Antara Afrin: Detroit native heads to Harvard and Yale

April 28, 2023

Antara at Match Day.Antara Afrin recalled her father coming home from his factory job without his jacket. When asked where it was, he explained he had given it to someone who did not have one.

Her mother, too, often looked for ways to help others, even though, with five children, the family could barely make ends meet.

“They didn’t just tell me, ‘Hey, you have to help people,’” Afrin said. “They modeled it.”

When she enrolled at Cass Technical High School in Detroit and had to list a career goal, Afrin put down doctor.

“That probably was the first time I thought about becoming a doctor,” she said. “I wasn’t that kid who played with a stethoscope growing up, but I liked science and helping people.”

Now that she has completed her studies at the College of Human Medicine’s Southeast Michigan campus, Afrin will begin training to become a dermatologist, first with a preliminary year in pediatrics at Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital followed by a three-year dermatology residency at Yale.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself. Is this real?” she said, when thinking back on Match Day. “This is exactly what I want to do.”

Dermatology is more than cosmetics. Abnormalities on the skin can be symptoms of internal disease or indicate other serious illnesses. This can be difficult to diagnose in patients with skin of color or for those without access to specialty care.

“How do we provide care to underserved communities?” Afrin asked. “You look at social determinants of health and you’ve got to look at every step that patient has to take to receive care. Think about what barriers will prevent a patient from getting from their home to your clinic. For me, it’s easy to visualize, because my family experienced those obstacles to care.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in biomolecular science with a minor in business from the University of Michigan, Afrin spent a year in MSU’s Advanced Baccalaureate Learning Experience (ABLE) program, an enriched academic experience, before matriculating to the College of Human Medicine.

Antara at the American Academy of Dermatology  Annual Meeting in March 2022.
Afrin at the American Academy of Dermatology Annual Meeting in March 2022.

Between her third and fourth years of medical school, she was accepted into the National Institutes of Health Medical Research Scholars Program. During this year-long research project, Afrin focused on tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow on the skin and other parts of the body, including the brain.

The American Medical Association Foundation recently honored Afrin with a Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship. In 2017, the American Muslim Women Physicians Association presented her with its merit award.

Antara in her white coat.“I think what drives me is my identity as an Muslim American woman,” Afrin said. “My religion focuses a lot on generosity and bettering yourself. And you do that by being kind to others.”

She hopes to be an example for children from similar backgrounds.

“I hope that kids who want to be a doctor, a scientist or a dermatologist see me and think, 'I can do that as well, and she's someone I can reach out to.'"

Afrin is the recipient of the Bernard H. Smookler, M.D. Endowed Scholarship.

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