic’s network to include an endocrinologist and a cardiologist. The patients appreciated having the access to specialists they would not have been able to see otherwise, she says.
Then, in her third year, she became session coordinator for the clinic—a position she held until her fourth and final year. Khadem was responsible for overseeing the full-day’s operation of the clinic (which was open only on Mondays), helping to develop the clinical skills of first- and second-year students, and making sure that patients were being seen, appropriate prescriptions were being written, and the proper lab tests were being done. She spent the rest of the week following up on patients, updating them on lab reports, and gently reminding them about their next appointments.
In addition to serving at the clinic, Khadem was also a dynamic member of different student groups, including the Medical Student Executive Council and the Institutional Self-Study Task Force (a group of administrators and students preparing the institution for national accreditation). Even though her volunteer activities and student-group involvement added more challenges to her already-demanding studies, she did not mind the busy schedule. “It was a big commitment, but it was definitely worth it,” Khadem says. “I feel like I am doing something really good for the community and that my education is really worth it.”
Apart from Khadem’s distinction in public service, she also excelled in research, especially in the field of radiology, which she sees as playing an integral part of any branch of medicine as well as being an ideal fit for her. “I’ve always been a very visual person. I like the idea of being able to visualize the disease process, diagnose it on the spot, and subsequently share that information with different types of doctors.”
Milestones of her research work include co-authoring the paper “Carbidopa/Levodopa Pharmacy Errors in Parkinson’s Disease” with Dr. Melissa Nirenberg, associate director of the Weill Cornell Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Institute and assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College. It was published in December 2010 in the journal Movement Disorders.
Another paper was co-authored with Dr. Andrei Holodny, professor of radiology at Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences, and his team at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Titled, “Characterizing Hypervascular and Hypovascular Metastases and Normal Bone Marrow of the Spine Using Dynamic Contrast-Enhanced MRI,” the paper will be published in November 2012 by the American Journal of Neuroradiology.
“I feel ready to become a doctor,” Khadem says. After Weill Cornell, she will spend a transitional year at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton, California, where she will be involved in a program for uninsured and low-income communities. A four-year residency in radiology at the University of Southern California will follow. Ultimately, Khadem would like to be an academic physician much like her Cornell mentors and role models.
Ties to Cornell run deep for Khadem, who graduated magna cum laude from the College of Arts and Sciences in 2008. She majored in biological sciences and earned a concentration in neurobiology and behavior.
As an undergraduate and medical student, Khadem was also a recipient of scholarships and recognitions, including the American Academy of Neurology Medical Student Scholarship and the Howard Hughes Research Scholarship. “I was able to build a really great foundation for the rest of my career,” she says of her undergraduate years. “Cornell definitely contributed to my goal of [becoming] an academic physician, mostly because all of my role models have been very supportive and intelligent, and they play such an active role in the community,” she says. “They’ve made me want to become one of them.”
When it was time for her to select a medical school, Khadem looked to Cornell’s medical college. “I didn’t feel ready to leave the Cornell family yet so I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to continue my medical training at Weill Cornell.”
As her time at Cornell draws to an end, Khadem aspires to lead, through teaching and research, in the field of radiology while continuing to tirelessly serve others. “I want to be able to inspire other people the way I’ve been inspired,” she says.