Asad Zaman: Being Your Best Self

Asad walks us through his history and journey upon arriving in Chicago, and shares his wisdom from the lessons he’s learned while finding himself. A practicing physician, Asad provides examples of the benefits of hard work and dedication. This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps.

“I was born in Dhaka, Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan. A little bit of history, it was British India, and when the British left in 1947, the Bangladesh part was actually East Pakistan. Then in 1971, it became an independent country, Bangladesh.

When I was born, it was actually East Pakistan, because in 1963 it was still East Pakistan. In ’71 it became Bangladesh. I have a very vivid memory of the liberation war, and it’s an interesting story because my father was anti-liberation, believe it or not, and he wanted to keep Pakistan. The majority of East Pakistan people wanted it to become Bangladesh.

It was a very difficult time for our family, and that’s why I remember pretty much everything about the war, and then finally independence the 16th of December in 1971. The Muslims from India moved to Pakistan, not all, but a lot. From East Pakistan, the Hindus moved to India to live in their comfort zone basically because it was more of a religious partition.

But in 1971, when the liberation happened, it was more language based because Bangladesh is a Bengali speaking country. West Pakistan which is now Pakistan, west of India, that country is mostly Urdu, or Punjabi, or Pashtun, you know different languages. This part of Bangladesh was based on more language than anything else.

When we came here we had to go through the boards exams and everything, we were preparing for that. I was lucky actually, this is an interesting phase. I went to Domino’s pizza, and it was right across the street from the Kaplan place that I was studying at. So anyways, I go there, and he gives me a pizza delivery job because I had a car, which was a place. The next day I go there, and on the spot he terminates me before even delivering one pizza. So I said, “What is the reason, why can’t I have a job?”

He goes, “No, your accent is so bad that nobody will understand you when you are delivering pizzas.”

That was a shocker, and the more shocking thing: he was another Indian talking to me saying my accent was so bad.

Then, I applied for my residency training, and I matched in Chicago to the University of Chicago’s program at Weiss hospital and made the transition into Chicago. In the Northside, because of the financial and socio-economic condition, patients and families were more demanding. They wanted every answer, right there, right then. We were working under a lot of pressure that was sometimes, I felt, not necessary. There was kind of a trust factor there. When I started working in the Southside, people felt as if physicians were there at their mercy – their blessings. They were very respectful. This may not sound politically correct, but to be honest, as an immigrant we feel out of place. But, working in the Southside made me feel valued. It was a very good experience. When I took care of a same disease process, same ailment, I was appreciated more.

Hospitals always keep track of which doctor, how they are doing, how many patients they are seeing, they’re admitting. Although I am independent, it is public data because the pairs are mostly government through Medicare and Medicaid, and so it is public information. They can collect the data and they saw that I was the fastest growing practice in that area. The hospital said, “We should look for another physician for you.”

At first I was a little skeptical at why they wanted, I mean like, am I busy enough to have another doctor? Is it going to hurt my own revenue?

But, I took a leap of faith and it worked out great. When I interviewed her, it was an accident. When I gave the so-called “headhunters”, to find me a doctor, I gave them the option of male doctor because I am a male practitioner. Most of my patients chose me because they are looking for a male doctor. So I would rather grow with another male doctor. So, as you can hear the names on the list, my recruiter lady did not figure out the name. She thought it was a male name. She sent her resume to me and I said, “Ok fine, the resume is here, might as well give her a call.”

So I called and we met, and we had three or four rounds of interview, and we really connected. Her situation was such that she needed to move to the Chicagoland. At that time she was actually somewhere else. So, it worked out good and she’s still with my practice. It’s our practice now. It opened up another hole, another area that I was not even thinking. She brought in so much value that I was not bringing in to the practice. A perspective of a physician is not only business or curing the ailment or keeping people healthy. There is a huge component of compassion, in where she excelled. She actually improved our practice in that direction that, our quality went way up after she joined our practice.

The advice I give to my three boys is: always follow your heart, never leave home without your brain. So always decide with your brain, but pursue your passion.

The other advice I give is, do your best. Don’t try to be “the best,” because if you want to be “the best” you will always be frustrated. If you do your best, you will always succeed.”

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