ASU honors student driven by desire for health care equality

College of Health Solutions grad Iman Bouanani aims to effect change in the US health care system

December 8, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Growing up in Phoenix, watching her older brother devour anatomy books made a big impact on Iman Bouanani. So did his diabetes diagnosis. portrait of ASU student Iman Bouanani Iman Bouanani is graduating this December from ASU’s College of Health Solutions with a bachelor’s degree in medical studies. Download Full Image

“The cost of insulin — which is vital, he can’t live without it — is really high,” she said. “It shouldn’t be that way.”

Bouanani, who is graduating this December from ASU’s College of Health Solutions with a bachelor’s degree in medical studies, is determined to effect change in the U.S. health care system so that everyone has access to affordable, quality care. To that end, she’s currently applying to medical schools and is scheduled to take the MCAT in January. But getting this far was a journey that required her to first break out of her shell.

Having only attended school online before coming to ASU, simple things like speaking up in class and collaborating with her fellow students were initially a challenge for the New American University Scholarship recipient. But according to College of Health Solutions Lecturer Marjon Forouzeshyekta, who nominated Bouanani to be recognized as an exceptional student at the college’s convocation ceremony, it was one the Barrett, The Honors College student rose to with grace and determination.

While working on an independent project with Bouanani for her leadership and professionalism course, Forouzeshyekta had weekly Zoom meetings with her. “I immediately was able to see what a truly exceptionally bright and driven student she was,” Forouzeshyekta said. Despite working 4 a.m. shifts at Starbucks, Bouanani maintained an “immaculate performance” in class assignments and tests, as well as a positive attitude that rubbed off on other students.

“One of the barriers that Iman faced in life was her constant struggle with knowing how capable she is as a person,” Forouzeshyekta said. “Ever since she was young, she had the feeling that she was behind everyone else. This resulted in being uncomfortable speaking up and finding her voice. As the years went by, she knew changes needed to be made. She chose to push herself out of her comfort zone and opened up more. She began reaching out to learn more and even started a club that she is proud of today.”

The ASU student club, Inspire Change, aims to foster future leaders who inspire change in the communities around them. Bouanani also reached out to volunteer at hospitals in the Phoenix area and took part in the Phi Theta Kappa honors society.

“All around with my experiences, it just shows that you will never know how things are if you don't open up and try, and once you do, the outcomes will be seen,” Bouanani said.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to major in medical studies?

Answer: Ever since I was young, I wanted to go into medicine. I started out wanting to go into dentistry, then I switched to premed because I think there’s just a lot more that I can do there in terms of helping people who are in vulnerable situations. I’d also like to play a role in helping to change our current health care system for the better.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I’m a transfer student from South Mountain Community College, and before that, I went to online school most of my life, so I was hesitant to transition to a big university. Once I started reaching out to my professors, it got better. But that was something I had to learn: to kind of put myself out there and take advantage of the resources ASU offers.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU definitely has a lot of resources to help you succeed, which was something that I know I needed as a transfer student. I’m the type of student who freaks out when I don’t do well in class. So having those resources, from tutoring to professors' office hours — and things I didn’t even know ASU had, like therapy — was really important. Also, financially, it was the best decision.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Alexis Koskan was my thesis director this semester and she was my professor last year for my health communication class. A lot of what she taught me was to just never give up, work hard and always keep an open mind. And make sure that whatever you’re doing, you’re doing it with all your heart. Another professor I learned a lot from was Mrs. Marjon (Forouzeshyekta). She taught me a lot about being a leader. I did my honors project with her on the health disparities in our system that have gotten worse since the pandemic, and looking at ways to fix them. I learned that leadership is more than just being in charge and controlling people around you. It’s about collaboration and bringing your team together. Because without your team, you’re going to have a really tough time doing things by yourself.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Reach out. Utilize the resources you’re given. It’s really important to take care of yourself because college is a big thing, and you don’t want to mess it up. So utilize office hours if you need help. Or go to therapy sessions whenever you feel like you’re too stressed out. Especially during finals week!

