Penn doctor travels the world offering care in underserved countries

Dr. Nahreen Ahmed helped take a community from having the highest COVID-19 rates to the highest vaccine rates.

Beccah Hendrickson Image
Wednesday, August 18, 2021
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Dr. Nahreen Ahmed helped take a community from having the highest COVID-19 rates to the highest vaccine rates.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- Working in an intensive care unit, Dr. Nahreen Ahmed has seen the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Many of us, we're just, we're wiped," said Ahmed. "The true response these days is, we're struggling."

Still, she wants to be here, not just critical care specifically, at the old Mercy Catholic Medical Center in West Philadelphia. It's now called the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania Cedar Avenue, which is part of the PHMC Public Health Campus on Cedar.

"I got to see what health inequity looked like at a very early age, and that really stuck with me," she said.

Her parents are both physicians, too, originally from Bangladesh. Since Dr. Ahmed was two years old, she has been traveling with her parents to their home country to give back.

"Just recognizing the chaos," she explained, "being in a hospital, filled with patients, not enough doctors."

Since then, she's dedicated her career to traveling the world and delivering medical care.

"Having the education I have and getting to share the things that I learn here in places that it's the most amount of impact I can provide," she said.

For the past year and a half of the pandemic, Dr. Ahmed has not been able to travel internationally, but she realized there are still underserved communities she could be helping, some in her own backyard.

"I reached out to an organization called the COVID Care Force, they were recruiting volunteers to help out clinically," said Ahmed.

She ended up in New Mexico, caring for members of the Navajo Nation out of motel rooms.

"The reason they had to do that is because the ERs were just packed. They were full, they couldn't take patients," she said.

She helped take that community from having the highest COVID rates to the highest vaccine rates. She then came home and saved lives in Philadelphia, too.

"Even despite everything that's happened, despite the hit of my confidence, and being a physician, and 'do I want to keep going through something like this?' At the end of the day, the answer is yes," she said.

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