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Interview with Shazia Siddiqi

Shazia Siddiqi was born in Texas and raised in California for most of her life. She is a first-generation American-born to parents who emigrated from Pakistan in the 1970’s. She is the eldest with one younger brother. Her whole family is hearing. Her parents found out she was deaf at 3 and half years old. She was raised in mainstreamed programs that had deaf classroom and was exposed to American Sign Language at early age. She had ASL interpreters and some real-time captioning throughout her academic career. She graduated with Bachelor’s in Molecular and Cell Biology from UC Berkeley on a full Regents’ Scholarship. It was at UC Berkeley where she got involved with South Asian American awareness through participation in the Indus club on campus. She was involved with their famous annual Indus Club culture show throughout her college career. She earned her Master’s in Public Health from Dartmouth College and worked at Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness, a non-profit organization that caters to the needs of Deaf and Hard of Hearing in Los Angeles area. She later earned Doctor of Medicine degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine, and has taught part-time in the Biology Department at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. She is currently the Chair of non-profit organization, Deaf Abused Women’s Network (DAWN), in the DC metropolitan area. Siddiqi’s passion is working in minority health care disparities, especially serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing population.

Interview, editing, transcription and translation provided by Sarika Mehta

Date: November 2012
Subject(s): Shazia Siddiqi
Language: American Sign Language (ASL)
Creator: Sarika Mehta
Location: Washington, DC

[To understand my story] We have to start at the very beginning. From when I was in high school, I always had a mainstream education with interpreters. I think at that time I was interested in biology research. I was always fascinated with genetics. I wanted to know how I became deaf. Was I born deaf? Nobody knows- to this day, still nobody knows!

Anyways, so flash forward… I was doing my BA degree in Biology at UC Berkeley. I went through my courses, time went by… I realized I enjoyed working with people! I had taken some Public Health courses, and they were amazing! I really enjoyed them! I became a ‘Health Worker’ in our dorm, interacted with different people. So that’s how my focus on research shifted to working with people in healthcare. So at that time, I decided to pursue a master’s degree in Public Health. At this point in college, I’d always had interpreters in the classroom. For my senior year of college, I requested RTC (real time captioning) services from the University. It was kind of a fight to get this RTC service, but I really wanted it to make sure I was getting all of the technical terminology. And I knew this other deaf girl- Bio major – from UCLA who had the RTC service for all four of her college years! So I had to fight for it. It was … interesting.

I decided to enroll at Dartmouth for graduate school in Public Health. And then what… oh I worked at GLAAD (Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness). And there was a lot of application for my Public Health skills! I worked in their teen pregnancy prevention program. I used to teach deaf kids about preventing pregnancy, STDs, sex education… quite a long list of things! And also how to access the clinic. Many of them just weren’t aware of how to get condoms, birth control, etc. So that was a good experience for me – teaching this information that they needed.

I realized I wanted more of this, and that’s how I decided to go to medical school. But at the time I was a California resident, so I was wait-listed on some medical schools. I was tired of waiting. I felt like I was getting old, and a lot of my friends were going to the Caribbean [for school]. SGU (St. George’s University) in the Caribbean. And that’s when the frustrations began! I knew it was an international school. I had to ask Vocational Rehabilitation to help me request RTC at my school and the request was rejected. It’s an international school so I had to accept this. I tried to manage in other ways. Like asking friends for notes, some classmates would type out lectures and I would copy their notes. I did have a personal tutor and that was helpful too. And luckily – it’s strange, I always find someone willing to help out. I found two fluent signers – a Jehovah’s Witness and a Mormon. They were on their missionary year, working with deaf people. So they knew ASL very well! So I requested their help and used my loans to pay them to help me out at the clinic, working with patients. And they accepted – I had to foot the bill myself – and they would come with me for clinical work.

Right, it’s an international school so I had to find people, ask if they’ll help and pay for it myself. For my rotations, I went to hospitals in New York and London. My program started and… then my father was stricken with a serious heart condition. He needed a heart transplant, and we had to wait for one. We were in a state of shock, so I had to put a hold on school for a while. After some time, I was finally able to go back to school. I went back to my rotations. Everything was going fine. I had good peers and classmates who would share information. We’d help each other out. That helped me in my rotations since I didn’t have interpreters. And I would try to read lips. If I didn’t understand the doctor, I would note it and ask later. It worked out!

Nowadays we have new technology, like the Ipad. So I realize now that everything can be achieved through technology. In retrospect, it would have been nice if I could have had remote captions [for classes]. Maybe the Ipad could have captioned my classes simultaneously – while the teacher lectured. That way I could see the text and not miss anything. Ideally, best case scenario, I would have an interpreter, live in person, for my classes. For lab classes? I prefer an interpreter. For example, if there’s a cadaver, I have to look at the cadaver, the interpreter, back to the cadaver…Yeah lab classes are challenging…

You just have to be proactive all the time! You always have to go one step further to educate people. That has been the story of my life! You always have to take extra measures to teach people all the time. That’s life. You have to be proactive! Sure there were many frustrating moments! I used to complain to my roommate and to Karthik! There were a lot of frustrating moments! But… I had support from my family and friends. I just… made it through! I made it through!

Donor: Sarika Mehta
Item History: 2013-07-15 (created); 2016-08-16 (modified)

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