Rezwana Hoque ’15 pursues her dream career under the cloud of DACA uncertainty

January 29, 2018
Rezwana Hoque stands on street in downtown Worcester
'At this point, I do not know what the future holds for me,' the aspiring physician assistant says.

As a biology major in the Prehealth Program at Clark University, Rozwana Hoque ’15 found success, interning at Bellevue Hospital in New York and garnering honors. Chosen from among 800 applicants for Bellevue’s Project Health Care — a program overseen by Dr. Lewis Goldfrank ’63, director of emergency medical services — Hoque was featured in a CLARK magazine roundup about undergraduates’ LEEP (Liberal Education and Effective Practice) experiences.

The aspiring physician assistant (PA) recounted what she had learned at the country’s oldest public hospital, which serves patients facing a multitude of issues, including alcoholism, homelessness and mental illness. “Often people are stuck in a system and it’s hard to watch them struggle,” she said. “The good thing is the Project Health Care students are able to return to our institutions and try to think of other ways to deal with these issues.”

Four years later, Hoque is the one who has struggled — with the anxiety and uncertainty she faces as an undocumented immigrant and “Dreamer” caught up in the United States’ politics and policy shifts surrounding DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Although she now is continuing her studies at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences (MCPHS), the last year has not been easy.

“As an undocumented student, I was constantly afraid of sharing my status, which had made me feel isolated from all my classmates and [was] exacerbated by loneliness and anxiety,” she writes in a recent article for a career-coaching blog site for PAs. “This became one of the reasons I suffered, even though I was exactly in the midst of my dreams.” 

Hoque grew up in Hudson, N.Y. She was 19 months old when her parents immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh, hoping to better the lives of Rezwana and her two brothers. In 10th grade, she set her sights on becoming a physician assistant, because she wanted “to help those who were like me, patients who were uninsured and undocumented like myself and my parents, who deserve access to healthcare.”

After graduating from Clark a semester early, she worked for two years in three health care jobs to gain experience. In January 2017, she started at MCPHS, which offers assured admission to qualified Clark graduates.

As America’s immigration debate heated up and DACA court cases mounted, Hoque felt the burden of her hidden status. “I could no longer envision myself wearing a white coat, stethoscope around my shoulders, approaching patients. During the time, I truly felt unsupported as though all the odds were against me,” she writes. “I never thought I could share with any of the students what I was dealing with, and I felt completely alone and vulnerable.”

Hoque left the program and began working in a community hospital. This month, she returned to MCPHS, continuing along her path to becoming a physician assistant. She’s decided to reveal her DACA status, share her story and shift her perspective.

“At this point, I do not know what the future holds for me any longer since the temporary DACA act was rescinded on September 5, 2017, but I do know that I cannot stray away from my path because my diverse experiences and identity help define my role as a future health care provider,” she writes. “After reflecting back on this experience, I have decided that perhaps if we can change the way we look at ourselves and the events occurring around us, we can be the change we want in ourselves.”

Read more of her essay, "Failure as a Dreamer," on the PA Trek Coaching blog.