Shani Abraham, a biomedical science major and BHC Scholar, serves as president of the Hearts for the Homeless Orlando. This UCF RSO provides basic heart health care services to the Orlando community, such as Telehealth blood pressure screenings, assembly of care packages, and educating homeless populations. Shani’s long-term goal is to pursue a career in medicine and aims to provide quality care to underserved communities.
I understand you are the president of Hearts for the Homeless Orlando. Could you further describe what your organization does?
Hearts for the Homeless (H4H) Orlando is an RSO at UCF and a chapter of Hearts for the Homeless International nonprofit organization. H4H Orlando is dedicated to providing basic heart health care through blood pressure screenings and education for Orlando’s homeless population.
Although we have faced restrictions with in-person volunteering due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our members and leadership team have not stopped working. We have incorporated Telehealth blood pressure screenings, virtual mask-making workshops, assembly of care packages and food packages, and have implemented projects such as mental health awareness letters for the homeless communities to thank you letters for Orlando’s first responders.
Tell us about yourself. Why are you interested in pursuing your particular major?
I love biomedical sciences because of all the interesting classes I’ve been able to take, mentors I’ve gained, and friends I’ve made. My favorite classes in this major are medical biochemistry and molecular biology. Learning about the different mechanisms which keep our body alive reminds me how humble our origins are and yet how complex these mechanisms are as they interact and influence each other to form life.
What leadership positions, research experiences, internship experiences, study abroad experiences have you had so far while at UCF? What did you learn from them - how do you think they helped you get where you are today?
Apart from leading H4H Orlando, I also serve as an officer of International External Affairs for Hearts for the Homeless International. My role is to expand and establish new H4H Chapters around the world. Through this position, I have learned more about networking as we work with different countries and cultures to serve underserved communities. Taking on this leadership role has provided me the opportunity to open my eyes to the world around me. I’ve learned lessons about hard work and resilience from my mentors in the International Nonprofit.
I also currently participate in research at the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences Cardiovascular Metabolism Lab. My lab group and I are currently studying the topic of fetal alcohol spectrum disorder on congenital heart defects. Research has provided me the opportunity to learn lab techniques and carry out the scientific method. I’ve learned to think like a scientist when working to combat challenges that arise. Connecting my research work to my classes and different biochemical pathways blows my mind because it reminds me how much of impact research has in driving the answers to medicine.
I was also a part of an internship the Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences offers known as the surgical internship. Through this internship, I was able to shadow a variety of surgical specialties ranging from neurology to pediatric orthopedics and gain a deeper appreciation for the role of the surgeon. This internship challenged me as I wrote up surgical reports and case studies. Apart from the surgeries I have shadowed, I have also been able to witness the interaction between the physician and the patient, which further impels me to pursue the field of medicine. Witnessing the connection which the physician can develop with the patient is a relationship I look forward to embodying in the future.
What is your long-term goal/future plans? What are you doing after graduation? How is the BHC helping you to achieve these goals?
My long-term goal is to pursue medicine. I’m not sure which specialty yet, but I’m interested in providing care for underserved communities. I am also highly interested in intertwining law with medicine – to better the systems that provide care for underserved communities. Overall, I am constantly learning and growing, and I look forward to pursuing different opportunities to do my part to create a better world.
The Burnett Honors College has helped me significantly throughout my time at UCF. I love all the honors classes I have been able to take ranging from philosophy and technical presentations to women’s leadership and professional writing. Each class provides me an outlet into a deeper understanding of a variety of topics. One of my favorite classes in honors was technical presentations, with Dr. Musambira, as it allowed me to gain a greater appreciation for public speaking and improve my confidence.
Fill in the blank: If all things go right, 10 years from now I will most likely be:___________________.
What advice do you have for other students who may want to follow a similar path?
It’s okay to make mistakes! The most important part is to get back up! Perseverance and grit are truly what makes you a leader and what pushes you forward during times of uncertainty. It’s important to be persistent in the pursuit of your dreams. When you fall, get back up and try again.
What’s your favorite movie and why?
Mulan (1998)! I love Disney movies because they always carry a heavy life lesson. Mulan covers a variety of values including family, self-sacrifice, persistence, perseverance, bravery, and leadership. Watching this movie always makes me happy!