When 19-year-old Imran Faruqi walked into an old fire station with beat-up equipment in Washington, D.C.’s tough southeast side, he found his soul.
A biomedical engineering student at George Washington University and fresh-faced EMT, Faruqi realized in the hustle, the din, the urgency of the world of first-responders that he would never be the engineer his globe-trotting father, grandfather and great-grandfather were.
Like his fathers before him, he would explore the world. But Faruqi’s heart was made of stuff more primal, more adrenaline-fueled, more about keeping someone alive than solving an engineering problem.
For the first time in his life, the college sophomore understood that deep in his heart he needed to help when and where help was needed most.
Only 30 years old and an emergency room physician at Kaiser Permanente Riverside Medical Center, the Laguna Niguel resident already knows what it’s like to be the lone physician at an emergency shelter in the middle of a Louisiana flood with 3,000 evacuees needing help.
The doctor also understands what it means to volunteer for an Army commission.
Right now, the active reserve Army captain trains once a month. “It really is a special thing,” he offers, “to take care of soldiers and treat them.”
Within the next year, Faruqi will have served — or will be serving — in a place very far from Southern California and very different.
I’ll only say he can’t say where.
Faruqi isn’t much for pomp. Instead, his spirit gravitates toward the natural world.
Walk through his sparsely furnished bachelor rental in Laguna Niguel and photographs taken with a cellphone dot the walls.
There are caves of turquoise in Thailand, lush green forests in Malaysia, sandy beaches in Jamaica.
From his patio with a view of the Pacific Ocean, he smiles at the memories. But he truly lights up when he talks about hanging out on the coast of Australia and watching pods of humpback whales playing in the sea.
Australia, you see, is special. This man of the world started medical school in Brisbane. But let’s back up.
Faruqi was born in Portland, Ore., went to an American elementary school in Saudi Arabia where his father worked, graduated high school in Virginia and earned his bachelor’s degree at George Washington University.
He started as an engineering student. But he was curious about the path his big sister had taken to become a doctor in San Francisco.
“Anything she did,” Faruqi confesses,…