May 20, 2019—When Aisha Elfasi, M.D., ’19, walked across the stage during the class of 2019 commencement ceremony on May 18, she closed one chapter of her life only to embark upon a new adventure. In a few short weeks, she will begin a neurology residency at the UF College of Medicine, bringing her one step closer to achieving her dreams of becoming a clinician-scientist.
Looking back over the last four years, Elfasi believes that the support she received from the Jeanne A. Glenn Scholarship Fund kept her feeling motivated and hopeful throughout the oftentimes stressful days of medical school.
“I am very grateful, honored and humbled to be chosen as a recipient of the Jeanne A. Glenn Scholarship,” Elfasi says. “Through the support and generosity of the donors, I felt recognized for my efforts and supported in my ambition of becoming a physician and helping people receive the medical care they need. The generosity of the donors demonstrates their dedication to the community and their support of learning, service and well-being.”
Elfasi’s passion for becoming a clinician-scientist who balances time in the lab with direct patient contact was realized as a first-year student in the Medical Student Research Program. While working in the lab of Peter B. Kang, M.D., chief of the UF division of pediatric neurology, she was inspired by the way Kang’s career encompassed both basic science research in the lab and patient care at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. Elfasi saw a similar career path for herself.
“Dr. Kang’s career gave me a model of something I could emulate for my own future,” Elfasi says. “His research and clinical skills are inspiring. To see those two worlds bridged together so seamlessly, and to be mentored by him, was amazing. He’s a true clinician-scientist.”
Elfasi says she’s excited to remain at her alma mater for her residency training for the many opportunities offered to explore the type of physician she wants to become.
“On the interview trail, I realized UF does it like no one else. The emphasis is on making a well-rounded physician who can practice in all types of settings,” she says. “Just within the neurology residency program, there are different tracks you can take to become the specific type of physician you want to become, whether that’s a leader and advocate, a researcher or an educator. Whatever you want to do after residency, UF has a program for that so that you can set yourself apart from the rest.”
Despite all the techniques for research and clinical care she’s learned over the last four years from mentors like Michael Okun, M.D. ‘96, Teddy Youn, M.D., and Miguel Chuquilin, M.D., the best advice Elfasi has for those starting their medical training is the opposite of technical.
“Enjoy the day-to-day and one-on-one experiences you have as a medical student, whether it’s with our world-class faculty, dedicated residents or gracious patients. Savor that time. It’s what makes a difference in the type of physician you become, not test scores or numbers,” Elfasi says. “UF shapes you from the ground up to become fully fledged physicians.”
When she looks forward to her future career as a clinician-scientist, Elfasi’s sure of the impact she aims to leave on both her patients and in the lab.
“I’d like my patients to know I’m there for them in understanding their disease process and navigating the clinical terrain. That can be daunting for someone newly diagnosed,” she says. “I would love to look at basic science, to be involved in the intersection of clinical translational research and to work in drug discovery and development. No matter what I do, I want to make a difference for our patients and their families.”