For pre-med student Ferheen Abbasi, the fight against cancer is passionate and personal. Her mom, Nasrin Abbasi, is an ovarian cancer survivor and her grandmother died of late-diagnosed, stage-4 ovarian cancer while only in her 50s.
At the American Cancer Society Relay for Life in Santa Clara last April, Abbasi explained that she wants women like her mom and late grandmother, both born in India, to receive the timely diagnosis of cancer and treatment that could save their lives.
Her mom survived because cancer was diagnosed early. Her grandmother, who lived with her family, had no health insurance. She was in pain but didn’t want to be seen by a male doctor.
“I’m angry that my grandmother had such pain down there, and she felt it was shameful to talk about it,” said Abbasi, who grew up in Santa Clara and is a 2010 Wilcox High School graduate.
“It was tragic and frustrating. Ovarian cancer is a silent cancer. If you’re not going to an OB-GYN regularly, you’re not getting checked,” said Abbasi. “Reproductive help for women is really important to me.”
Abbasi is thankful for the internet and that she can Google so many things.
“I can get over the embarrassment factor by using the internet. My grandmother wasn’t tech savvy,” said Abbasi.
“One of my driving reasons for becoming a doctor is that I don’t want what happened to my grandmother to happen to anyone else,” said Abbasi. “A lot of women can be shamed by their culture and ashamed — not allowed — to talk freely about personal things like their menstrual cycle.”
Abbasi, now studying to take the Medical College Admission Test, is well on course for a career in medical research on reproductive health.
After studying Japanese at Wilcox High School, she had a double major in Japanese and biology at UC Berkeley. She received a full scholarship for international students from the Japanese government, earning a Master of Medical Science Degree at Osaka University in 2018. Abbasi was one of seven nominees out of 800 for the Stanford University Hospital 2019 Volunteer of the Year Award.