Unsurprisingly, this scarcity will hit low-income and minority communities hardest, who already lack access to qualified healthcare providers.
As a second-year Family Practice resident at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center, I am part of the immediate solution. But I also have a duty as both a resident physician and member of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU Union to embolden tomorrow’s doctors.
I recently spoke with PS 52 elementary students in Jamaica at their Career Day.
Twenty-five years before, in the same borough, I began my academic journey just like them as a lanky kindergartner. The idea of becoming a doctor was as far removed from my everyday world as the next subway station.
This was partly because my world consisted primarily of collecting the latest special edition Happy Meal toy, but also because I was a son of a humble construction worker and a meek housewife.
My mother’s English was broken and my father’s hands hardened by labor.
Shortly before I was born my family emigrated from Pakistan. They were still figuring out how to navigate the bustling chaos of New York City life just as I was learning my ABC’s.
Crammed into a two-bedroom apartment, our family of five had no relatives or economic support in a foreign country.
Despite every obstacle - the long work days, the financial sacrifices, and the struggle to learn the language and customs of a new country - my parents never doubted my capacity to reach loftier ambitions, far removed from the simple world we had.
My dad encouraged my musings of a future career as a lawyer, engineer, astronaut, or doctor. Though he never let our surroundings, my race or socioeconomic status detract from my possibilities, my pathway to becoming a doctor seemed inaccessible.
I didn’t know a community beyond my inner-city apartment, but my parents, teachers, and even pediatricians encouraged my dreams along my journey.
Even while I was oblivious, they understood how vital it is to plant the seeds of aiming high, and then even higher, in young impressionable minds of those eager to learn.
As the summer break ends next week, New York City classrooms will fill with over one million students with dreams yet to be nurtured and barriers still to circumvent.
Students may aspire to become the next generation of doctors; doctors who will serve in communities which face the biggest shortfalls.
In a city as diverse as New York and a borough even more so, we owe it to the youngest in our community to bolster their dreams, encourage their reach, and cheer them onward, just as the grown-ups of our childhood did for us.
Dr. Umer Hassan is a member of the Committee of Interns and Residents/SEIU.