20 in their 20s

What is most striking about Doha Aboul-Fotouh is her profound sense of gratitude. When asked about her experiences as an English major, her studies at Baylor College of Medicine, her pediatric residency, her poetry or her family, she always starts out with, “I’m so very grateful.” It is this sense of thoughtful reflection that permeates her writing as well as her practice of medicine.

It seems natural that Aboul-Fotouh would choose a medical career. Her mother and two older sisters are all physicians. But she also loved the humanities, particularly writing poetry, and it was actually her sensibilities as a writer that moved her toward the body and pediatrics. “Medicine is much like English — they are both about story-making,” Aboul-Fotouh explains. “Everything has a beginning, middle and end. Much of medicine is putting together that story, proving that something happened or could happen.”  

Even through the rigors of medical school and residency, Aboul-Fotouh has continued writing poetry, what she describes as “putting parts together.” She attends a monthly poetry workshop and considers it “one of the absolute best things I have going for me.” In 2019, she published a long poem in the literary journal RHINO Poetry. The poem, titled “Begetting,” contemplates the loss of her father.

In fact, the death of Aboul-Fotouh’s father was instrumental in solidifying her approach to practicing medicine. She was dissecting a cadaver in her first year of medical school when she realized that the body presented with liver disease; her father had succumbed to liver cancer just two years before. “That recognition, while it brought about its own grief, also taught me that every body is a loved body,” she says. “This is something I recognize and verbalize often in pediatrics. I spend a lot of time telling parents, ‘I know your child is precious to you.’ My work is about honoring the loved body as well as those who care about them.”

Read more “20 in Their 20s” profiles here.