We have featured many of our alumni on our web page. Publishing this quarter’s Featured Alumnus gives me great pleasure because it is our first female alumnus. Uzma Iqbal is a graduate of the class of 1996 and is a cardiologist in Syracuse, NY. I had to make some difficult choices in regards to what questions to ask her, but it turns out I should not have worried. She has answered with the level of grace that I am accustomed to when it comes to Uzma. I hope our alumni find her perspective as informative and inspiring as I have.
If you would like to nominate someone as a Featured Alumnus, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Faisal G. Qureshi
Give me a quick summary of what you do exactly?
I am a non-invasive cardiologist in private practice for the past 10 years. I am also the President of the Syracuse American Heart Association / American Stroke Association (AHA/ASA). My passion is the AHA’s Go Red Campaign to raise awareness among women about heart disease. I spend a lot of time in the community speaking to women’s groups as well as speaking about this topic in the media. I am also always on the lookout for leaders in the community who share the same passion and can help educate the public about heart disease symptoms and prevention. I am also helping to organize a women physician network for Syracuse.
What aspects of your education in AKU helped you the most in deciding your future trajectory?
Community Health Sciences was by far the biggest influence on my choice of career and my interest in increasing community awareness. One has to get to know one’s community to be able to bring any kind of change.
What started you in cardiology?
I got married during my third year of medical school and moved to the U.S. right after graduation. While studying for the USMLEs, I started working on research projects with an AKU alumna, Dr. Momina Mastoor, who was completing her cardiology fellowship at the Washington Hospital Center. Dr Mastoor introduced me to Dr. Joseph Lindsey, Chair of Cardiology at WHC, who took me under his wing and convinced me to pursue a fellowship. Dr. Lindsay became my mentor and I still seek his advice to this day.
What type of community work do you participate in? What about national work in cardiology?
When I first moved to the Syracuse area, there were very few female cardiologists in the area. I quickly realized that heart disease among women is where I wanted to focus, and if I was going to make a difference, I had to be more connected to the community. Shortly after I moved to the Syracuse area, I started talking to small groups of women in the community. I would basically accept any invitation to talk as long as there were people who would listen. It was at one of these volunteer talks that I was noticed by the local AHA/ASA staff. They asked me to join their board and later asked me to be the President.
Over the past three years, our organization has had a significant impact on improving community and strengthening the financial stability of the local chapter. The Syracuse AHA has become a community leader in year-round education and awareness campaigns relating to women and heart disease, the value of workplace wellness activities, and the instruction of Hands-Only CPR. The board also has a strong voice in New York State advocacy, helping the state pass the Pulse-Ox Bill and the Hands-Only CPR Bill. The first now requires all newborns to receive a non-invasive test at birth which can help identify predisposition for heart disease. The second calls for the State Board of Regents to require Hands-Only CPR as a high-school graduation requirement. Fiscally, the Syracuse Board has recruited community leaders to helm the two major fundraising campaigns – Go Red for Women and Heart Walk, and these campaigns have had steady four-year growth as a result of these efforts. My proudest moment was when the Syracuse AHA/ASA Board was recognized as a Gold Level Board by the National American Heart Association.
What advice would you give young graduates from AKU and especially our better halves in choosing and maintaining careers?
You have to do what makes you happy and excited. You have to embrace change because in Medicine everything keeps changing from the treatments you prescribe to the way we are allowed to practice. If you resist change, there tends to be a lot of frustration which leads to physician burnout.
How do you balance your home life and career? Is it harder or easier to have a spouse who is not in healthcare?
I learned early on that one can’t have everything. If you really want to have some balance, it is important to have a good support system at home – whether it’s your spouse, household help, family, neighbors or friends. You cannot advance in your career, and be a perfect housewife, mother, friend, cook etc. As a woman, it’s even more difficult because we have more responsibilities early on in our careers with bearing and raising children. I feel lucky that my husband is a self-employed businessman and can adjust his schedule so that we can share the responsibilities of raising our children.
Do you think that this balance changes as female graduates start residency, then become faculty and then have older kids?
Absolutely. Each stage has its own challenges and hence the advice to embrace change. We as AKU grads start out coming to a new country with big dreams. Being a woman poses different issues to be addressed, starting with when to have kids, how to find a job that would allow enough time for the kids, and how to move your career forward when your kids are still small. You have to take each stage and face the challenges it poses. I think what really helps is to be able to talk to people with similar experiences and thankfully we have enough AKU graduates in every field that would be more than happy to help out.
What advice would you give our young graduates?
Do what you love. Find time to network as much as you can to find your niche. It helps to talk to people and share their experiences. Be open to all opportunities. Do dream big but start out small by creating your place in the community you belong to.
If an AKU grad wanted to get involved with your work, what should they do? How do they prepare and how can they reach you?
I would be pleased to help out anybody looking to work with the American Heart Association or in cardiology. They can reach me by email at .
What personal traits do you think have helped you succeed?
Finding my passion and being a good listener. The first one was the toughest for me but once I found my passion, the opportunities kept coming.
The AKUAANA website features an AKU alumnus every quarter. We want profiles to highlight various aspects of alumni careers/lives – academic and research, clinical, private practice, political achievements, social activism, philanthropy etc.
Profiles of other alumni highlighted on the website over the time can be viewed under the “Featured Alumni” category.
In order to nominate someone or self-nominate, email your nomination and information by email to .