An Angel of Mercy

Each year the city of San Francisco selects 20 of the most talented young people who represent the spirit of the city. This year Dr. Ameena Taj Ahmed was one of those selected.On a typical day, Dr. Ameena Ahmed can be found at any number of locations: treating torture survivors at Highland Hospital’s Human Rights Clinic, researching diabetes at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland or teaching medical students at UC Berkeley.
To say she’s a busy woman is an understatement; it’s more like she’s on a one-woman mission to rectify the social injustices of the world.
OPEN ARMS: “For whatever reason, people feel comfortable talking to me. They open up about things they’ve never spoken about.” Perhaps this is why Ahmed has been so successful in treating refugees from more than 60 countries—many of whom have spent a lifetime repressing traumatic memories of torture.
“Oftentimes, the pain is both physical and mental. Being a doctor is both about listening and laying on of hands.”
EYE OF THE STORM: Last fall, Ahmed answered the call of duty when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans. “I’ve traveled the world and seen a lot of tragedy, but this was the hardest to see because this happened at home.”
She went to Iraq in 2003 to interview torturers and their victims, and to Mexico City last year to train physicians and psychologists in evaluating torture survivors.
PERSONAL HEALING: “When I read the international news, I feel so helpless. It frustrates me.” So what’s the doctor’s prescription for handling her own stress? “Serve humankind.”

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Editor: Akhtar M. Faruqui
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