imaz-athar

Imaz Athar

Imaz Athar is a senior undergraduate student at the University of Pittsburgh, double majoring in Neuroscience and Sociology. He aspires to become a physician and plans on attending medical school in Fall 2017. Imaz fell in love with the art of writing at a young age and is currently the Publisher of Pitt's undergraduate-run science magazine The Pitt Pulse. When he's not writing or keeping up with classes, Imaz enjoys running, playing basketball, watching Empire, singing (in the shower), and listening to all kinds of music.

Choosing a Medical Speciality Based on Your Personality

When people ask me what I want to be when I grow up, I tell them I’m going to be a doctor. Then, I have a mini-existential crisis when I realize I’m 22 years old and almost a full-blown “grown-up.” Usually, after that, they ask me what kind of doctor I want to be. And then I have another crisis because I don’t really know what I’m going to specialize in. Sure, there are certain specialties that I’m drawn to. But, isn’t it too early to tell? And, how am I really supposed to know, considering there’s so many specialties to choose from?   I know, I know, there’s really no need for me to panic. It’s not until your third year of medical school that you actually start rotations, so there’s plenty of time to find the specialty that suits you. But, regardless, I’m still very fascinated by what speciality I’ll end up in, and I often day-dream about the types of illnesses I’ll be treating as a physician.   I’ve asked the doctors I shadowed about what drew them to their specific specialty. One of the answers that really stood out to me was that each speciality has a certain personality type—you’re often drawn to a specific speciality based on whether you possess its distinct personality.   It turns out many people use this personality-specialty match to figure out...

An Update on Healthcare Reform

In March, Republicans failed to repeal Obamacare and replace it with the American Health Care Act (AHCA). It was a troubling moment for a new Republican regime that, for years, had promised to repeal Obamacare.   The AHCA was a flawed bill. It attempted to appease varied conservative interests, but it ended up being a convoluted mess that only alienated hard-line and moderate Republicans. Far-right conservatives thought the bill was Obamacare-lite, while moderates were concerned the bill failed to protect the interests of both their lower-income and sicker constituents.   According to Politico, Republicans have come to a tentative agreement that would appease the conflicting interests of their party. The conservative Republicans have agreed to reinstate Obamacare’s Essential Health Benefits, which was stricken from the original AHCA. According to this provision, all health plans must provide health benefits such as mental health and addiction treatment, preventive services, ambulatory care, and more—all with no limit. This appeases moderate Republicans who were worried about their constituents, as the provision prevents insurers from providing bare-bones coverage. In exchange for this, moderate Republicans have agreed to permit states to opt out of Obamacare’s community rating provision—this means that insurance companies can charge higher premiums to individuals with pre-existing conditions. This is a win for fiscally conservative Republicans because it’ll theoretically lower health insurance prices, at least for healthy individuals.   The compromise does...

Benefits of MD/MPH programs

What is an MPH? While medical training emphasizes clinical skills to treat individual patients, training in public health allows students to study ways to improve community health. Students pursuing a masters in public health (MPH) degree gain knowledge about the various threats to population health and learn ways to promote health and prevent disease.   The MD/MPH dual degree has become quite popular, as over 80 medical schools currently offer it. Some medical schools allow their students to complete both MD and MPH degrees concurrently. Others offer their students a leave of absence between their third and fourth years of medical school to complete their MPH degree.   Although an MPH is useful, it costs a lot of money, like other degrees. And, you can explore public health without pursuing an MPH—for example, as an MD student, you can still certainly help out in a public health research lab, if you’re interested. That’s why, before deciding to pursue an MPH, you have to consider how an MPH will enrich your medical education and how you’ll use it in your career. Ultimately, you have to ask yourself: how will I benefit from pursuing an MPH?     Benefit: In-depth training in research methodology As I mentioned earlier, you can do public health research without pursuing an MPH. However, an MPH will provide you with the skills needed to create and...

