Saluting NCAS' Class of 2017: Zeinab Said

By Lawrence Lerner

This budding oncologist wants you to know the journalist is in.

Zeinab Said has always wanted to be a doctor. She also loves journalism. Fellow students ask how she could love such disparate disciplines. Said’s answer usually surprises them.

“I see nothing but similarities between the two. Both require great communication and listening skills, and both require empathy, or putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes,” says Said, one of four children of Lebanese descent who grew up in Guttenberg, N.J. “Whether it’s writing prescriptions or writing stories, you care for the people you’re treating or writing about, and you have to connect with them and build trust.”

With that holistic perspective, Said pursued both passions at RU-N, majoring in Journalism and Media Studies, and minoring in Cell and Molecular Biology with a Pre-Health concentration. Along the way, the affable senior made a name for herself as Editor-in-Chief of Scarlet Magazine, a student-run glossy publication that comes out four times per year, while taking on a host of campus responsibilities—some equally high-profile—together with science-related activities that she hopes will lead her to medical school.

It’s been quite a ride.

Said took over Scarlet Magazine two years ago, overseeing a rotating stable of 60 staff members (graphic designers, writers, editors, photographers), about half of whom work on any given issue, while increasing the page count, quality and readership markedly during that period.

“Most readers credit me, as the face of the publication, with the strides we’ve made, but I couldn’t have done it without my incredible staff,” says Said. “This magazine is a product of the Journalism and Graphic Design departments, and the staff work day in and day out to exceed my expectations. I can’t ask for a better group of people.”

When she’s not putting her heart and soul into the publication, Said is juggling a full course load, working 15 hours per week as a lab consultant for Newark Computing Services, and doing stints as a peer advisor for the Office of Academic Services, helping first-year and transfer students acclimate to RU-N. In addition, she has volunteered in the pediatric ER at University Hospital in Newark and is returning this summer to do an internship designed for pre-med students.

If that weren’t enough, Said also has been recruited by RU-N’s senior leadership for two exceptional roles: as a member of the RU-N Honorary Degree/Commencement Speaker Committee in 2016 and 2017, and as co-host for both the RU-N 250th Anniversary Dinner and RU-N’s 2017 Scholarship Recognition Dinner.

But for the budding pediatric oncologist, who is currently applying to the Master’s in Biomedical Sciences program at New Jersey Medical School, all roads lead back to the symbiosis between journalism and medicine.

To that end, Said has worked as part of the Minority Association of Pre-Health Students (MAPS), an RU-N student-run organization that helps minority students apply to health-related graduate schools. At the org’s recent Breaking Barriers Pre-Health Conference, she ran a writing workshop to assist applicants with their personal statements.

“I told them if they can write well on paper, then they can communicate well in person, and both are essential to practicing good medicine,” says Said. “I also said if they can write something that hits me in the gut—find and develop their voice—then that will help with their interviews. Many had put their writing aside while taking science courses, but they got it. They understood the connection between good writing, communication and patient care.”

Said plans to use that rare combination of skills to work with children, with whom she feels a close bond. Kids are especially vulnerable when they’re sick, even more so than adults, and doctors can be scary, but they don’t have to be, she says.

“I want kids to have a great experience with their doctor and want parents to know their kids are in good hands,” says Said. “The training I’ve gotten as a journalist, working with amazing professors and students here, has prepared me so well. I’ll miss this place terribly but am excited for what’s in store.”


Top Photo: By Lawrence Lerner