Category Archives: Archive

My lovely Christmas Cedar

Noor Charara, Elementary Education
College of Education, Wayne State University, Detroit, MI
Assistant Editor for MOVE

Developing a sense of acceptance, community, and strong self-identity are critical for elementary-age children. For most of my life, I lived with my family in Dearborn, MI. As a Muslim, Lebanese-American family, we were comfortable in Dearborn; it is one of the largest Muslim communities in the United States. I was surrounded by others who shared my family’s religion, values, and cultural practices. I never struggled to fit in or had to explain my religious beliefs and culture to anyone. When I was 11, however, my parents, determined to provide my siblings and myself with a better public education, decided to move our family from Dearborn to another Detroit suburb.

We moved in December of 2004. My first day of fifth grade happened to land just a few days before winter break, better known as Christmas Break at my new elementary school. The first day back from break that year, we had sat around in a circle before our Noor 1reading lesson when the teacher asked everyone how their Christmas was. Almost everyone in the class had something to say – from what they wore to all the gifts they received. As students went around and shared their great stories, I had nothing to say. Why would I? We don’t celebrate Christmas in Islam. But when it was my turn to share something, I felt obligated to contribute. Next thing I knew, I was rambling about how I got a beautiful jewelry box and new clothes for Christmas. I had no idea where any of these lies came from, but I had convinced myself and others around me that I had the most incredible Christmas tree in my house and had woken up to beautiful gifts from my parents. I remember coming home that day and just crying. Why had I not received any gifts? What was wrong with my family? What was wrong with me? At 11 years of age, I was made to believe that I was the odd one for not celebrating Christmas.

There were many things my fifth grade teacher had done that made me feel like an outcast; including telling the students in my class, before my first day, that I wore a hijab and not to ask me any questions about it. I just so happened to be the first and only hijabi in the school. Many students did not even know what I was wearing. While her intent may have been to make my transition to a new school and classroom easier, her actions actually marginalized me and framed me as “other” to my classmates. When the conversation was silenced before it even had a voice, assumptions about me began to circulate: “she wears a towel on her head,” “she showers with her hijab on,” “no one in this world could see her hair,” and “she wears that 24/7.” Students were afraid to ask me about it, and I felt like I was weird for having it on. Why was it okay to talk about Christmas at school, but not okay to ask me questions about my hijab? Why were my religion and culture so bad that we could not even speak of them in the classroom?

As a future educator, my classroom pedagogy is influenced by my experiences as a fifth grader. Children say what is on their minds and don’t think anything of it; and often, they tend to be hushed before being allowed to speak. Their thoughts are not prejudiced and racist. The moment they are hushed, told to look away, and not to ask questions is when they start to form negative assumptions, which then leads to accepting stereotypes about people who have a different life experience than the one they know. It is important to teach students that it is essential to ask. If you don’t know something, then take the time to look it up, research, and ask those you’re curious about. I mean where better to get information then from the source itself? The more you do that, the more you broaden your understanding of the world and the people that live in its respective communities.

When I think of why I want to be a teacher, I think of that very first year in Livonia. I think of how I was compelled to lie to my peers and teachers to feel like I was a part of something that was so special to them as a classroom community. Looking back, I don’t noor 2 (2)blame the other students in the class for building the foundation of my marginalization. Of course they were just eager to share stories about all of the beautiful gifts they’d received. I blame the teacher for placing me in a position where I felt less than my peers, where my experiences were not only invalidated but not even invited into the classroom community and discourse. My teacher created a safe place for everyone in the class, except for me. She did not take the time to get to know me or encourage me to bring my whole self and lived experiences into the classroom community. She erased them.

I am thankful to my parents for moving our family and for my experiences in that elementary school. A couple of school years of feeling alone and dismissed set me up to be a more aware and empathetic educator than I could have been otherwise. My primary goal as a classroom teacher is to create an inclusive, accepting classroom that values the experiences and perspectives of all students. One of my top priorities is to promote diversity and equity in my classroom and to give students a safe place to express who they are while also learning about others.


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Tooth and Nail

Rami Shahrouri, DDS, BA Biology
Dentist, Great Expressions Dental Centers, Lathrup Village, MI

I still recall the feeling of frustration when my parents explained to me that our dental insurance had been cancelled, which resulted in minimal dental office visits. Having been 15 years old at the time, I was living in a home where receiving dental care was a luxury rather than a necessity. However, oral hygiene and a great smile were important to me. During a visit to my dentist office I explained to him my situation. He proceeded to give me his email and urged me to email him with any questions or concerns that I had. From then on, he taught me about prevention and finding affordable ways to maintain a healthy smile. My dentist had such a positive impact on me, as my family went through a tough financial time. I am grateful for this opportunity to maintain my dental care. Moving forward, I wanted an opportunity to influence lives the way that my dentist influenced mine. I looked up to my dentist as a role model of adequacy and he sparked my initial interest in the field of dentistry.

