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Jul 12, 2023, 4:00 am UTC

2 min

Meet wmnHealth: Shafaq Zia, science journalist

Is there a brain health topic that’s close to your heart? 

My experiences of growing up in Pakistan with an autistic sibling drew me to writing about the brain. I vividly remember patiently waiting outside the speech therapist’s office every Saturday. Occasionally, a parent visiting the pediatrician next door would inquire why my mother and I were there, and eleven-year-old me would passionately explain everything I had learned in the past year about autism. Now, as a professional science journalist, I carry the same enthusiasm around brain awareness and have spent the last several years covering disability, assistive technology, and health inequities in the Middle-East and North America. 

What have you written lately that has really stuck with you?

After years of reporting, I’ve had the realization that it’s not so much the stories I write but the people I meet in the process that makes writing a worthwhile experience for me. My husband’s uncle was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s and while reporting a recent piece on what it means to live with Parkinson’s, I connected with Caroline Thornton, a horse breeder in rural Ontario. Her journey of accepting and leading a fulfilling life with Parkinson’s moved me. After publication, I shared the piece with my husband and his family, and it offered them a glimpse of hope that no doctor had been able to offer before. And this is what I’ve always wanted my work to do — share the power of lived experiences to inspire and uplift.  

You live in the Boston area and studied at MIT. How do you like to spend a day out and about in the city? 

I first came to Boston in early 2020 for a science writing internship at an online news publication called STAT. Within a couple of weeks of my arrival, COVID-19 cases surged around the globe and, in response, most of the U.S. shut down. The ensuing months were incredibly challenging for my mental health, but I left Boston with fond memories — perhaps it was the opportunities I had been given and the people I had connected with during my time at STAT. Naturally, I chose to come back for a Master’s in science writing at MIT. I met my now husband soon after — he grew up in Boston — and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed everything from eating Belgian waffles in the middle of winter in Harvard Square to walking along the Charles River esplanade at sunset. Boston feels like home. 

Shafaq Zia is a science and health journalist based in Boston. She discovered her love for science writing during her time at Northwestern University, where she pursued a degree in journalism and served as the managing editor of the campus newspaper, The Daily Q. She was also a reporting intern for STAT, covering the COVID-19 pandemic and latest research in health-tech. After completing the Graduate Program for Science Writing at MIT, Shafaq has continued to write and report on medical research and health inequities. 

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