From The Tribune staff reports
TRUSSVILLE — Former Hewitt-Trussville High School student Syed “Sikandar” Raza has been awarded a scholarship to the UAB School of Medicine.
The 2020 Sara Crews Finley, M.D., Leadership Scholarship, which is presented annually to a student who has excelled in academics, service and leadership, provides full tuition for the third year of medical school and is renewable for the fourth year.
Due to complications surrounding COVID-19, Raza accepted the scholarship via Zoom on Aug. 11.
“This year’s selection process was a bit unusual, since COVID-19 limitations required us to meet and interview our finalists on Zoom,” said Sara J. Finley, daughter of Sara Crews Finley, M.D., and Wayne H. Finley, M.D., Ph.D. “One thing remained constant, however: We had outstanding candidates apply and interview for the scholarship.
“Sikandar has such an extraordinary life story, time and again overcoming obstacles on his path to becoming a physician,” she continued. “He has an exemplary record of leadership, community service and academic achievement, and an extraordinary dual passion for surgery and health equity. We are proud to welcome Sikandar to our community of Sara C. Finley, M.D. Leadership Scholarship recipients.”
Raza was recognized as Hewitt-Trussville’s valedictorian in 2014 before attending Vanderbilt University. He was born and raised in Lahore, Pakistan and moved to Trussville with his family in 2010. The transition was not always easy.
“My time in high school was anything but straightforward, not only due to the cultural barriers but also being one of the few Muslim students in a school of about 1,500,” said Raza. “Naturally, this put an unwanted spotlight on me and I received hurtful remarks and actions from my peers. However, amongst these moments, I found mentorship and support from my teachers, and great friends who looked past differences and accepted me as a person.”
The Hewitt-Trussville graduate says he became interested in medicine at an early age.
“My interest originated when I was growing up in Pakistan during the war on terror, when civilian life was in turmoil,” he said. “In those moments of violence and chaos, physicians were the ones the community looked to to take care of a society that was hurting. Since then, I valued physicians as heroes and role models who have the power to shape communities, and this initial impression is the basis of why I pursued medicine and how I want to practice medicine.”
Raza says he has been inspired by Dr. Finley’s accomplishments.
“Her life has been characterized by a lot of firsts, something I could relate to when I received my white coat as a first-generation immigrant and the first person in my family to go to medical school here in the U.S.,” said Raza. “Rather than letting my background and experiences limit or define me, I used them as motivation to excel in whatever I did and serve the community that has offered me support and mentorship throughout.”