The disadvantages I have faced with my family are primarily due to being Palestinian, a people expelled from their homeland by force, leading, for most, to great misery and suffering. I was born in Jordan to two parents who were both Palestinian refugees. Fortunately, we were able to immigrate to the US in 2000. Because it is our homeland, I feel deeply connected to Palestine, especially Jerusalem and Gaza. I still have family there and daydream every day of going to Palestine as a dentist and treating those with little-to-no access to dental care. My disadvantaged status is the driving force behind my dream of returning to Palestine as a missionary dentist.
My father was born just one year before the creation of the state of Israel in 1948 and barely survived the ensuing Arab-Israeli War of that year. His father, my grandfather, was a police officer who was killed by the Israeli occupying force when my dad was 11 years old. Thus, overnight, my father found himself the primary wage earner for the entire family at 11, helping to support his four younger siblings and his mother. When my father reached young adulthood, he was finally forced to flee Palestine for Jordan and live as a refugee due to the Six-Day War in 1967. My father wanted to become a doctor but could not afford medical school in Jordan, studying Economics in Lebanon.
My family was very fortunate to immigrate to the USA in 2000. My parents left everything they had built in Jordan to come to the United States – thinking about the future education of their five children. Nevertheless, living in the USA was a great struggle for us for many years for economic reasons. My father worked menial jobs at first and was then able to start up his gas station, which, however, failed - money was always tight. My father has been a great inspiration to me because he always struggled to provide us with economic stability and even earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration at age 65. My siblings and I have also worked to support each other as a team and my mother.
I sometimes reflect on the difficult times that I went through, and it drives me forward to persevere: the day I got my first job as a busboy and felt tempted to eat the food left on the plate by the customers, working at a go-cart track to scrape together the extra money that I needed for school supplies. What money I could pull in went to household bills and groceries. I remember seeing my classmates in the relatively affluent school I attended, who had so much given to them, and I hoped my children would enjoy similar comforts one day. I hope and pray that through my hard work and dedication to my career, my children will not have to grow up as I did, constantly worrying about money and working when they should be studying or learning something of value.
I have volunteered numerous hours to help with the MTI mobile dental clinics that serve the underprivileged communities in our area, IMPACT XXU. I have taught teens with special needs and engaged in these efforts to help the underserved prepare for a lifetime - because this provides me with the most incredible sense of satisfaction.
I hope to someday go to Palestine as a missionary dentist for long periods, teaching dentistry and helping with sustainable efforts to achieve access to dental care for even the poorest of Palestinians, a mammoth task in such a broken and devastated land that is under a blockade and regularly bombed from the air every several years, making the rebuilding of the country most difficult. I am proud of who I am, as an individual, as a Palestinian-American, and most of all, as the dentist I hope to become.
Being granted Disadvantaged Student Status for Dental School will enable me to complete the program and excel; at the same time, devote as much time as possible to helping the underserved and preparing for a lifetime of priority assistance to the underserved while still in dental school and beyond. Nothing will bring me as much satisfaction in the future as helping refugees who made their way to the USA as we did, especially those fleeing war zones in the Middle East with whom I share a mother tongue, Arabic.