Student & Trainee Profiles > Mayo Clinic Medical Student’s Advocacy Rewrites Standards for Inclusivity in Healthcare

Mayo Clinic Medical Student’s Advocacy Rewrites Standards for Inclusivity in Healthcare

By Pete Shooner

Campus: Minnesota
Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Undergraduate School: Harvard University
Graduating Year: 2024

REWAN ABDELWAHAB understood the many barriers to healthcare facing underserved communities. Born in Egypt, Rewan emigrated to the U.S. as a child and witnessed the lack of access to insurance and the difficulty navigating the U.S. health system faced by immigrant and low-income communities.

“I want to go into medicine as an advocate, to help provide treatment and management of care with a nuanced understanding and curiosity of a patient’s background and how care might be accommodated to that background,” Rewan says.

Once at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine, Rewan quickly found herself advocating for cultural and religious consideration not only for patients, but also for her fellow students and medical professionals across the country.

As a hijab-observing Muslim, Rewan discovered that religious practices haven’t always been considered in creating guidelines for sterile procedures and clothing in operating rooms. Motivated by a personal experience during a surgical observation and empowered by faculty mentors, she submitted an informative guide to the Journal of the American College of Surgeons focusing on adjusting operating room protocols to accommodate hijabs, natural hair, tichels, Sikh head coverings known as dastars, and beards, among others.

The impact of her advocacy was swift and far-reaching. Shortly after publishing the guide, the journal announced updated national guidelines for religious head coverings. At Mayo Clinic, the departments of Surgery and Anesthesiology have instituted staff training and new protocols for scrubbing in that consider the diverse religious and cultural backgrounds of all staff, including private wash areas and sterile head coverings.

“It was the support and resources of Mayo that allowed us to make a really substantial and tangible change in medical practice,” Rewan says. “Because of Mayo’s tailored aspect of education, I was able to dedicate time to push this initiative forward.”

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