Student Spotlight: Bushra Khan (c2018)

The Student Spotlight is a glimpse into the lives of McMaster medical students through portraits and storytelling. The goal is to highlight the wonderful diversity of our student body

Bushra Khan (“Like a Bush plus a ‘ra’!”)
Photograph by Darwin Chan

Bushra Khan, a 24yr old Canadian-Pakistani from Ottawa

Enthusiastic and forever smiling, Bushra Khan is, unsurprisingly, our very first Student Spotlight. Bushra holds two undergraduate degrees in biomedical sciences (University of Ottawa) and in psychology (Carleton University).

These are a few of her favourite things

Hobby: Documentary watching
Book/Literature: The Great Gatsby
Movie: Inside Job (the documentary NOT the movie)
Song: Lovers in Japan by Coldplay
Character: Harry Potter ≥ Frodo Baggins

Shocking secret

Actually an introvert. Genuinely values and needs alone time to “recharge my battery”. Uses alone time to reflect, colour, write, read, watch, cook, and “revel in the feeling of just being alone with my thoughts.”


Bushra immigrated to Canada when she was 6 with her parents and two sisters “from war-torn Karachi in Pakistan”. The family struggled with “limited access to healthcare, finances and lived in issue-ridden housing”. Through life, it became clear to her that access to resource, education, and an understanding of the healthcare system were critical to the reduction of inter-generational poverty. And that was just the start of a number of experiences that would eventually lead to her joining us at the Michael DeGroote School of Medicine. Here are her thoughts:

On her family’s immigration

“Education has always been essential to Southeast Asian culture as a means to improve one’s life. I am especially blessed in that the educational opportunities available to me in Canada would be inconceivable for a young woman in Southeast Asia.

I choose to live my life with purpose every single day.

My parents made many difficult decisions in order to provide my sisters and me with the freedom to pursue any future we wanted. Immigration was especially difficult. They endured financial hardship, feelings of inadequacy and social isolation to ensure that my sisters and I never would. Striving to improve oneself regardless of circumstances and perseverance is the example that my parents put forth and that I carry with me throughout my life.”

On personal choice and societal pressures

“As a young woman of a visible minority who has made the life choice to wear a hijab, I have worked hard to prevent a lack of understanding, privilege, or access to resources from hindering my drive and my ability to achieve future goals. Early in my life, I chose to reject the societal pressures placed on women. I chose to live a life where I would make a pointed impact in the life of the people I met, communities I lived in, and career I practiced.

My lived experience reflects the decisions of that young girl in that I choose to live my life with purpose every single day.”

On the philosophy of education 

We must realize that rather than training for our future, our schooling is actually forming who we will be in the future.

“Most people believe that the task of university and life is to train us for our future careers; however, the work environment changes much more quickly than academia ever will. Education actually serves a purpose greater than a perfect GPA, great references, and an outstanding CV; the value of a good education is to create an individual who thinks critically and behaves responsibly. We must realize that rather than training for our future, our schooling is actually forming who we will be in the future. We must take advantage of the opportunities at our disposal to learn about ourselves, take as many chances as possible, and learn to not be afraid of failure.

During my undergraduate I selected projects to improve aspects of my character. This decision led to some very high quality experiences. I volunteered with a non-profit that improved access to education for low-income teenagers, I assisted high schoolers from across Canada develop their understanding of Canadian politics, and build leadership and traveled the world!”

Why medicine?

“Rather than pursuing higher education immediately, I decided to showcase my skills and pursued employment. I worked at a cutting edge healthcare research firm that used big data to improve health care outcomes in certain fields. I continued for a few years and although my work was satisfying, I knew I could be doing more. I chose to pursue medicine because I realized how powerful a tool of social justice it could be. As a student deriving from a marginalized background, I have a unique perspective to advocate for the needs and conditions of this population. Medicine afforded me the best opportunity to improve the lives of those with whom I share a similar past and advocate on their behalf through legitimate credentials and experience.

I aim to advocate for those who cannot be seen and cannot be heard.

I am in awe of how open and comfortable patients are to discuss their problems and concerns with their doctor. Even as a medical student, the ability to have someone trust you so much to have them tell you their deepest and darkest secrets is so riveting and life-changing for me.

I don’t think I will ever get use to it; however, I am honoured every single time a patient does this. As a doctor, my aim is to have my patients feel seen and heard when they seek counsel. After that, I aim to advocate for those who cannot be seen and cannot be heard.”

What she might have done if not medicine

  • Clinical Psychology

  • Chef

  • Derivatives trader

  • Vet

  • Book reviewer

  • Butcher

  • Baker

  • Candlestick maker

On idols and family

“It takes a village to raise a child and a community to attain success. I’m the outcome of many, manymany people believing, investing and entrusting in my ability and my future. 

The most kudos is reserved for my parents, who put everything they had ever worked for on the line and moved away from everything they had ever known. My parents did all of this in order to bestow to their three young daughters, an opportunity that most girls in this world are stripped of, an education.

And with that education, they gave their three young daughters, infinite possibilities”

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