Student Spotlight

Hamza Khilji

Hamza Khilji

Hometown: Farmingville, New York

Degree Program: MD/MPH, Health Policy and Management concentration

Class Year: 2024

Undergraduate Major: Business Administration with a concentration in Business for Health Professions

Professional Interests: Medicine, Fitness, Entrepreneurship, and Leadership

Extracurricular Activities/Involvement:

  • Class of 2024’s Medical Council, Treasurer
  • Muslim Students Association
  • Project Get Back on Your Feet, Cofounder

Click here for Hamza Khilji’s LinkedIn profile


1. What drew you to the MD/MPH program at SUNY Downstate Health Sciences University? Why did you choose to study public health?

During my undergraduate education, I had the opportunity to be an active member of the Brooklyn College Speech and Debate team. As a debater, arguing about current events on topics ranging from education, health, and the economy to cultural, religious, and gender identities opened my eyes to the amount of socio-economic disparities present in the world and the needed advocacy to help mitigate them. The most troubling resolutions were those concerning humanitarian crises and inequalities. This sparked my interest in the public policy aspect of public health. Moreover, as an aspiring physician, I felt that studying public health and learning about the underlying socio-economic factors that cause disparities would allow me to be a more effective advocate for my patients. What drew me to SUNY Downstate was its active role in the community it serves through its outreach and intervention programs. I wanted a learning experience in which I would have the opportunity to apply my knowledge in public health and medicine in a practical and service-oriented form as I progressed in my education.


2. What is your favorite aspect of the program and what have you gained from it?

My favorite aspect of the program is the group work-centered curriculum. Especially considering the shift to remote education due to COVID-19, working on group projects allowed me to have exposure to and interaction with peers who were of diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds and who had life experiences different than mine. Not only was groupwork an opportunity to develop new relationships at a time where we cannot even meet in-person, but it also allowed me to learn about other cultures from the experience of individuals in those respective cultures and helped contextualize the curriculum.


3. Can you recall a memorable in-class or general SUNY Downstate experience that struck you as particularly meaningful?

One memorable moment I had was when I found out that one of my peers for a group project was a chief physician in the department of pediatric pulmonology at Downstate. As an aspiring physician, I was extremely excited that I had the opportunity to network with a physician so early on in my education. However, while my expectations were that my group members and I would be learning from him, I was humbled and surprised when he mentioned to us that he was learning just as much relevant knowledge from us due to our generational gap. I never expected that a physician would gain as much insight from novice MPH students! This experience highlighted the value of collaborative work in the field of public health, and that in advocating for others, no one individual is better than another.


4. Could you describe your activities and involvement at SUNY Downstate?

As a first-year medical student, I have been grateful to have the opportunity to serve as the treasurer of the class of 2024’s medical council. I am also an active member of the Muslim Students Association, and one of the most rewarding experiences this year was that the MSA raised over $20,000 for charity week projects across the globe.


5. What are your goals? Do you have plans to further your education or do you have a career in mind upon graduation?

I hope to pursue a career in pediatric surgery and one day be able to use my skills and expertise as a surgeon to help children in underserved and developing countries.


6. Do you have any advice for someone who might be interested in Downstate’s MD/MPH program?

I would highly recommend pursuing an MD/MPH, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, a time where public health is at the forefront of society. The MPH aspect of the program helps truly understand why health disparities exist in the patients that physicians treat, and contextualizing these disparities makes it easier to empathize with patients and effectively work with them to create treatment plans. Moreover, SUNY Downstate serves an underserved community, which allows medical students to have first-hand exposure to cases and populations earlier than most other medical schools. This provides not only valuable experience in treating individuals, but it also provides multiple opportunities for patient interactions, which ultimately will refine your skills as a physician in the future. Last, but certainly not least, the MPH is done in three summers, without any negative impact on the regular medical academic year. Having the summer MPH courses helps provide a social context for all the medical ailments we learn about in the Fall and Spring. It’s a combination that everyone should expose themselves to!


7. Is there anything else you would like to highlight about yourself, your education, community involvement, career goals, etc.?

My interest in public health also stems from my passion for fitness. I love working out after losing 30 pounds in the first semester of college and realizing that I could empower people to believe that they too could start their own journey, I decided to create a fitness page on Instagram--Khilji Kinetics. After constantly re-imagining how I could impact a larger population and networking with other fitness pages, I realized that there was a disparity in achieving health related quality of life and well-being. Khilji Kinetics then served as an inspiration for me to cofound Project Get Back on Your Feet. As a non-profit, our mission is to create a mobile functional fitness center that provides access to physical training, nutritional coaching and healthcare resources to low-income communities across Long Island and the greater New York City area. Since the inception of this organization was at the same time that I started my first summer of MPH coursework, the lessons I learned from my classes and professors helped shape the non-profit into an effective intervention program. We have had the privilege of participating in the CUNY Startups program, where we placed second overall, and the 2020 Hofstra Healthcare Entrepreneurship Community Challenge, a competition for public health startups. More importantly, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, we were able to hold socially-distanced workout classes, supplemented with nutrition lessons, throughout the Fall. The MD/MPH program has provided me with the opportunity to take my education and love for fitness and help others beyond just the capabilities of a future physician.

My ultimate goal is to become the Surgeon General of the United States because the role and responsibility that comes with the title would serve as the most effective means of implementing health policies that could mitigate health disparities. I hope to be at the forefront of leadership in fighting for and advocating on behalf of my patients.