Rays of Light: Kumail Hussain

Hometown(s): Skokie, IL

Current Location: North Chicago, IL

Current Role: Medical Student at the Chicago Medical School

Nominated By: Ben Bruster

Reason for Nomination: Since freshman year of college, Kumail has become one of my deepest and most trusted friends. Whether I am looking to laugh or need support, I know I can call upon Kumail. Even though he leads a busy life as a medical student, he strives to be there for each of his friends and family members as much as possible. Kumail has a heart of gold—anyone who knows him personally also knows this to be true.

My buddy is goofy, ceaselessly hardworking, vulnerable, charismatic, and driven to serve others. Each day, he aims to improve himself and his world. For these reasons and more, he is a true “Ray of Light.”

Kumail his cousin’s dog while on a recent trip to California. PC: KH

A Short Bio.

Kumail Hussain was born in Chicago, IL on August 19, 1996. The son of Pakistani immigrants, he spent the first seven years of life in the city, where his parents worked tirelessly to pay bills and provide a stable home. After spending this time in the city, the Kumail and his family ventured to the northern suburbs, where his father followed a calling to start his own small business. Transition to the suburbs did not prove easy, however. As Kumail puts it, his father “worked all types of jobs” in those early years, so that he was “able to open [and support his] small business.” Thankfully, his father’s efforts paid off, and he was also able “to do well for himself” and his family.

Growing up, Kumail enjoyed cooking with his mom and having sleepovers at his cousin’s house. On account of his “traditional and religious parents,” he dedicated his younger years towards pursuing his Muslim faith while in community with other practitioners and family members. In part due to this, family and community meant everything to young Kumail and his kinship. Having hailed from southern Pakistan decades prior, Kumail’s parents engrained in he and his younger brother, Zain, the importance of familial support, as they aimed scratch out a living for themselves and their progeny.

Kumail pictured with friends from medical school. PC: KH

Despite all this, Kumail’s sophomore year of high school, his life took a tragic turn. His mom, who for years had been his rock, became deathly ill from an infection. And not long after, she died, leaving two children without a mother; a husband without a wife; and family members without their aunt, niece, and grandchild. Unquestionably, this moment quickly became the major watershed moment of Kumail’s young life. In every significant way, Kumail and his loved ones were left to pick up the pieces.

For Kumail, the grieving process took two major forms. In one, he would separate the wheat from the chaff, assessing and prioritizing who and what would be important for him, for now and for years to come. Secondly, Kumail would reflect upon his mother’s life—her sacrifices, her character, and her dreams. As a consequence, in the weeks and years since, Kumail has come to view himself as the author of his young mother’s unlived dreams.

After graduating from Niles North High School, Kumail attended Augustana College in Rock Island, IL. There, Kumail studied Biology and Pre-Medicine. While at Augustana, he also actively served on Student Government, conducted biological research, ran track for his freshman year, and was a participant of numberless student boards and groups.

Following graduation, Kumail attended Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science in North Chicago, IL, where he pursued a one-year Master’s in Health Sciences. Over the course of this year, he tirelessly committed himself to personal and professional improvement. Eating healthy, routinely exercising, and learning continuously then became—and currently are—Kumail’s means of personal betterment. Along the way, he took on student leadership roles within his Master’s program and was accepted to medical school.

Today, Kumail Hussain is a first-year medical student at the Chicago Medical School. In his “free time,” he enjoys producing “Kumail in the Kitchen,” videos that teach viewers how to make “Easy, Tasty, and Affordable” renditions of classic and fad dishes. He feels deeply passionate about his work as a medical student and as a cooking video extraordinaire, because these activities allow him to express his creative and technical competencies. More than anything, though, Kumail remains committed to service. By healing others through his hands and his food, Kumail knows that he is making a positive impact on the world, an impact that would make his mother proud.

Kumail poses before creating a recent cooking video. PC: KH

Q & A: The [Not So] Serious

BB: If you were trapped on a desert island for a year, what three ingredients would you want to have along to cook with?

KH: Chicken breast, corn tortillas, chipotle sauce. But wait, would I have a stove?? If not, I would bring COOKED chicken breast.

***

BB: What inspired to create “Kumail in the Kitchen”?

KH: I always loved cooking as kid, and it reminds of when I cooked with my mom. I wanted to show the world that cooking doesn’t have to be difficult and can actually be pretty fun!

BB: Which of your videos is your favorite so far?

