Watch CBS News

Philadelphia college student hopes to pave the way for more Afghan women to join the medical field

PCOM medical student hopes to help more Afghan women join the field
PCOM medical student hopes to help more Afghan women join the field 02:07

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- When Alaha Abdul Faruq isn't at the library or at a lecture, she's finding time to help Afghan women and their children adapt to life in Philadelphia.

"Women will come over and tell you, 'Thank you so much for having this. We are all alone in Philadelphia. Most of our family is in Afghanistan, but coming here we weren't able to feel that separation and that loneliness.' And that just makes everything worth it," Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine student Abdul Faruq said. 

She and others started the group Afghans of Philadelphia x Sola in 2021 to help families who were fleeing from the Taliban.

Her own family also left Afghanistan shortly after she was born more than 20 years ago in search of more opportunities.

"Being a woman was very difficult there," Abdul Faruq said. "There're certain areas where they can't even go outside alone without a male chaperone. They can't go to school, get a higher education. So, I, their first child, was born and I was a girl so I feel like it was that extra push for them to get out in order to speak a better future."

Her family eventually found their new home in Northeast Philly.

"Coming to Philadelphia, which is known as the City of Brotherly Love, it's like a great combination between Afghans and Philadelphia because we're both so hospitable and there's just so much love and diversity here," Abdul Faruq said.

Now the 26-year-old is a first-year medical student at PCOM. 

"Not only are there not a lot of Afghans represented overall in the community, but there's even less in medicine and there's even less female Afghans in medicine as well," Abdul Faruq said. "Just being part of that group, I feel like it's a way to inspire others as well."

She hopes to do that through her role as co-president of the American Medical Women's Association on campus.

Each accomplishment is a reminder to her family that she will always remember where she came from.

"If I can at least change one person's perspective on what Afghanistan is and who the people are from there and their culture, then I feel like I've done a tremendous job because there is just so much more to our culture," Abdul Faruq said.

Once Abdul Faruq is done with medical school, she hopes to go back to Afghanistan and open up a clinic there to provide healthcare to communities.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.