Commencement 2012 : Honorary Class Speaker

Nayab A. ChowanNayab A. Chowan

Nayab Chowhan, the daughter of first generation immigrants from Pakistan, always wanted to be a writer, but the people around her had other thoughts.

“When I was starting high school, my parents and other people that I knew kept telling me that I would make a good doctor,” she said. “At the time, I was strongly opposed to the idea.”

When Chowhan took her first biology class at Pound High School, she began to consider that the people around her could be on to something. Science was the correct path, she thought, but Chowhan was not convinced that a medical career was right for her. The thought of doing just one thing as a career for the rest of her life was not appealing to Chowhan. When she arrived at The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, she explored a variety of classes, including psychology.

“I was taking an adolescent development class during my first year at UVa-Wise when I had an epiphany,” she said. “I realized then that almost all of my interests involved two recurring themes.”

Chowhan, 20, realized that studying the emotions, behaviors and the well being of people was what drew her towards her interest in religion, writing, reading and theater. She also recognized that she had a drive to challenge and improve herself by acquiring new skills. It became clear to Chowhan that medicine was the intersection where her skills and interests met.

“To me, becoming a physician is a dream job because it is like a collection of careers,” she explained. “For example, a physician’s job may incorporate the role of a scientist, performing new research and making new discoveries. They may also be writers when publishing medical journals. A physician can also be a detective because he or she must run tests and have to interpret the results, along with a patient’s symptoms, to reach a diagnosis.”

Chowhan said a doctor must be a manager of a health care organization and must be a confidential friend to patients, a belief that influenced her decision to pursue osteopathic medicine.

“I want a job that is diverse, challenging, and meaningful, and to me, that is what being a physician is,” she said.

The Norton resident is moving closer to becoming a physician this fall when she begins her studies at the DeBusk School of Osteopathic Medicine at Lincoln Memorial University. Her time at UVa-Wise has prepared her for the rigors of medical school, she said. She plans to return to Southwest Virginia to practice medicine.

“The best thing about UVa-Wise is that you get to interact with all kinds of different people, but you don’t feel as if you are in an impersonal environment,” she said. “There are so many opportunities at a college of this size, and getting to explore all of the opportunities prepared me for what I want to do in the future.”

Chowhan is president of the Darden Society and public relations officer for Sigma Zeta. She has been a tutor, an active member in the Pre-professional Club, and played a leading role in the College’s theater production of Leonid Andreyev’s “He Who Gets Slapped.” In her spare time, Chowhan enjoys cooking, or what she refers to as “the tastiest kind of chemistry.”

Chowhan also enjoys traveling and spending time with her family. She acknowledges her parents, Azhar and Mamoona Chowhan, for their constant love and support, and God for the ability to achieve her goals.