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I graduated yesterday…

Posted by on Thursday, June 1, 2023 in Student Spotlight .

by Ayesha Muhammad (’23)

I graduated yesterday, with an MD and a PhD. It still feels surreal, but you know what’s crazy? While everyone persistently said it was a celebration of the graduates, there were some people who I wanted to recognize even more. Like the friends that I’ve made in the MSTP, medical school and PhD program, who allowed me to vent (whether the complaints were reasonable or not) and accompanied me on ice cream trips the days I felt like a failure. Who told me I could.

I wanted to celebrate my mentors, who read my emails (and responded) at all hours of the day (or night). Who guided me in the decisions I made (no matter how small), opened their homes (and hearts) to acknowledge my achievements and empathize with my failures, and were genuinely curious to know how I was doing, especially when I needed a check-in. Who told me I could.

I wanted to celebrate my departments and programs, who let me be loud and proud. Who, instead of judging or getting bored, nerded out with me when I lit up after hearing about poison exons, a new functional assay, or a pseudocholinesterase deficiency. Who celebrated my first patch clamp recording (an action potential of a cardiomyocyte), or a first-time (successful) IV placement. I wanted to celebrate them for everything science and medicine that they taught me or helped me achieve. Who told me I could.

I wanted to celebrate my lab(s), who treated me like an equal colleague, even before I deserved the recognition. Who made me feel like I belonged, even when I broke lab equipment. Who gave me Eidi, without knowing what it was, when I missed my family for Eid al-Fitr. Who laughed with me, never at me, when I accidentally erased my entire directory on the server, or added the wrong antibiotic to the culture medium (both more than once). Who told me I could.

I wanted to celebrate my family, who shared the frustrations and the joy, even when they couldn’t see me or hug me. Who made sacrifices, large and small (like when I missed a sister’s wedding), and ensured their support. Who told me I could, before I even knew what the could was.

And I wanted to celebrate my spouse, who made sure I was the limelight. Who held me through tears, which came out unexpectedly during sappy movies after days of buried frustration because of failed quizzes, inconclusive experiments, rejected proposals. Who brought me actual burritos to nourish me, when my mental state was that of a burrito instead. Who organized a milestone birthday remotely (during COVID). Who told me I could, over and over and over again.

It felt a little like taking credit for all the hard work of all these folks. These degrees are not mine, they are ours; in fact, they are yours. The word gratitude does not do justice to the debt I owe you. So today, I raise a toast to celebrate and cherish you, and acknowledge your efforts. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.