healing are students passions
May 9, 2002-- Bahie Mary Rassekh
seeks to heal the worlds wounds.
a college student, she explored the ills of racism, poverty, disease
and despair. As a graduate, she plans to do something about them.
order, perhaps. But that doesnt discourage Rassekh.
21, who wrote her senior thesis on the economic and social burden
of malaria, is receiving an interdisciplinary bachelors degree
in biology, sociology and psychology from the University on May
19. Along with handling a demanding academic schedule, she recently
won the Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award for outstanding community
in Canada to parents of Persian extraction an American father
and a Malian mother Rassekh grew up in West Africa, in Senegal,
Gambia and Mali, where her parents still live. At 12, she enrolled
in high school at the Maxwell International Bahai School,
in Victoria, British Columbia.
in Persia in 1844 by Bahaullah, the tenets of the Bahai
faith are one God, the unity of religions, the unity of races and
the unity of humanity. This peace-loving, independent religion values
diversity while viewing unity as a reachable ideal. It encourages
believers to pursue justice and understanding.
Bahai faith has colored her view of the world and molded her
four years at the University.
passion is unity," Rassekh said. "I strive every day to
champion unity and diversity."
entered U.Va. at 16, serving on the First-Year Councils Women
and Diversity Affairs Council and the next fall, worked with the
University Union to bring Coretta Scott King, the widow of Dr. Martin
Luther King Jr., to Charlottesville. She also worked with Brothers
United Celebrating Knowledge and Success to organize "Reflections
on Complexions," a campus forum on race. And she served as
the production assistant for Spectrum Theatres production
of "Romeo and Juliet," which featured a racially diverse
participates in a myriad of cultural groups on Grounds Persian,
Arab, Native American, Afro-Caribe, Indian and the Mahogany dance
troupe along with U.Va.s Bahai Association and
the Bahai Southern Youth Council, which represents thousands
of students in 16 states. She also has helped organize a number
of special programs on Grounds that have brought students from all
backgrounds together, including a prayer vigil on the Lawn the night
of Sept. 11.
her second year at U.Va., Rassekh took a leave of absence to travel
throughout the southern U.S., by herself, driving a used car. She
spent time in a Cherokee community in Oklahoma and lived with Bahai
families while organizing retreats for college students to discuss
issues of gender and race.
returning to U.Va., she decided that her path led to medicine, so
she packed her third-year schedule with pre-med classes and took
her MCATs. During last years winter break, she visited her
family in Bamako, Mali, and worked with a research project, funded
by the National Institutes of Health, that is seeking to develop
a vaccine against malaria.
is important because it allows humanity to demonstrate its potential,"
Rassekh said. "And health is a concrete contribution that I
can make to humanity as I strive to make unity through diversity
she received acceptance letters from several medical schools, Rassekh
has decided to postpone medical school for two years and first pursue
a masters degree in international public health at Johns Hopkins
University. There, she hopes to contribute to research at the Johns
Hopkins Malaria Research Institute before continuing her studies
in medical school.
so, becoming a doctor will be only a milestone on Rassekhs
path, not her destination.
a tool in a larger framework of what I want to do with my life,"
she said. "To bring unity among the diverse peoples of the
world, that is what I live for."
Charlotte Crystal, (434) 924-6858