Born and raised in a socioeconomically and educationally disadvantaged family in Iran, we were persecuted and discriminated against because of our Baha’i faith. Thus, my life has been a series of daunting challenges, one after the other. The Baha’i community is a religious minority that has long faced large-scale persecution in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This was especially true during the horrendous Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s. Since the Islamic revolution of 1979, the theocratic establishment has systematically denied members of our religion fundamental civil rights and liberties in housing, healthcare, employment, and higher education. This resulted in my family being subjected to extreme financial hardship.
No one in my family continued their education beyond high school. My father, a construction worker, lost his job when Iraq invaded the country, unleashing death and destruction upon the people and the economy. While the government provided subsidies and food rations to citizens, my seven-member family did not receive anything because we were blacklisted for our Baha'i religious faith. As the situation deteriorated, my elder siblings dropped out of school to help put food on our table. My mother and sisters prepared food and did backbreaking laundry and sewing for wealthy families, while my father and brother made deliveries and worked as day laborers. To add insult to injury, our situation was aggravated further when my 18-year-old brother was severely injured in a deadly chemical attack. He began facing immense difficulty in walking and speaking coherently. Over time, even multiple surgeries, therapy, and medications failed to improve his condition. I nursed and cared for him much of the time.
I grew up in a segregated ghetto inhabited mainly by war refugees on the outskirts of Isfahan in central Iran. Even in the post-war years, our ghetto was marked by unpaved streets - basic amenities were a luxury. With no electricity, I studied by gaslight. If one walked fast, the nearest school, medic, and shops were an hour away. I was a studious child, loved learning, and aspired to become a dentist early on, a career unavailable to members of my religious faith in Iran. I emigrated to the USA after high school to build a rewarding life for myself and help my family.
During my first few years in the US, I learned English and worked multiple jobs simultaneously - a janitor, handyman, mechanic, retail sales, etc. Earning a minimum wage, I could barely afford food after sending money home. But my resilient spirit never left me, and once my English improved, I occupied leadership positions at Macy's, Saks 5th Ave., and Wells Fargo Bank. Although it was extremely taxing, I also remained active in my community. I graduated from UC Berkeley with a 3.7 GPA while continuing to work close to full-time throughout my undergraduate studies.
Now working as a management consultant and marketing executive, I attribute my success to the experience of having grown up extremely poor yet constantly alert to every chance to leverage an opportunity. The adversities bolstered my capabilities. In 2007, I founded ArtInFarsi, a unique clothing line inspired by the Persian art of calligraphy and miniature painting, enabling my family to enjoy a certain level of financial stability and security. I also earned my MBA at the Haas School of Business. I have made it a point to employ struggling artists and disadvantaged students and assist refugees and immigrants. I hope always to continue to lead and contribute to organizations that seek to spread freedom and equality, helping to develop healthcare and educational opportunities for underserved communities worldwide.
I began working every day after school in Iran at the age of 9 to pay for a full-mouth restoration for my brother, a chemical attack victim. For several years, I worked at the dental lab which made my brother's dental prosthetics. This was my first exposure to dentistry. In time, I began to appreciate how Dentistry plays a central role in one’s overall health.
I feel strongly that my struggles have prepared me well for service to vulnerable populations as a dentist. I look forward to a long professional life of service focused as much as possible on the plight of disadvantaged communities.
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