If you had to pick two words to describe Dr. Aneesa Afroze’s purpose in life, they might be education and opportunity. 


Her love for learning started from day one. Afroze was born in Hyderabad, India, to a family of “very strong and well-educated” women who raised her to believe that you cannot be successful without being educated. Her grandmother worked as a science teacher before India achieved independence from British rule, and her mom was the principal of a local college. 

Having them as role models gave her the inspiration to work hard and discover a passion for learning, particularly in the field of health care. 

After completing her residency and fellowship in Missouri, Afroze moved to Iowa in 2008 and earned certifications in wound care; travel and global health; and as an HIV specialist. But that wasn’t enough – several years later, she went back to school to get her master’s in public health from Des Moines University.

“I’ve always had a very broad vision,” Afroze said. “Having a broad vision and looking forward, you get more opportunities to do things. I take every opportunity that comes my way because taking challenges is the best way to learn.” 

Throughout the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, Afroze has been described as the “Dr. Anthony Fauci of Iowa,” both because of her role as an infectious disease specialist and because of her honest-yet-optimistic view of the pandemic when talking with patients and news outlets, even when her own mental health suffered. 

Dr. Hijinio Carreon, chief medical officer at MercyOne, called Afroze a “reliable force for good” in his nomination letter. “Dr. Afroze worked tirelessly to be a voice of reason in Central Iowa to dispel misinformation and provide care, never wavering in her positivity, determination and love for her patients.” 

When asked for words of advice, Afroze said she wants people to embrace every opportunity that comes their way. 

“You need to work hard to succeed in your goals. There are failures always, there are hurdles always, but with every failure, you learn to do better. … I’m not afraid of failing. I just take it as an opportunity to do better.”

Education Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery from Deccan College of Medical Sciences, M.D. from University of Missouri, Master of Public Health from Des Moines University
Hometown Hyderabad, India
Family Husband Meraj, daughters Asiya and Maryam
Hobbies Spending time with family, learning to ski, riding her electric bike

“Listen, learn and lead.”

Three areas of influence

  1. Afroze recently entered the world of philanthropy and is a member of the Tocqueville Society, where she and her husband give more than $10,000 per year to United Way of Central Iowa. She also regularly contributes to the MercyOne Des Moines Foundation.
  2. In 2018, Afroze led a group of five Des Moines University students and two MercyOne residents on a medical mission trip to St. Lucia. While she was there, she gave lectures on HIV and antimicrobial stewardship to medical students and health care providers at St. Jude Hospital.
  3. Despite not being a fan of politics, Afroze is involved with the Indo-American PAC in order to ensure the voice of a health care provider is heard at the Capitol.