ASU honors student driven by desire for health care equality

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Growing up in Phoenix, watching her older brother devour anatomy books made a big impact on Iman Bouanani. So did his diabetes diagnosis.

“The cost of insulin — which is vital, he can’t live without it — is really high,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way.”

Bouanani, who is graduating this December from ASU’s College of Health Solutions with a bachelor’s degree in medical studies, is determined to effect change in the U.S. health care system so that everyone has access to affordable, quality care. To that end, she’s currently applying to medical schools and is scheduled to take the MCAT in January. But getting this far was a journey that required her to first break out of her shell.

Having only attended school online before coming to ASU, simple things like speaking up in class and collaborating with her fellow students were initially a challenge for the New American University Scholarship recipient. But according to College of Health Solutions Lecturer Marjon Forouzeshyekta, who nominated Bouanani to be recognized as an exceptional student at the college’s convocation ceremony, it was one the Barrett, The Honors College student rose to with grace and determination.

While working on an independent project with Bouanani for her leadership and professionalism course, Forouzeshyekta had weekly Zoom meetings with her. “I immediately was able to see what a truly exceptionally bright and driven student she was,” Forouzeshyekta said. Despite working 4 a.m. shifts at Starbucks, Bouanani maintained an “immaculate performance” in class assignments and tests, as well as a positive attitude that rubbed off on other students.

“One of the barriers that Iman faced in life was her constant struggle with knowing how capable she is as a person,” Forouzeshyekta said. “Ever since she was young, she had the feeling that she was behind everyone else. This resulted in being uncomfortable speaking up and finding her voice. As the years went by, she knew changes needed to be made. She chose to push herself out of her comfort zone and opened up more. She began reaching out to learn more and even started a club that she is proud of today.”

The ASU student club, Inspire Change, aims to foster future leaders who inspire change in the communities around them. Bouanani also reached out to volunteer at hospitals in the Phoenix area and took part in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society.

“All around with my experiences, it just shows that you will never know how things are if you don't open up and try, and once you do, the outcomes will be seen,” Bouanani said.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to major in medical studies?

Answer: Ever since I was young, I wanted to go into medicine. I started out wanting to go into dentistry, then I switched to premed because I think there’s just a lot more that I can do there in terms of helping people who are in vulnerable situations. I’d also like to play a role in helping to change our current health care system for the better.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I’m a transfer student from South Mountain Community College, and before that, I went to online school most of my life, so I was hesitant to transition to a big university. Once I started reaching out to my professors, it got better. But that was something I had to learn: to kind of put myself out there and take advantage of the resources ASU offers.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU definitely has a lot of resources to help you succeed, which was something that I know I needed as a transfer student. I’m the type of student who freaks out when I don’t do well in class. So having those resources, from tutoring to professors' office hours — and things I didn’t even know ASU had, like therapy — was really important. Also, financially, it was the best decision.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Alexis Koskan was my thesis director this semester and she was my professor last year for my health communication class. A lot of what she taught me was to just never give up, work hard and always keep an open mind. And make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it with all your heart. Another professor I learned a lot from was Mrs. Marjon (Forouzeshyekta). She taught me a lot about being a leader. I did my honors project with her on the health disparities in our system that have gotten worse since the pandemic, and looking at ways to fix them. I learned that leadership is more than just being in charge and controlling people around you. It’s about collaboration and bringing your team together. Because without your team, you’re going to have a really tough time doing things by yourself.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Reach out. Utilize the resources you’re given. It’s really important to take care of yourself because college is a big thing, and you don’t want to mess it up. So utilize office hours if you need help. Or go to therapy sessions whenever you feel like you’re too stressed out. Especially during finals week!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The second story of the University Center on the Downtown (Phoenix) campus. I would utilize that space to study. Also, the library in the University Center. I like how it’s on the lowest level. It’s really cool, and it’s quiet, so that’s also a good place to study. I’ve also studied at the Starbucks across the street from University Center.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Hopefully medical school. I’m still applying, and I’m going to be taking the MCAT in January. I think I want to go into anesthesiology. I shadowed an anesthesiologist and it was a great experience. They do a lot more than just putting people to sleep.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: The health care system in the U.S. It’s been a big issue for a long time. And it’s something that upsets me because people don’t have access to a lot of basic things. There are definitely big disparities when it comes to quality of care and cost. My older brother was diagnosed with diabetes, and the cost of insulin — which is vital, he can’t live without it — is really high. It shouldn’t be that way. It gets me worked up because as a country, we talk about how it’s such a big issue, but then we spend our money elsewhere when we could be spending it to give people access to better quality care.