Introduction to my project!

Throughout this site, you can find stories, pictures (click the sidebar!), and thoughts that I’ve somehow wrangled into words or onto this blog (the latter with the help of Google). From August 2017-2018, I hope to focus on sharing moments and reports from my Watson year.

I was incredibly surprised to learn of my selection* and more or less, shell-shocked when I realized I would be traveling to places I could hardly imagine to study. I sincerely thank the Foundation for this opportunity, as well as the various individuals and communities that encouraged and sustained my application. To name a few: my family, Career Education, recommenders, professors, mentors, and, of course, my dear friends. I am indebted to many, from the professors who introduced me to the possibility of this intersection to past Watson fellow Aly Brody to my friends who provided me with unconditional support, love, and contacts. Of course, to my parents, I am inherently grateful for you two enabling me to pursue this opportunity. Alhamdulillah.

Without much further ado, here’s what I am researching:

Organ Donation across Religious Communities

As I wrote in the abstract of my application to the Foundation:

Organ donation is ever more critical throughout the world, but the role of religion has yet to be fully understood. While no faith or creed formally forbids organ donation from the living or deceased, there is a distinction between embodied theology and health-affecting behaviors. During my Watson year, I will use various faith-mapping and interfaith approaches to understand what happens when organs exchange across religious boundaries. In order to understand the conversations that occur, I will interview various stakeholders, from family members to nurses to religious leaders, and volunteer at relevant facilities. As a lifelong practitioner of faith, inquisitor, health scientist, and human being, I seek to understand how context influences religious decisions, how medical advances inspire practical faith, and how necessity impacts our theology and health.

What the day-to-day of my projects entails will unfold as I seek out conversations throughout various countries: Malaysia, Singapore, France, Germany, and/or UK. I have picked these countries because of: a) their religious diversity, b) present controversy around organ donation, and c) to my knowledge, the likelihood I could reasonably subsist.

Wherever I go, I do not intend to change anyone’s beliefs about theology, donor registration, or science during my year abroad. Rather, I hope to develop an understanding of how faith can affect a person’s health practices, even among atheists and nonspiritual scientists. As a (hopefully a future) doctor and researcher, I will face ethical questions about a variety of issues: prescriptions, trial enrollment, and organ donation. One virtue that remains constant in demanding my attention is the need to protect human dignity during a patient’s most vulnerable time. Illness is not merely a physical symptom, but a life experience that challenges identity. Further, I hope that the Watson fellowship enables me to do something good for my neighbors, near or far.

Organ donation across religious communities is a vehicle for the sort of understanding I seek.  It is subtle but longstanding manifestations of my interests: health and interfaith. The intersection of health and religion interweaves ethnic divides, nationalism, science, politics, and questions. I would like to probe that center for it verily synergizes my passions and discomforts. Though I imagine my Watson year will be chaotic and difficult in asking personal questions as an outsider, I feel best in genuine conversation.

Without much further ado:

FIRST STOP: THREE MONTHS IN MALAYSIA**

Capture

*If you’re applying to the Watson, feel free to send me an email with any questions you have, though Liz and Kate at Career Education will do a better job at answering your questions than me. I’ll promise to provide an applicant perspective 🙂

**For those who read my proposal, I originally planned to go to Kashmir and then Hyderabad, India. Due to concerns regarding my visa (the delay and likely denial, given my heritage (Pakistani) and recent, further deterioration between the two countries), I went with Plan B for now, which I had described in my proposal: Malaysia and Singapore. Another thing about the Watson year — I’m looking forward to embracing the calculated spontaneity.

***I’ll be updating the blog on a bi-weekly to monthly basis, but feel free to send me a message over email/Whatsapp (myUSnumber)/FacebookMessenger. I would love to hear how you’re doing!

Feature Image Credit

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