Zavera Basrai is a senior at Duke University pursuing a major in Neuroscience with a certificate in Human Rights Studies.
Why did you choose to pursue the human rights certificate?
I'm a pre-medicine student and really love learning STEM subjects, but have also always been drawn to the human side of practicing medicine and what it looks like to engage with people who are different from you and who also have different experiences. Learning about how people should be able to live and what people deserve just by being born, regardless of characteristics that make us different I believe will lead me on a path to becoming a better physician and serving patients in a more holistic way.
What was the most transformative experience you had while studying human rights at Duke?
One of the most transformative experiences I have had while studying Human Rights at Duke is thinking about what it means and looks like to work in care work. I took a class called Lives that Matter as part of a Duke Immerse cluster (Pandemics Health and Power) during the fall of my junior year and we got to engage with individuals in the direct care worker space who worked in an industry that did not respect them or the work they were doing to provide care/assistance in the home space. I felt like I opened up more to the spaces in which human rights intersect with medical practice and how providers must engage with other healthcare workers and patients who have different experiences than them in order to create a space of collective support and understanding.
How has the human rights certificate helped you grow both academically and personally?
I think the Human Rights Certificate made me more confident in exploring a field of academic study that I was never familiar with before entering college. I became more comfortable entering a classroom in which I would likely not be familiar with anything we would be discussing until after the class period was over. It's really nice to also engage in a space where controversial topics exist, but students and professors are always open to hearing different opinions about certain issues. This also helped me become more confident in structuring evidence-based ideas and sharing them in a safe space where I could be reassured either by agreement with my ideas and/or constructive criticism.
How do you plan to integrate human rights into your work in the future?
I've learned more and more that human rights intersects with medicine in much more concrete ways than we might think. I plan to continue to engage with the human rights space by really being conscious about the means by which people appear in a certain space in a certain condition and use that information to better address their concerns/build trust.
Do you have any advice for students considering the human rights certificate?
My advice particularly for pre-medicine/pre-health students who might be interested in pursuing this pathway is to not be afraid to try something new! The professors in the human rights department that I have had have been so incredibly open to receiving students who do not have a human rights background and are looking to learn more about what it means and looks like to engage in a space where human rights are discussed openly. I also feel like there are many different avenues you can take when choosing the classes you will take for the human rights certificate. For example, you might be interested in a variety of human rights topics and might want to take 1 class in each of those topics for each of your electives. On the other hand, you might be interested in human rights in health for example, and might want to center your certificate experience on classes that relate to more specialized aspects of this overarching topic. The human rights certificate lets you craft your experience in any way you wish!