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The second story of the University Center on the Downtown (Phoenix) campus. I would utilize that space to study. Also, the library in the University Center. I like how it’s on the lowest level. It’s really cool, and it’s quiet, so that’s also a good place to study. I’ve also studied at the Starbucks across the street from University Center.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Hopefully medical school. I’m still applying, and I’m going to be taking the MCAT in January. I think I want to go into anesthesiology. I shadowed an anesthesiologist and it was a great experience. They do a lot more than just putting people to sleep.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: The health care system in the U.S. It’s been a big issue for a long time. And it’s something that upsets me because people don’t have access to a lot of basic things. There are definitely big disparities when it comes to quality of care and cost. My older brother was diagnosed with diabetes, and the cost of insulin — which is vital, he can’t live without it — is really high. It shouldn’t be that way. It gets me worked up because as a country, we talk about how it’s such a big issue, but then we spend our money elsewhere when we could be spending it to give people access to better quality care.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU doctoral student performs concert in international collaboration

December 8, 2020

Astrid Morales Torres, Doctor of Musical Arts student in piano performance, showcased Mexican music in a livestreamed concert this fall as part of an international collaboration between Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre and the Consulate General of Mexico in El Paso, Texas.

“I am very passionate about Mexican composers and the music from my country,” Morales Torres said. “It is an honor for me to be considered as one of the main advocates of Mexican concert music. I have been fortunate to be invited frequently to play piano solo recitals in which I include music by famous Mexican composers and by living Mexican composers. As a Mexican myself, I think it is very important to share this music internationally and increase public awareness of the classical music scene in Mexico.”  Astrid Morales Torres. Download Full Image

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jacob Prado González, then consulate general of Mexico in El Paso, organized a series of virtual concerts and artistic activities called "Cultural Fridays," which invited artists to share a recital from home or broadcast a live performance. 

Morales Torres was contacted by Nadia Ornelas, cultural attaché for the consulate general, to record a virtual piano recital that could be shared as part of the series. The concert was livestreamed and recorded without an audience in ASU’s Katzin Concert Hall and then shared through the consulate's social media channels.

The concert, "Estampas Musicales" ("Musical Prints"), was a musical journey through Europe and North America exploring melodies and rhythms from selected countries. The program included Spanish composers Federico Mompou and Luis G. Jordá, French composer Claude Debussy, Mexican composer Manuel M. Ponce and American composer George Gershwin.

Morales Torres made her debut as a pianist at a local radio station in Mexico City when she was 8 years old and her soloist debut with Queretaro Philharmonic three years later.

She began her solo career in 2003 and has appeared with the Mexico State Symphony Orchestra, Nuevo León University Symphony, Mexico City Philharmonic, National Polytechnic Institute Symphony Orchestra and Aguascalientes Symphony.

As a recitalist, Morales Torres has performed in the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, Italy and Canada. As a chamber musician, she has performed in various ensembles including SYZYGY, directed by the acclaimed violinist Matt Albert, and has collaborated with the world-renowned cellist Andrés Díaz. She also served as Fellow Pianist at NorCal Music Festival in 2018 and 2019.

Morales Torres recorded her first CD, “Rimero Musical,” with music of Mexican composer Ladislao Juárez and collaborated in “El Oficio Mío” with music of Mexican composer Armando Rosas.

She was awarded the 2011 Youth Mexican Prize and Grand Prix to Exceptional Talents and Best Interpretation of Mexican Music at the Second National Piano Competition “Petrof – Symphony – Pearl River” and first prize at the 2014 General Concerto Competition, Meadows School of the Arts in Dallas, and performed with the Meadows Symphony Orchestra.

Morales Torres has served as a faculty associate at ASU and as piano faculty at the ASU Community Music School (formerly Music Prep). She is a member of the 2019 Binational Cultural Forum of Mexican Artists based in the United States representing Phoenix, organized by the Mexican government.

She earned a Master of Music in piano performance (2014) and piano pedagogy (2016) and a performer’s diploma (2014) from Southern Methodist University. She graduated in 2012 from the National Conservatory of Music in Mexico City.

Morales Torres currently studies with internationally recognized pianist Robert Hamilton, piano faculty in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

“I would love to continue a concert career performing not just piano solo recitals, but chamber music with colleagues and as a soloist with orchestras,” Morales Torres said. “In addition, teaching piano brings so much joy to my life that I would like to continue balancing both paths. Even though all my concerts were canceled due to the pandemic, I think this is a great opportunity for us, as artists, to continue developing our creativity in order to find more diverse ways to share music with others.”

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music