When she was four years old, SAHRA VANDERKIN RAHIMTOOLA '97 told her mother, "I want to be a nurse." Her mother's response-"Why not a doctor?"-planted a seed.
Rahimtoola (pronounced "rah-him-toola") took the health occupations program at Benson High School. A Portland native, she and her family lived in the country near Estacada until she was seven years old, and during that time, her mom was a rural paramedic.
"At Portland State, I decided for sure to pursue a medical career," Rahimtoola says. She majored in biology, and took courses in the pre-med program, which, she notes, even non-PSU students often take courses in to prepare for medical school, owing to the program's reputation.
Rahimtoola excelled in the classroom, and became a co-founder and student co-coordinator for the PSU Student Ambassador Program, which she credits with helping her gain leadership and networking skills that enhanced her chance of acceptance at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU).
There, Rahimtoola decided to specialize in internal medicine, and during her last year of residency at University of Virginia, she chose to focus on becoming a hospitalist, a subset of internal medicine and a comparatively new field.
"I take care of hospital patients only," she explains. "Heart attacks, pneumonia, strokes, GI bleeds. I like that, because you get to take care of the sickest patients."
In Virginia, she met her husband-to-be, who also had received his medical degree from OHSU and was in a cardiology residency in Charlottesville. They returned to Portland, where Rahimtoola completed her final year of residency at OHSU in 2004, and chose to practice at Kaiser Sunnyside Medical Center in Clackamas.
In her free time, Rahimtoola volunteers at Wallace Medical Concern and CASA, which helps abused and neglected children. "There's a place in my heart for abused and underserved people," she says.
Rahimtoola loves her work, but admits that hospital practice can be tough. "Sometimes it does take an emotional toll. But I really give my best to my patients, and treat them like I would my family."
By Clif Collins
Photo by Sharon O'Keefe