UofSC medical student fulfills previously unobtainable dream

Match Day signals finish line for student who overcame persecution, rollercoaster ride to medical school

Update March 20: Vida Yousefian matched into a psychiatry residency at Prisma Health-Midlands. She'll begin her training this summer.


Vida Yousefian always had a passion for medicine. But growing up in Iran, as member of the persecuted Baháʼí Faith, her dream seemed out of reach.

Following the Iranian Revolution, Baháʼí students were banned from attending the country’s universities and colleges. So, Yousefian and her peers attended the Baháʼí Institute for Higher Education, an unsanctioned university taught by Baháʼí faculty members who had been ousted from traditional schools.

“This was an underground school," Yousefian says. "We were meeting in people’s living rooms or basements, wherever we could find a place that we wouldn’t draw too much attention.”

While she was there, her school offered eight programs based on the available faculty members and their areas of expertise. Medicine wasn’t an option, so Yousefian pursued civil engineering. After completing her training, she was able to find work in Tehran.

“Luckily, the Iranian people are very different from the government," Yousefian says. "A lot of people were understanding and they gave opportunities to graduates of my school. They were risking their own businesses by hiring us.”

In 2005, Yousefian and two of her brothers immigrated to the United States to pursue further education at the University of South Carolina. Yousefian began working on her master’s degree at South Carolina, and even started her own engineering business, Hybrid Engineering, in 2008. Yet, she still felt like something was missing.

This past four years has been the best experience of my life, and I would do it again and again.

Vida Yousefian

“At that point, I was in the mindset that I’d had my chance. I was doing engineering and that was it,” Yousefian says. “In other parts of the world, you have to be admitted to medical school right out of high school. It’s not very common for someone to start with one major and then switch.”

Yousefian even tried to convince her brothers to pursue medicine, and after her first two children were born, she began planning their paths to medical school.

“It felt like medical school was just something I had never been able to obtain, so I was projecting it on other people. Then my husband asked ‘Why don’t you go to medical school?’ That’s when the lightbulb went off,” Yousefian says.

In 2014, she began her quest to attend medical school. She spent two years earning her prerequisites and applying to schools, while also raising two young children. In 2016, shortly after interviewing at the School of Medicine Columbia, Yousefian’s story took another twist when she found out she was pregnant with her third child.

“I was thinking, ‘How am I going to do this with a newborn?’ But my mom and dad and my husband were all saying, ‘You’ve come this far. You can do it,’ ” Yousefian says.

She took her family’s support to heart and didn’t let welcoming another child slow her down. Just five weeks after her son was born, she began medical school at the School of Medicine Columbia. She was 37 years old.

After what Yousefian refers to as a “rollercoaster four years,” she has almost completed her medical school coursework. Now she and her family are anxiously awaiting Match Day, when medical students across the nation will find out where they will complete their residencies.

Yousefian, who hopes to match into a psychiatry residency, applied to about 30 programs and interviewed with eight. When the clock strikes noon on March 20 and Yousefian opens the envelope with her match results, she’ll find out if she gets to stay close to home or if she and her family will be setting out on another adventure.

“We have submitted our list and now we’re at the mercy of a computer algorithm to determine where we end up,” Yousefian says.

“I just hope that I match in psychiatry, then I can relax and feel like I finally have achieved what I wanted my entire life. This past four years has been the best experience of my life, and I would do it again and again.”

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