KH: I enjoyed doing the Taco Bell Crunch Wrap video. I made my own twist on it and I had my best friends on that video. It was fun filming with them and seeing their reactions.

BB: What are your dreams for Kumail in the Kitchen?

KH: My dream is for people to see my videos and be inspired to go try my recipes or learn how to cook. I hope my channel can make people laugh but also provide a positive message about how cooking can be extremely rewarding for your physical and mental health.

***

BB: If you could create music with any musical artist for an afternoon, who would you choose? And why?

KH: Well I love rapping with my buddy Josh, we could freestyle all day. But an actual artist would be Bad Bunny. He’s a Latino hip artist, and I love the vision he has for music. Plus, I would very much enjoy singing/rapping in Spanish.

***

BB: Aside from your alarm clock, what gets you out of bed in the morning? What motivates you to live as you currently are living?

KH: What motivates me are the people I set out to inspire and hope to give back to in the future. I have been blessed with many friends and family and I want to make them proud. Also, medicine is a calling, and I can’t help but answer. It doesn’t matter if I’m tired, feeling lazy, or ill. Our patients need us and they need us to be the best doctors we can possibly be.

***

BB: For many people, tattoos are important forms of conveying meaning, remembering, and expressing oneself. Can you explain the tattoo on your arm? What does it mean to you? And how often do you think of it?

KH: The tattoo on my arm is my mom’s name in my native language, Urdu. I’ve always been against tattoos but I wanted a way to feel connected to her when I’m not able to visit her grave site I look over my shoulder where my tattoo is located whenever I am doing a tough workout or studying for long hours. It helps me push through whatever I am doing.

***

BB: If you were being portrayed in a movie, who would you select to play your character?

KH: I would pick Aziz Ansari. His humor strongly resembles mine.

***

BB: In what important ways do you see that you have grown since graduating from Augustana College?

KH: I think I have grown in many ways. I’m more driven, and I now know the path I want to walk. I also have placed a greater emphasis on health and nutrition since graduating and hope to continue this fitness journey. College was fun, and I met some amazing people, but I view myself as a completely different person from those days.

***

BB: Imagine you and three famous people (dead or alive) are holed up in a Trans-Siberian Express sleeper car for the eight-day journey from Moscow to Vladivostok. What three people would you pick? How would you pass the time?

KH: I would bring along Gordon Ramsay, Lil Dicky, and Kobe Bryant. Some of the most amazing minds that I have encountered. I hope we can talk about life, funny experiences, and cooking.

Kobe Bryant. PC: LA Times

BB: Tell about a recent moment when you felt proud to be you. Why do you think you felt this way? And what does this moment say about you

KH: This is tough. I would say my white coat ceremony. I invited my entire family and my friends and they all came out to show their support. I didn’t feel proud because I got into medical school, I felt proud because I had so many people to share that memory with. It says a bit about me. I might work hard to attain the material things in my life, but I truly enjoy the company of the people that I care about most.

***

BB: Finish this sentence. It’s 11:30 pm. I just finished studying, and now I’m craving _________ (this food).

KH: Chicken tacos

***

BB: When looking to laugh, what (activities, settings, etc.) or who do you turn to?

KH: Well, I love watching crude cartoons on Netflix or Hulu. Even certain anime has great humor that I enjoy. But most of the time, when I’m able to FaceTime my cousins they have me laughing till I cry!

***

BB: Medicine is changing. For myriad reasons, providers often find themselves stretched and unable to provide the type of care they would like to provide to their patients. As a future physician, how do you hope to provide the best possible care to patients while still balancing compensation and insurance protocols?

KH: I hope that by the time I’m a physician, many of those kinks are worked out. However, the healthcare system is not perfect. We see this clearly especially during this COVID pandemic. I hope to treat my patients equally, regardless if they have the best insurance or no insurance. Not only that, I hope to be a leader and an activist for healthcare to influence systematic change and inspire others to speak up as well.

***

BB: With modern technology and social media, it seems really easy to perceive others’ lives differently than they occur. Given this phenomenon, what do wish the world knew about you that they might not already know?

KH: I’m far from perfect. On my social media, I talk about the positive things in my life, but I make my fair share of mistakes. I try not to live with regret and learn from my past. I want the people to know that you need to work hard for what you care about in life. It’s not going to be easy. I have plenty of bad or unproductive days. However, the good days make it all worth it and I always try remind myself of how far I’ve come.

***

Author’s Note: I had a blast interviewing my friend, Kumail. All responses are found as they were written, except in the few cases when subtle rewriting improved narrative flow.

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