What is your background?
I grew up in Baghdad, Iraq, in very difficult times of wars and sanctions. In 2005, my family fled Iraq to neighboring Syria. I had just graduated high school. There was no chance of continuing my education in Damascus due to the overwhelming number of Iraqi refugees who flooded the city. In 2008, my family heard the relieving news of our acceptance for refugee resettlement in the U.S. My first year here was particularly challenging, as not only did I have to work in a completely new environment and speak a different language, but I also had to make sure that my mother received the healthcare she needed. In fall of 2009, after four years of putting my education on hold, I started community college in San Diego. In fall of 2012, I transferred to University of California-San Diego, majoring in Biochemistry-Cell Biology. Finally, in 2015 I earned my acceptance to Marian University-College of Osteopathic Medicine. I am very excited about my journey in healthcare.
If money and time were no concern, what would you like to do?
I have always wanted to travel the world and learn more about the different cultures, cuisines, and customs. I would definitely take more road trips, and I would camp in scenic places around the globe. One dream I have is to found an international refugee organization to help those who are least fortunate.
What course in college had the greatest impact on you and why?
Aside from enjoying sciences, one course I took at UCSD, “The History of The Beatles,” had a special influence on me. I enjoyed learning about how the rock & roll genre evolved, but the lesson I took was far more meaningful. I found the story of the Beatles to be quite fascinating. Four individuals from a completely different walks of life and different childhood experiences were united by music to become the most influential band in history. It is just a wonderful example of the many similarities we have with each other, but it’s up to us to realize it.
How is higher education in the U.S. different from your country of origin?
Higher education in Iraq has unfortunately been deteriorating due to unrest and corruption. As far as medical education, I am always inspired by how much young physicians can do with their hands and without having the latest imaging and surgical technology. On the other hand, the practice of medicine in the U.S. has become so dependent on technology that it’s taking us a step away from manual diagnostics.
I believe that manual diagnostics is an essential component for establishing a comforting environment for patients. It’s part of the reason why I was interested in Osteopathic training. The focus is on treating the patient as a whole and emphasizing manual diagnostics of neuromusculoskeletal dysfunctions as a first sign for the patients’ ailments. My goal is influenced by both countries’ practices, as I intend to emphasize manual diagnostics as well as take advantage of invaluable medical technology.
What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?
Recently, I met with Dr. Patch Adams. He said “even in your darkest days, even if you work in a hospital environment filled with negativity, if you shine with love and kindness you will make all the difference in the world. Be that different person.” I found great wisdom and peace with what he said. He inspired me to become the best doctor I can be, but more importantly, he inspired me to be a better human being.
Is there something about you (talents, interests?) that people might be surprised to learn?
I am an outdoor enthusiast. My love for nature explains why my favorite hobbies are camping and fishing. Since I came to the U.S., San Diego has become home. My weekly routine includes a day of fishing at the pier. One adventure I had was camping for three days on the uninhabited side of Catalina island and fishing just like our ancestors did. It was quite an experience!
How do you think your education in the liberal arts and sciences will impact your work as an osteopathic physician, once you get your credentials?
My exposure to the liberal arts and sciences has made me a well-rounded individual. To become a great physician, I have to find something in common with each and every patient and, in a way, show them that I’m looking at them as people and not merely cases. Through my education, I’ve gained many interests outside of medicine which helps make my conversations with patients more smooth.
From a personal experience, being in healthcare is a challenge when language is a barrier. However, my education helped me through that challenge tremendously. My first volunteer experience at a hospital came at a time when my English was still rudimentary. I decided that the best way to communicate with patients then was to reflect what I was learning in my classes. I started taking my guitar to their rooms to play music. I showed them some of my artwork. They were very pleased and grateful.