Syed Haider bears many identities: graduating medical student, Student Council President, Pakistani, Muslim, leader, and change maker. Since the beginning of his medical career at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Syed has been an advocate for social justice and human rights and has been intentional about his efforts.

We sat down with Syed to get his perspective and advice on becoming a change maker.

How does a leader effect change?

As a leader you have to engage with [various people], who want to bring change.You have to always think about how to service people and how to give the best for his constituents.


How has your faith influenced your career in medicine?

Faith helps you to reconnect with yourself and allows you to focus your energy in the right way.

Growing up as a Muslim, one of the quotes that has strikes me the most from our holy book the Quran is that ‘if you’ve saved one life, then you’ve saved mankind.’ I think that was a very powerful anecdote growing up that allowed me to view medicine as this platform to bring change in society by helping one person at a time.



How would you describe your role in the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program?

There was already an existing faculty clinic that assisted asylum seekers.

Working with Dr. Atkinson and other students to co-found a student leadership structure for the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program. The purpose of creating that structure was so that more students could be part of an initiative that can help other asylum seekers and refugees. In the past two years we have seen more than 200 asylum seeker cases and applications that students have assisted in.

For me, creating a systemic change in that process has been an integral part of my medical career.


How do you hope people will see you as a leader in the future?

As an activist when I take on an initiative to address something, I’m more concerned with how it will help those coming behind me rather than thinking about how I will be perceived when addressing those issues.

What social justice initiatives are you most passionate about addressing?

We know that from reading literature, that racism or any type of singling out individuals negatively affects their care. One thing that I am motivated in addressing is health disparities and racism in medical care, including Islamophobia.

True or False: Impact requires connection.

In order to galvanize people together for one specific topic, you need like-minded leaders who are motivated, passionate, and have the right resources to bring the change. I think that creating a leadership structure all ideas are addresses. Similar to the Mount Sinai Human Rights Program, like-minded people were able to jump in and become part of a community that was bigger than themselves.

What advice would you give future change makers?

I’d say to never give up in addressing a specific topic that they’re excited about. Address it in the most equitable and passionate ways that they can. And find allies along the way that can help them to support that specific topic.

How can minorities courageously use their voices to share their stories?

I think the first step, is to find allies who are motivated and driven to address those specific topics [of a person’s interest]. Once you have identified those allies, then you have to identify what are the priorities of each stakeholder, which will help you align the mission going forward.