6 Books For Future Doctors To Read

  “Anatomy of an Epidemic: Magic Bullets, Psychiatric Drugs, and the Astonishing Rise of Mental Illness in America” by Robert Whitaker (Image of Cover) Although the U.S. has made advances in psychiatric treatments, the number of disabled mentally ill has tripled over the past twenty years. In “Anatomy of an Epidemic,” Robert Whitaker tries to make sense of this paradox. Using scientific evidence as his tool, Whitaker provides a surgical analysis of the problem….and the results will shock you. By tracing the history of psychiatric treatments, Whitaker questions our current biological understanding of psychiatric disorders, and posits that the long-term effects of psychiatric drugs may actually be doing more harm than good—worsening the prognosis of the mentally ill.   “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” by Oliver Sacks (Image of Cover) Oliver Sacks was a prolific writer, authoring fifteen books. “The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat” may be his best. Sacks, a neurologist, illustrates the art of medicine using vignettes of his clinical experiences with patients, as well as references from your favorite philosophers. Not only does Sacks humanize his patients, but he also reflects on their neurological afflictions to answer questions on memory, consciousness and, ultimately, what it means to be human.   “America’s Bitter Pill: Money, Politics, Backroom Deals, and the Fight to Fix Our Broken Healthcare System” by Steven Brill ...

Q+A: Dr. Farha Abbasi Talks Muslim Mental Health and Cultural Psychiatry

As Islamophobia has become almost ingrained in our society’s consciousness, many Muslim-Americans have encountered prejudice. Widespread discrimination has negatively impacted the mental health of Muslims, increasing the risk of common mental disorders. Yet, in an environment where both Islam and mental illness are heavily stigmatized, many Muslims are reluctant to access much-needed health care.   Dr. Farha Abbasi—an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Michigan State University (MSU) and staff psychiatrist at MSU’s Olin Health Center for students—has recognized this unique challenge. After being awarded the American Psychiatric Association SAMSHA Minority Fellowship in 2009, Abbasi established the Muslim Mental Health Conference which raises awareness on mental health in the Muslim-American community—the 9th annual conference will be held this April 13-14. Abbasi, who also serves as the managing editor for the Journal of Muslim Mental Health, uses cultural psychiatry to teach medical students how to provide culturally aware care to Muslim patients. She also works directly with the Muslim American community to create a better understanding of mental illness.   I spoke with Abbasi about Muslim mental health, stigma, and the value of cultural competence in mental health care.   Q: In your experiences, what specific mental health issues have you seen in the Muslim population? A: If you separate from what’s happening right now with Islamophobia, or the impact of immigration, or the wars, or the refugee situation,...

Pros and Cons of the American Health Care Act

The Republican establishment has longed to repeal Obamacare basically since it became law in 2009. Conservative politicians have centered their campaigns around repealing the health care law, while President Donald Trump promised to get rid of “horrible” Obamacare during rallies.   Image: Source   On March 6, House Republicans revealed Obamacare’s potential replacement: The American Health Care Act (AHCA). The bill has quickly passed through three different house committees before many have had time to fully comprehend its implications. So, who benefits from this new bill and who doesn’t? Let’s list some pros and cons.   PROS – Repeals individual mandate Perhaps the most central (and most criticized) proposal of Obamacare is the individual mandate. This mandate requires all individuals to purchase health insurance. Although both Democrats and Republicans lauded the idea of an individual mandate when it was a part of Mitt Romney’s health care plan in Massachusetts, it quickly came under fire when proposed in Obamacare. Opponents described it as an unconstitutional attack on individual freedom—to them, no one should be forced to buy insurance. This criticism does make sense. For example, if you’re a healthy young person, you might not want to spend a lot of money on health insurance that you probably don’t really need. With that said, for these individuals who are passionate about their individual liberties, the AHCA’s repeal of the mandate is...

Psychotherapy Use is Declining: How Does That Make You Feel?

I shadowed a psychiatrist, Dr. D, about a year ago. I didn’t know how it was going to work. Trust between patient and psychiatrist seemed central to the whole practice of psychotherapy. I was worried that, even as a ‘shadow’ lurking in the corner, I would breach the insulated environment that likely required multiple sessions to create.     It turns out I didn’t have to worry about this because Dr. D was doing consults that day—which were far from intimate, compared to the psychotherapy sessions I expected to see. It involved us going from bed to bed, as Dr. D asked each patient with a history of psychiatric issues general questions about their mental health. As the day of consults went on, I started to wonder whether or not psychotherapy was as relevant as it used to be. Perhaps the image of a patient lying down on a couch and sharing their feelings with a note-taking psychiatrist was more outdated than I thought. Dr. D confirmed my suspicions. He explained to me that many of today’s psychiatrists do not utilize psychotherapy as a dominant form of treatment. Instead, in addition to performing consults, a modern psychiatrist relies more heavily on prescribing psychotropic medications like Zoloft, an antidepressant, or Chlorpromazine, an antipsychotic.   The numbers support the trend Dr. D described. According to a 2010 study in the American...

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