April 30, 2021 at 8:19 am

Class of 2021 | Suzy Aftabizadeh Wants to Continue Work on Women’s Healthcare in Puerto Rico

Suzy Aftabizadeh, portrait

Suzy Aftabizadeh

Suzy Aftabizadeh credits her faculty members, especially Dr. Betsy Partyka, for providing a positive pathway through the pandemic and encouraging her passion for her research on women’s healthcare in Puerto Rico.

Aftabizadeh pursued two majors at Ohio University, Spanish through the Honors Tutorial College and biological sciences through the College of Arts & Sciences.

Now she’s planning her next steps, including continuing her work in Puerto Rico and applying to medical school.

Q: What stands out in your mind as you think about graduating despite COVID?

A. I am extremely lucky to have a support system. My adviser, Dr. Partyka, in particular has helped me through the difficulties presented by the pandemic. Having friends and family that support you and your ambitions is a huge relief, especially when the world around you is constantly negative.

Q: What are your next steps/future plans?

A. I will be applying for a Fulbright scholarship to, hopefully, continue my research in women’s healthcare in Puerto Rico. I also will be applying to medical school, where I’d like to study gynecology.

Q: Who were your favorite professors and how did they make an impact on your life?

A. Dr. Partyka, my Spanish adviser, has been most impactful during my undergraduate career. We have spent a lot of time together in tutorials and working on my thesis, and her ambition and energy helped motivate me through the years. She is a funny and kind person that continually encourages me to work hard and passionately. It’s all thanks to her!

Dr. Nancy Stevens, one of the first professors I ever worked with, gave me the opportunity to volunteer, and eventually work, in her lab as a high school student. I loved the research, but most especially the community that Dr. Stevens created amongst her students and colleagues. Her kindness and passion for learning anything and everything inspired me to keep my mind open and to always be looking for opportunities to grow!

Dr. Bekka Brodie was also a professor that I worked with and who greatly influenced my perspective on research and academia. She made me feel respected and valued in the class, and taught me that I (sort of) like to teach!

Q: What was your ah-ha moment at OHIO—that point where you said to yourself, “I’ve got this!”?

A. Once I finally decided on the topic for my thesis, women’s healthcare in Puerto Rico, I felt more excited and inspired to be in school than I ever have before. I am lucky to have found passion in my research and to be able to apply it to my future goals.

Q:  What was the hardest hill you had to climb (not counting Jeff Hill) at OHIO? And how did you overcome challenges or obstacles in your path?

A. Perhaps the hill next to Morton – hah! The most difficult part of being in university is feeling overwhelmed and alone, which is especially acute during a pandemic. I think overcoming negative feelings and mentalities was the most difficult part of being a student for me, because I often do not prioritize my mental health. I think it’s important to pace yourself, to study topics you are passionate about, and to be as involved as you can in the community. Being a member of different organizations helped me connect with people inside and outside of my majors, which gave me a larger sense of community than I did as a freshman.

Q: What are your favorite OHIO memories?

A. Being active in my community has always given me special memories. Working in a lab with other students and professors is a unique experience that I would recommend to anyone. Teaching in elementary schools was also an experience that I found deeply meaningful, although I didn’t expect to enjoy it initially. I was an undergraduate assistant in a biology lab and am president of an honors society (Sigma Delta Pi). Being part of these organizations and small communities has helped me form wonderful and lasting memories at OU.

Q: What’s the one thing you would tell a new OHIO student not to miss? 

A. Be active! Join clubs, groups, teams, societies, etc. that have to do with your interests, and not just academic interests! Diversify your community by meeting new people and by being open to different ideas or customs!

As president of Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honors Society, I have been given many opportunities to advance myself both academically and socially. As the coordinator of most of our activities, I have gained organizational and leadership skills. My position also requires me to attend every event, as well as speaking and even hosting the event, so I have gained communication skills. I have been able to acquaint myself with more of our members, as I initiate each member in a ceremony as old as our society (101!). As the pandemic has forced us online, our chapter has provided weekly virtual events for our members and the community at large! As president of our chapter, I will be presenting this summer at a Spanish and Portuguese language conference where I will discuss our “best virtual practices” during the past year. We are very proud of our activity and of the honors status we have maintained for the past three years.

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