Emaad Khan: Changing the world one medical bill at a time

Written by Serena Garcia
Photos by Patrick Cavanagh
April 20, 2023

Emaad Khan knew he wanted to help people ever since he volunteered as an ambulance ride-along during his first year in college at Pitt’s Johnstown campus. Not really thinking anything of it, he decided to volunteer his time to experience what it was like working in the back of an ambulance.

Now a junior biology major at Pitt, Khan is six months into creating and running his nonprofit, Spread the Love Projects, for which he is founder and president. The nonprofit officially began on Aug. 19, 2022, with the mission of helping struggling families pay their medical bills.

Through his experience, Khan found that despite the medical crisis a person may face, they had a deeper concern looming over their shoulder — the cost of the care. 

“I just remember this one specific instance where someone got in the ambulance and they were talking and were like ‘Okay, we think we should transport you,’ but like the only thing they were worried about was how much it’s going to cost,” Khan said. “So I was like wow, we just met this person on the worst day of their life, but their concern isn’t ‘Am I going to be okay, is my child going to be okay?’ it’s ‘how much does this cost?’” 

Khan said he began forming the idea of a nonprofit around 2020 in his dorm room during the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the idea began to form, Khan said he and his friends were always trying to see how they could give back to the community or help those in need. In high school, Khan and his friends decided to hand out pizzas to the homeless community on Christmas Eve. 

Seeing the struggles that many families face first-hand in those ambulance rides, Khan knew that he wanted to create something to help those struggling. So he created the non-profit Spread the Love Projects. 

“Our ultimate mission is to help families that are struggling with pediatric medical bills,” Khan said. “So families that have trouble paying for their child’s medical bills or are struggling in different aspects of their life whether it's paying for rent, paying for a refrigerator because they’re so heavily burdened by their children’s medical bills. That's our overall mission.” 

Khan’s background and childhood also impacted his decision to start the nonprofit. His family immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan in 2010 and have called Pittsburgh home ever since. Throughout his childhood, Khan remembers when his family struggled with health care and the times when he could and couldn’t see a doctor. 

“I just remember, like I never had a pediatrician, like that’s always something that was so weird. I never went to the doctor. I think one time, I tripped or something, and my parents took me to MedExpress. But all my friends had pediatricians and they’d leave for doctors appointments. And I was like it’s odd, I don’t have that. I’d never even been to the dentist,” Khan said. “But then as I grew up, I understood that there were times where we would have health care, there were times where we wouldn’t have health care.” 

Khan’s sister, Erza Khan, also shared the importance that both family and their religion, Islam, played in the inspiration behind the nonprofit. Erza Khan serves as the vice president of Spread the Love Projects, and she is a first-year human biology major at Carlow University. 

“In Islam, there’s five pillars, and one of the really big pillars is that you have to give a certain percentage of your income and stuff to charity,” Erza Khan said. “I think we watched our parents do that a lot with their faith and everything. My mom has always made it very clear, you have to give back, you have to be grateful and everything. I think that really inspired him to give back more.”

Patrick Cavanagh | Senior Staff Photographer

Both Khan and his sister mentioned the importance that their mother played in creating the non-profit. From a young age, their mother emphasized the importance of giving back to others.

Despite his passion for the nonprofit, Khan faced a few roadblocks along the way. With his young age causing some lawyers to doubt his capabilities, Khan said trying to start the nonprofit became a challenge. 

“And for two years, from that 2020 period where I had the idea, I tried to talk to lawyers, go back and forth, and it was just like everyone just treated me like a kid, because I was 18,” Khan said. “But the ageism was so frustrating, so frustrating. So I didn’t really get anywhere with them, until one day I was like okay, I’m just gonna like figure this out myself.” 

With Khan having full confidence in his nonprofit, things slowly started falling into place. Khan found an online attorney through LegalZoom to help with creating the nonprofit and had help from his parents regarding paying the various fees that came with licensing and documents.

In March, Khan received the paperwork that Spread the Love Projects had become official, though it wasn’t until this past August when Khan and his board announced the official start of the non-profit via Instagram. The announcement post served to introduce themselves, show the public their goal for change and share their slogan “Changing the World One Project at a Time.” 

Khan said he worked through the months of March all the way to August, carefully creating and putting together the pieces to create the nonprofit. Finally, after all the delays, Khan saw his idea come to life. 

“It was late August we started and I put together a board of individuals, put together a team, and ever since then, everything just kinda blew up all at once. It’s incredible,” Khan said. 

With a Board of Directors composed of seven of his friends and fellow college students by his side, Khan’s nonprofit is still growing. But he hopes it will continue expanding through networking and connections. Khan said some of his best memories are seeing people’s reaction to the nonprofit and what he and his team have achieved. 

“Sometimes I’ll randomly get messages from people that grew up with me and things of that sort and they are the most touching, kindest words in the world,” Khan said. “Nice kind words that people share with you always keep you going.”

Armaan Virk, a junior supply chain management major at Michigan State University, highlighted Khan’s growth not only with the nonprofit, but as a person as well. Virk serves as the director of communications for Spread the Love Projects and has been a close friend of Khan’s since they first met in third grade. With their close friendship, Virk said he’s seen the nonprofit grow from an idea to where it is now. 

“You know, he’s always been a charitable person, we would always, on Christmas Eve, go and donate pizzas to the homeless and things like that,” Virk said. “But just seeing his growth from that into his nonprofit organization now. That was like another huge growth moment in his life.” 

As the organization grew, Khan continued to persevere and collect different achievements along the way. He established his first business bank account for the nonprofit and even secured a partnership with local hospital system UPMC.

Recently, the nonprofit created their own clothing line to serve as another way to raise money. The clothing line allows the nonprofit to partner with different college and Greek life organizations and run fundraising drives to help raise money for the nonprofit.

Since its founding in August, Spread the Love Projects has already raised $20,000, allocating $5,000 of their funds to UPMC. Khan said he and his team are planning on raising even more to reach their year goal of $100,000. 

Aside from their donations to UPMC, Khan said the rest is allocated to families through Spread the Love Projects’ own sector, which allows families in need the ability to apply to receive funding through the nonprofit’s website.

“We want $100,000 by the end of the year, that’s our goal. That’s something we emphasize every single day is to work towards that goal to make the largest impact that we possibly can,” Khan said.

Now with the nonprofit in full swing, Khan’s days are full from start to finish. He takes classes, studies for the MCAT and works on the nonprofit. Still, Khan is able to handle both his school and nonprofit work, something that Virk commends him on. 

“He obviously is the busiest out of all of us,” Virk said. “He’s doing as much work as we’re doing throughout the day plus more because he’s meeting with people, interviewing people. It’s truly amazing how much motivation he has.” 

As he continues to study for the MCAT and work towards his dream to become a physician, Khan said his hope for the nonprofit is that it will follow him through his journey into his own medical practice and eventually beyond Pittsburgh

“I just want to grow it to astronomical numbers,” Khan said. “Overall, the goal is to help change the world in some way. Just grow it as big as possible to ultimately make like the largest impact we possibly can.”