As a student in the VCU Honors College Guaranteed Admission Program, Qasim Kazmi returned home, where he was met with a common request from his mother: Clean out your closet. In the process, he had a chilling revelation. As a third-grader, Qasim predicted his own future.
QWhat was it that you found?
A I discovered a book I made in the third grade. In it, I wrote “I will be a doctor.” When I found that, it really blew my mind, because I had no recollection of ever wanting to be a doctor until much later in life. I even identified my best quality as “helping people,” which is what my passion centers on and what drew me to VCU.
QWhat about VCU did you see as a good match for your desire to help others?
A I attended an Open House event and I was just amazed by the diversity of student opportunities and experiences, especially those that exist for pre-health students — volunteering and engaging with the community.
QWhere would you say your drive to help others comes from?
A When my family first came to the U.S., we didn’t have any health insurance. It was tough until my dad found a professional job in his field of electrical engineering. Then, in high school, I started volunteering at a free clinic. It was a really neat privilege to go from being uninsured to serving the uninsured. Throughout college, I’ve just continued to serve that passion to help the disadvantaged and just to engage the community.
QHow did that translate into your goal of becoming a doctor?
A Seeing things in action at the free clinic and realizing the power in donating just a few hours of time — that was such a moving experience for me. Realizing the incredible potential that physicians have for affecting change and making a positive mark on people’s lives really inspired and attracted me.
QHow has a living-learning environment impacted your college experience and your goals?
A This program surrounded me with like-minded individuals who are really passionate. You learn to feed off of one another’s goals and motivation. I think that contributed to my idea for creating an organization that brings pre-health students together and focuses them on community service. My professors pressed me to make that dream a reality. They helped me to realize that my idea wasn't beyond reach — that it was truly possible. So I founded Emerging Healthcare Leaders.
QHow does Emerging Healthcare Leaders fit in with your passion for serving the community?
A We help to unite all pre-health professional students around a focus on service. The goal is to unite people across the country through monthly themes. So, one month the theme might be diabetes; another we’ll do professional development. But most everything we do centers on service. Imagine the impact that thousands of students — all focused on one issue or one charity organization — can do. The boundaries are limitless. There is so much we can accomplish and so much positive change that we can achieve. In the past year, we raised close to $10,000 for charitable donations, have about 1,000 students on our Listserv just at VCU and are spreading nationally.
QI understand that in 2012 you garnered attention from the university for your efforts?
A Yes, we did. In academic year 2012-13, Usman Chaudry and I received one of VCU’s Quest Innovation Fund grants for our project: Emerging Healthcare Leaders on a National Level. We were the only student recipients selected from among more than 100 applicants, which included students, faculty and staff. The fund supports innovative pilot initiatives throughout the university.
Kazmi was accepted into the VCU School of Medicine in 2013, bringing him one step closer to his childhood vision of becoming a medical doctor.