Shadhi Mansoori discusses NIH research, the AAMC Action Ambassador Program, and her passion for advocacy

Shadhi Mansoori is pursuing a dual degree in the MD/MPH program at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston and expects to graduate in 2025. As an undergraduate, Shadhi spent a semester in Washington, DC as an Archer Fellow and intern with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, which ignited an interest in advocacy and policy work. She’s interested in working with a network of professionals on priorities that strengthen medical research, advance health equity, and diversify the medical workforce. On campus, she serves as Co-Director of the Cultural Conversations Bluebook Elective and Co-President of the Student Interest Group in Neurology/Psychiatry.

All opinions in this interview are her own.

Can you please tell us how you’ve participated in advocacy before?

I got involved in advocacy as an undergraduate at the University of Texas at Austin. I became a fellow through a program called the Archer Fellowship, which allowed me to go to Washington, DC to work as an intern within the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space and Technology. It was an amazing opportunity to be on Capitol Hill and meet the people involved in policymaking and advocacy. This experience showed me how I could be an advocate for issues that are important to me.

What issues are you passionate about advocating for?

I believe research is the cornerstone of medical advancement and investing in research allows us to pursue the frontier of medical advancement, to understand complex illnesses, and to keep people healthy so that they can pursue what’s most important to them. Research enables scientists, physicians, and health care workers at medical institutions nationwide to refine treatment options so that we can practice evidence-based care. As a budding physician, I know there are still many questions in medicine that we have to answer, and research helps us do that.

Where does your passion for research come from?

As an undergrad, I was working on a research project on aging and elder care, and I began to understand the complexity of providing care to older adults as they age, and how we can help them age in place, independently.

This led me to broader questions like: “What does it mean to be an age-friendly community? What does it mean to be a community that prioritizes health and well-being for people of all ages?” Whether you’re five, 50, or 85 years old, it takes a village for us to go through life in different stages. I’d like to learn more about what opportunities exist for us to solve problems of aging and elder care at a wide level. This inspired me to become a physician advocate so that I could work at both the micro and macro levels.

How did you become interested in becoming an AAMC Action Ambassador?

I decided to apply to become an AAMC Action Ambassador because I believe that medical students, residents, and attending physicians have a responsibility to learn about the issues happening at a local, state, and national level so that we can advocate for issues that are important to our patients, that are important to medical education, and that ultimately help improve the health of our communities.

The AAMC Action Ambassador Program is a great way to start getting involved by meeting people across the country who share similar goals for doing this work.

Can you tell us about your experience as an AAMC Action Ambassador?

One of the highlights of the Ambassador Program is getting a behind-the-scenes look into what advocacy and policy experts from the AAMC are doing to champion important causes such as medical research, workforce training, and clinical care. The AAMC Action Ambassador Program allows me to bring recommendations for how the AAMC can engage with medical students so that we can amplify the voices of trainees and be part of the conversation, to ultimately advocate for these important issues.

I have learned that there are students in every corner of this country who are engaged, want to put themselves out there with their time and energy, and go beyond the books, and the clinic and the hospital to learn about the ways that we can best support our patients. This program is imperative for us emerging physicians to understand how we can best advocate for research expansion, identify the causes and treatments of diseases, and learn how we can practice care based on data, evidence, and robust clinical research.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to meet my peers and see that even though we’re all so busy in medical school and residency, we’re not letting that stop us from pursuing our goals beyond the curriculum. That’s so crucial to our roles as rising physicians.

How will you continue your advocacy journey with what you have learned from the Ambassador Program?

I plan on applying for a psychiatry residency this fall [of 2024] and working to improve access to mental health resources. As we all know, especially after the COVID pandemic, access to mental health resources is a critical issue that impacts people of all ages, and I believe that there are opportunities for policy work to implement change at the local, state, and federal levels.

I see myself using my medical and public health degrees with my advocacy experience to be an active voice in my work as a future physician.

What would you say to someone considering becoming an ambassador?

I recommend students consider becoming an AAMC Action Ambassador because it exposes you to policies impacting your medical education and career and allows you to have a voice in the process. You’ll get to meet people from around the country who bond with you over the common goal of improving patient health through advocacy. And you’ll get to meet people who are involved in the policymaking process in Washington, DC to get an inside look at the advocacy work on these important issues.

Another aspect of the Ambassador program that I’ve really enjoyed is that I receive tools to help me reach out to students on my campus to help them engage on policy issues. I also receive information about upcoming legislation that helps me take action and participate in advocacy on the federal level.

You mentioned being a dual degree with an MPH. What led you to choose the path that you’re on now?

I wanted to pursue the MPH degree to give context to what I was seeing in the clinic and hospital and to understand the environmental barriers that patients have to health care. I want to understand the upstream factors that are influencing what we’re seeing today with people’s medical issues, like access to healthy foods, safe places to exercise, education and economic opportunities. Once I understand how these different social determinants of health are interplaying, I can identify what I can do about it on a systemic level to address these challenges.

What does the future hold for you?

I will be finishing my dual degree program in the spring of 2025, and then hopefully move on to a psychiatry residency. I am really interested in working in the space of geriatric psychiatry. I’m interested in working in spaces where family dynamics come into play and where I feel like I can be an advocate both in the medical setting and through work on mental health policy and advocacy. That space is a great intersection for me and is the kind of work that I want to do as a clinician and a leader.

Do you have anything else you want to share to help tell your story?

By being part of the AAMC Action Ambassador Program, I have learned about the very people that I am trying to serve in medicine. I encourage all students in my position in the medical setting to get involved in advocacy in any way that’s meaningful because it is going to show you the challenges and issues that are most important to your patients and community. It’s going to give you a voice to make change and help you be a part of a system-wide impact that can improve the health of people all around us. We have so much power and have been given so much through our education, and with that comes a responsibility to advocate.