Sayeef Mirza, a triple USF degree holder, receives 2020 COPH Outstanding Alumni Award

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In 2008, as a freshman in the seven-year BS/MD program at USF, Dr. Sayeef Mirza made the decision to minor in public health.

It was a decision that was short lived.

“I quickly realized I wanted the ‘full package,’” said Mirza, a Florida native who graduated the USF College of Public Health (COPH) in 2013 with a degree in global health practice. “I was taking Intro to Public Health and Survey of Human Disease classes and it became apparent to me that I wanted the full public health experience. I wanted comprehensive training—not just the kind of training I would get with a minor. I had a thirst for more knowledge regarding global and population health. And that’s when I decided to go for the MPH track.”

Sayeef Mirza, MD, MPH, poses with residency program director Dr. Kellee Oller at his internal medicine residency graduation in 2019. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Mirza)

Mirza set out on a customized eight-year-in-the making BS/MPH/MD track, coordinated by his initial mentor Dr. Kay Perrin, an associate dean of student and academic affairs at the COPH.

“I can say with great appreciation and gratitude that USF and the COPH took my passion seriously by allowing me to gain increased competence and specialization in the fields of public and global health by letting an undergraduate take graduate level work. (Mirza’s unique set of circumstances allowed him to take graduate-level coursework before finishing his BS degree. The academic pathway involved a unique hybrid between the BS/MPH and BS/MD programs.)

While a student, Mirza took part in the “Project Downtown” feeding the homeless initiative, serving as the group’s president in 2011.  He says his time volunteering with the organization gave him invaluable experience performing a formal needs assessment of the homeless population living near the Salvation Army in Tampa. Later, as a medical student, he and others began providing medical services to the homeless.

“Converting a simple volunteer experience into a medical one was my first foray into public health,” Mirza said. “My years of volunteering with the homeless really steered my initial research to studying the disenfranchised and uninsured. It’s an experience I reflect on often, as I’ve always wanted my career to involve helping the disadvantaged.”

Mirza, center, and his family proudly wear USF’s green and gold. (Photo by Sonya Abraham Photography)

Today Mirza is a chief resident of academic affairs and resident research at the USF Morsani College of Medicine. He is board certified in internal medicine and will begin a fellowship in hematology/oncology at Yale University in July.

“While on this academic journey, I’ve done a number of jobs, from high school tutoring/mentoring to wet lab research as an undergrad to writing test questions for online question banks to even selling cars at my uncle’s dealership as a medical student. I like to think I’m a jack-of-all-trades. I like to know a little bit about everything,” said Mirza, who now works part-time at BayCare Urgent Cares and the emergency department at the James A. Haley Veterans’ Hospital. “These jobs have really kept up my  skills as a versatile physician who can work in any clinical environment, from the front lines to the research world.”

After completing his Yale fellowship, Mirza hopes to embark on a career as a lymphoma specialist with training in transplant and cellular therapy.

“The core courses at the COPH were really fundamental skills I use all the time,” he said. “From basic biostats to epidemiology and population health, this knowledge has helped me better understand the ‘clinical world’ and find my place in this large field.”

Alumni Fast Five

What did you dream of becoming when you were young?

A medical ambassador for the United Nations

Where might we find you on the weekend?

If I’m not moonlighting, I like to go fishing or to the park with the kids. Anything outside is fair game.

What is the last book you read?

I just finished “The Monk of Mokha,” by Dave Eggers.

What superpower would you like to have?

Teleportation

What’s your all-time favorite movie?

“Inception”

Story by Donna Campisano, USF College of Public Health