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Shirin Sioshansi

As a teenager, Shirin Sioshansi loved being outside and had a passion for service and for people. During her first summer at The Food Project (in 1995), she decided that this was the perfect job for her. "That summer, I made such amazing friends that all of a sudden [The Food Project] became part of my identity," she remembered. She returned the next year as an assistant crew leader and later spent two summers as a crew leader while she was studying at Dartmouth College.

Shirin was born in Iran and fled with her family to the United States during the Iranian Revolution at the age of 8 months. Her grandfather was a general in the Shah's army and her father was involved in the government, so her family decided to leave their homeland. They moved around the United States for several years before settling in Lincoln, Mass.

Working at The Food Project, Shirin met people she would have never otherwise encountered and was challenged to expand her view of society. In her first summer, she recalled participating in an activity called "Community Build" which is designed to teach teens about race and oppression through the guise of ice cream flavors. Participants chose a flavor of ice cream - chocolate, mint chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry - and each group tried to build their ideal community together, not knowing that the "mayors" of their towns were enforcing unequal restrictions on the financial, legal, and societal resources assigned to each ice cream flavor.

"I remember being so blown away [by] how effective [the activity] is to get the point across," she recalled. Shirin's experience at The Food Project later inspired her to pursue African American studies at Dartmouth. She recalled being fascinated by the idea that despite not having any biological reality, race has very real implications and consequences. After graduating from Dartmouth, Shirin worked for the nonprofit The Bottom Line and attended Brown University Medical School. Subsequently, during her residency at Tufts Medical Center, she found that the skills she acquired while working as a crew leader at The Food Project translated directly to her work as chief resident. As a crew leader, she learned to give balanced feedback and found it rewarding to watch the diverse team of teens she led step up to the challenge of working with TFP.

"As a leader, you have to be tough and supportive, but mainly tough," she noted with a laugh. She carried these skills to her role as the chief resident at her residency program. She led her fellow residents by example and enforced high expectations of herself and others. At the end of the year, her co-residents and chairman told her that her strong leadership skills had helped to improve the residency program in just one year. "When I was younger," she noted, "I would have never considered myself a leader."

Shirin now works full time as a radiation oncologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical Center. In this capacity, she loves to thread together her personal interests in race and social justice with her scientific interests. Her research focuses on triple negative breast cancer, which predominantly affects young African American women. She notes that she is still surprised that the friendships she formed at The Food Project have lasted so long and that TFP "shaped a big part of my life."

The Food Project is a 501(c)(3) non-profit.

Tax ID: 04-3262532


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