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"I’ve always been around poverty,” says ASU senior Maisoon Chowdhury. “My parents grew up in Bangladesh so my family travels back and forth a lot. It was a culture shock at first to see how people live their lives.”
Now a biochemistry major and a nonprofit administration minor, Chowdhury first came to ASU on an exploratory track with the help of a Parents Association Scholarship. After stints in global health and global studies majors, Chowdhury finally found her passion for optometry.
“I knew I wanted to do something in the sciences, but I don’t just want to “fix” someone. I want to give someone opportunities. If I can give a poor child eyesight, now they can become a school teacher or a doctor,” she says.
While at ASU, Chowdhury resurrected the pre-optometry club on campus that provides information and volunteer opportunities to other students interested in the field. She also is a peer mentor and a member of Devils Advocates, a group that gives campus tours to prospective students and their families all year round. Chowdhury also donates her time as a Health Devil, an organization that mentors pre-health students.
In the summer of 2010, she volunteered with the International Center for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh, a trip that found her working on a slum-based nutrition project. The group worked to educate pregnant women on the proper diet they should be consuming for the sake of their health as well their child. Chowdhury notes that this work is especially important in Bangledesh because the economic struggle means these women may not have the knowledge or resources to have a prior understanding of these concepts.
That summer she also donated her time working with a health and blind nonprofit care facility where her grandfather works. Through this organization, she had the opportunity to shadow an ophthalmologist and stand in on cataract surgeries, which she calls a “phenomenal experience.”
“We worked with a 16-year-old boy who didn’t have any eyesight, and that is not really normal for someone his age. After he had his cataracts removed he could see perfectly. He started crying and was so happy and appreciative,” Chowdhury says with a smile.
Chowdhury’s ultimate goal is to run her own nonprofit optometry practice. But before she accomplishes this dream, she knows that there are many life lessons and goals that she wants to achieve first. And that all starts when she walks the stage at Sun Devil Stadium and has her degree conferred.
Upon graduation in May, Chowdhury will be visiting Honduras with Global Medical Brigades for two weeks. The nonprofit organization will spend time educating the population on medical and public health issues. The team also will build a much needed eco-stove and a latrine.
In June she will take the United States Foreign Service Exam for the chance to work in the U.S. State Department, carrying out foreign policy abroad. For Chowdhury, the position would be a good opportunity to combine her love for international relations and making interpersonal relationships with those of diverse cultures and backgrounds.
"I love learning about people," she says. "You could meet someone off the street and by talking to them for a just a second, gain a new perspective on their life, your life and maybe even the world. For me it is all about human connections."