Allawala grew up in Karachi, Pakistan—and credits her mother and three older sisters with not only serving as inspiration for women in their community, but to her as well. After her oldest sister moved to California to attend college, Allawala’s entire family followed. It is seeing Pakistani health providers operate with scarce resources—and seeing how minority populations and people experiencing homelessness in the US face similar problems to care access—that fuels her interest in working with underserved communities to improve access to resources and care.


Underserved communities often have incredible barriers to good health that go far beyond a lack of available care providers or access to care. Allawala says, “The issues these populations face are multi-faceted and contextual—financial difficulty, food and housing insecurity, multiple chronic conditions, etc. It’s difficult to address one without the others.” She notes that understanding and isolating various factors that affect patient outcomes may go beyond nurses’ capabilities, intersecting with the world of communications, insurance policies, etc. She says, “I hope to play my part in solving this problem and seeing patients as more than the sum of their issues.”


One thing Allawala wishes to prioritize for herself and her nursing colleagues is self-care. She thinks often of a person she encountered in one of her classes—someone who had a traumatic health care experience. They advised the class to take care of themselves in order to fully care for the patients. She says, “It’s valuable advice, especially since self-care is so hard to implement given the expectations from our coworkers, patients, and the desire to prevent disappointment. I hope to incorporate self-care practices and recognize when I need a break to avoid harm to my patients, though—because I certainly do not want to be a health care provider who yawns or seems like I’m burdening patients with my problems.”