The day I found the most incredible clarity about who I am and what I want to accomplish in life was my first day serving on a mobile dental van attending to primarily underserved children in marginalized neighborhoods of our community. My smile was matched only by the children's smile after their treatment was complete and they were returning to playtime with the ordeal over. My sense of fulfillment and profound joy rose from deep within, pervasive in ways I had previously not known possible.
Assisting in providing oral health care and treatment to adults in the community on our dental van also delighted me, how happy they were after their teeth were fixed and the confidence resulting from the treatment. Shadowing a local Orthodontist, Dr. XXXX, was another source of confirmation that dentistry was the right choice for me – more amazing smiles and the joy of making people happy and confident.
My Palestinian parents were refugees who fled their home to live in Jordan, where I was born. They love to recount how they tried to get me to stop sucking my thumb, putting a bitter Arab root on it so I would kick the habit. I remember the bitter taste even today. However, the bitterroot was no silver bullet, and they even took me to a dentist to help with my thumb sucking, which I later quit on my own. I was more intrigued with dentistry than engaged in my treatment, but this first visit to a dentist made a lasting impression. To be sure, I was experiencing this reassuring connection with a professional who sparked my intrigue. Over time, I realized I wanted to become highly skilled and influential. The hobbies and extracurricular activities I gravitated to during my formative years required solid manual skills and the development of advanced hand-eye coordination. I was enamored with Legos, working on modifiable small-scale R.C. cars, racquet sports, drawing, crocheting, rock climbing, and basketball. I ran a mini barbershop out of my garage in high school, where I used precision and control to yield the perfect cut. I felt immense satisfaction in meticulously using my hands to help my friends look their best and boost confidence.
While earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Health Sciences at Oregon Health Sciences University (OHSU), in addition to working to pay my expenses, I spent many hours volunteering in the Emergency Room of a local hospital, learning how to develop a variety of approaches to suffering and techniques for consoling patients, especially those who came in because they were suicidal. I learned how to create constructive leadership roles and enjoyed working with our Clinical Research Investigative Studies Program (CRISP) partners. I also volunteered to help promote activities for special needs teens for a program called IMPACT at OSU.
With Medical Teams International (MTI)'s Mobile Dental Program, we visited underprivileged areas and rehabilitation centers to provide free dental care. I gained a mentor, Dr. XXXX, who helped me better understand and appreciate dentistry's many ways of being a leader, a teammate, and a friend. Assisting with dental procedures for patients of all ages and backgrounds – their gratitude was uplifting and moving. I also focused on inspiring the children I worked with by encouraging them to pursue their dreams. I kept returning not to accumulate hours but because I enjoyed being an integral part of the dental team, working closely with experienced dentists, and building on my professional relationships.
I seek to become a leader in my community and the dental profession, especially concerning my efforts to organize dental missions to my land of origin, the Palestinian territories. I also want to help refugees in America access adequate oral health. Innovative, creative, very environmentally friendly, and most Internet savvy, I look forward to many decades to come harnessing the power of Internet-based and apps technology and social media to increase access and quality of care for the marginalized and underserved in greatest need.