Word by Jessica Devenyns Photos by Eric Morales
For Amina Haji, a healthy life is a simple one. “It’s about learning to be in this world without being affected by it.”
With her mantra established and a mission to “bring commonsense to healthcare,” Dr. Haji began her work on the Karisha Community, which is slated to open at the end of 2018. As she meditated over a steaming cup of fresh chai, Dr. Haji contemplated how she encapsulates the idea of commonsense healthcare in the Karisha Community. After a moment of introspection, the doctor’s eyes lit up as she explained the concept: “It’s transforming the idea of healthcare and shifting from sick care to healthcare and ending the economic segregation of healthcare.” Increasing access to health is the cornerstone of her vision. In a model in which healthcare has become more of an obligatory payment plan to insurance companies than an accessible service, Dr. Haji wants to create a space where health is re-centered around humans.
Although she sounds confident in her path and the mission of the Karisha Community, there was a time when Dr. Haji resisted her calling to the medical field. After college, Dr. Haji rejected the family profession, in favor of following her passion. Her journey landed her on the West Coast doing West African dance professionally and working for a janitor’s union. “I was a union organizer because I always wanted to do social justice work, and I felt like that was the best way to equalize economic disparities,” she admits.
This life, however, only served to create a brittle veneer around an unfulfilled and lost soul. Her experience as a “lost Amina” is, however, what spurred her to dramatically alter her life’s course. To begin, she took what she refers to as a pause: the first of many throughout her career.
“I’ve done a lot of pauses, and I’m very non-traditional in how I approach my work. I sort of work to the amount and the places that fill what I need for it to do in my life,” she explains. As a result, she sees her work as “never doing something because it’s how it should be or how it’s offered to me.”
For Dr. Haji, this approach has led to the Karisha Community’s philosophy of pursuing health through connection to self and the world. In fact, for her, connection is fundamental to life. “That’s my greatest possession: the connection to myself because that is something that we’re not given.” Instead, she says it is something you must strive for and when you do, you will illuminate your path through this life.