The day where I found the greatest clarity as to who I am and what I want to accomplish in life, was my first day serving on a mobile dental van attending to mostly underserved children in marginalized neighborhoods of our community. My smile was matched only by the smile of the children after their treatment was complete and they were on their way back to play time with the ordeal over. My sense of fulfillment and profound joy welled up from deep within, pervasive in ways I had previously not known to be possible.
Assisting in providing oral health care and treatment to adults in the community as well on our dental van brought me unsurpassed delight, how happy they were after their teeth were fixed and the confidence and happiness that resulted 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, 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 the story of how they tried to get me to stop sucking my thumb, putting a bitter Arab root on it so that I would kick the habit. I remember the bitter taste even today. The bitter root was no silver bullet, however, and they even took me to see a dentist to help with my thumb sucking which I later quit on my own. I was more intrigued with dentistry than I was engaged in my own treatment at the time but this first visit to a dentist made a lasting impression. Experiencing this reassuring connection with a professional sparked my intrigue to be sure. Over time, I would realize that I too wanted to become highly skilled and influential. The hobbies and extracurricular activities to which I gravitated during my formative years required strong manual dexterity 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. In high school, I ran a mini barbershop out of my garage, 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 their 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, even those who came in because they were suicidal. I learned how to develop constructive leadership roles and most enjoyed working with our Clinical Research Investigative Studies Program (CRISP) partners. I served as a volunteer promoting physical activity with special needs teens for a program called IMPACT at OSU.
Most of all, however, it has been my volunteer work with Medical Teams International (MTI)'s Mobile Dental Program, where we visited underprivileged areas and rehabilitation centers to provide free dental care. I gained a mentor, Dr. XXXX, who helped me to better understand and appreciate the many ways that dentistry was about being a leader, a teammate, and a friend. Assisting with dental procedures for patients of all ages and backgrounds – their gratitude was most uplifting and moving. I also focused on inspiring the children I worked with by encouraging them to pursue their own dreams. I kept coming back, 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 a leader in the dental professional as well, especially with respect to my efforts to organize dental missions to my land of origin, the Palestinian territories. I also want to help refugees in America – as my parents and I once were – to have access to adequate oral health care. 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 along with social media to increase access and quality of care for the marginalized and underserved who are in greatest need.