Dr. Khadijah Bhatti

As a young adult, the worst possible scenario for Khadijah was to have two exciting options.  Making a choice and potentially closing a door on her future was painful.  Graduating from Duke, she went back and forth, deciding between working for Advisory Board, a healthcare consulting firm in Washington, DC, and a Princeton in Asia fellowship.  Even applying to and beginning medical school, Khadijah wondered if this was where she was meant to be and what would happen had she made another choice.

Perhaps part of this struggle is fear.  Khadijah admires her sister in this respect.  “My younger sister is fearless. She’s teaching me how to stop being captive to fear – fear of the unknown, fear of what people think of me, fear of failure. Learning from her has been an education in living joyfully, freely, and with an unshakeable sense of self.”

Khadijah is currently in her third year of a four-year residency in internal medicine and pediatrics at UNC, where she also attended medical school.   “I did both because I wanted to work with people across life stages. I love talking sexual wellness with a 15-year-old as much as with an 85-year-old (often surprisingly similar conversations). And if I’m brutally honest, I wanted to know everything and help everybody and that's who I was when I was when I made the decision. That’s an affliction I’m unpacking now.”

Up until recently, choices felt restrictive, like each one established a permanent boundary around her life’s possibilities. She’s approaching them differently now. “[I am making] the choice to live in a state of constant re-invention. I’m not striving for consistency, but for imagination and metamorphosis. I don’t want who I am today to be who I am a decade from now. And that makes me excited for all the people I have yet to become and the lives I have yet to live.”

Entering college, Khadijah received the B.N. Duke, a full tuition scholarship for North and South Carolina students invested in community service. She studied Public Policy with an emphasis on Global Health. This led her to study abroad in China and India where she conducted field work and research on maternal and reproductive health, and to a summer internship in Geneva, Switzerland with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria. She was also active with Muslim Students Association, an involvement that taught her to be questioning and unintimidated when problems don’t have tidy resolutions and one that also spurred her interest in re-imagining spiritual and political spaces.

Khadijah continues to invest in her communities through activism.  “I did a lot of work in medical school both within the institution and in the community focused on issues of diversity and health equity. Sometimes this took shape as direct action, like creating curricula for sex education or running self-defense workshops. Other times it was advocating for policy reform around things like abortion. I deliberately worked on social determinants of health because that felt like the most encompassing, least myopic approach to my conceptual, policy-minded brain.”

She urges first-year women to worry less over the “right” choice for them. “There is no right and wrong, only constant redemption.

photo of Khadijah Bhatti