Gifts In Action
Many Roles, One Dream
By Corey Jenkins Schaut, MPA '07
Syeda Mansur knew from an early age that she would work in medicine. As a child, Syeda, a Bangladeshi native, traveled around the world with her mother, a doctor who worked for Enfant du Monde (Children of the World). Syeda was impressed by her mother’s compassion for her patients, which made her want to be a doctor, too.
To get from there to graduating from Mason in August 2009 was a long road.
When she was 12, Syeda’s family planned to move to the United States. But on the eve of their departure, her father had a stroke. Dr. Mansur made the decision to send Syeda on to the U.S. – putting her in the legal custody of her brother, himself just 20. Syeda never saw her father again; he died three years later.
When Dr. Mansur eventually joined her daughter in the U.S., she was unable to practice medicine due to health problems. At age 19, Syeda took on the responsibility of providing for herself and her mother.
Three years ago, after witnessing her grandmother’s suffering through terminal cancer, Syeda decided it was time to refocus on becoming a doctor.
Syeda enrolled at George Mason University as a biology major, but with tuition to pay and a family to feed, she quickly racked up nearly $15,000 on her credit cards.
When Syeda received the Science Leadership Scholarship during the 2008-2009 academic year, it was, in her words, “a lifesaver.”
Syeda was a perfect candidate for the award. In addition to being a student, mother of a young daughter, and breadwinner, Syeda is the founder of the Ya-Waris Foundation, which works to improve socioeconomic conditions in developing nations.
Among its programs, the foundation assists at least one family per year to rise above the poverty level. This past year, with just $700, the foundation paid for living and tuition expenses for a Bangladeshi family. The parents received vital job training, and their 10-year-old son was able to attend school.
Syeda’s goal is to establish free clinics through Ya-Waris. But first, she is focusing on the next step in her academic career: medical school. She plans to attend Howard University's College of Medicine.
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