By the time I started my undergraduate degree, the memory of what my dentist had done for me became less vivid. While thinking about possible careers one day, I recalled the enthusiasm I once had for dentistry. I decided that I should shadow a dentist and see if it could be a good career for me andFullSizeRender something that I can see myself committing to. Unfortunately, my dentist retired around the same time that I was looking to shadow. So with the help of the Yellow Pages, I found a doctor willing to allow me to shadow him. He was kind enough to provide me the opportunity to watch him work and observe his daily routine. I was able to see bridges, crowns, implants and annual checkups. Watching him work with his hands brought to my attention how much I would love to be able to incorporate that in a career. However, I was reminded of my passion for dentistry when I interacted with a patient who was in a great deal of pain and happened to only speak Arabic. My ability to speak Arabic allowed me to communicate between the patient and the doctor. With my help, the doctor was able to relieve her pain. Afterwards, she was so grateful that she gave me a hug and thanked me for being able to explain her situation. It struck me immediately that it was the interaction with patients that elevated dentistry above all other professions and was the main source of my enthusiasm years ago. The more I shadowed, the more I desired to be a dentist.

After years of hard work and dedication, I achieved my dream of making it into dental school. I had no idea what was in store for me and was shocked at the amount of work required to stay afoot. I would often find myself overwhelmed and wondering if it was all worth it. After two years of intense book work, I finally found myself in a clinic treating patients. As with all professional school, I found myself exhausted, and after years of having my head buried in a textbook it seemed as if I had forgotten what made me so passionate about this profession in the first place. I was given the opportunity to serve as a FullSizeRender (1)dentist on a mission trip to the Dominican Republic. The experience was everything that I hoped it would be, and more. Being able to treat these patients who would otherwise be unable to see a dentist was an amazing experience. We helped countless people in 4 days at the clinic, including many children. Serving the underprivileged gave me the sense of purpose that I had seemed to have lost somewhere in the previous years. I found myself on the same trip one year later, this time as a mentor to younger dental students. The experience I had on each of the trips gave me the push and motivation that I needed to graduate.

Reflecting back, I have been graduated from dental school for a year, and took my knowledge of dentistry into the real world. Writing this column has given me the chance to once again reflect on my career and my ambition to help those less fortunate and in need of adequate dental care. With every patient I treat, I remind myself what makes my job the greatest job in the world. It’s not the paycheck, the job security, or the flexible schedule; I have the greatest job there is because I have the opportunity to reach out and help people every day. There will always be bad days at work, and mornings where I want to stay in bed, however, I could not ask for a more fulfilling job. I plan to continue doing mission trips and hope to create one of my own in the future. Each day I am thankful for my childhood dentist, who created that interest and spark in my younger self. Without his kindness and compassion, I may not be where I am today.

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The Practice of Empathy

Jouhaina Chebbani Bazzi, PA
Wayne State University, Detroit, MI

The physician walked into the room with a bewildered look on his face. “Your father has a…an abnormal looking area in his neck bones…we can’t tell exactly what it is. I’m going to refer him to a neurologist that specializes in diseases of the spine. He should see him as soon as possible, so we set up an appointment for tomorrow morning. Will that work for you?” As a hundred thoughts raced in my mind all I could say was “um, yeah sure.”

I was in the second year of my Physician Assistant program when my father was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. It turned out his neck pain wasn’t just arthritis or a strained muscle as his doctor had initially thought. He had a cancer of the bone marrow that would end up taking his life in just a little over one year. During this time I JCB-WSU-PA-PIC2 -01accompanied my dad to every appointment, diagnostic test, surgery, and ER visit. I knew every one of his 15 medications by heart. I had all of his doctor’s names and contact information, a summary of each appointment and important diagnostic test results written in my trusty notebook. My father trusted me with every aspect of his healthcare and was so proud to tell all of his physicians and nurses that his daughter was a PA. I graduated from my PA program in May 2012, and my father passed away the following year in June 2013.

As my father’s illness began to emerge we were introduced to the world of doctor’s appointments and hospitalizations. Most of my father’s healthcare providers were very kind and compassionate. I can recall one physician in particular who was always very busy as was evident by the waiting room filled with patients, but when in the exam room he made us feel as though my father was the only patient he had on the schedule. On the rare occasion when we came across a healthcare provider with poor bedside manner, I vowed to never be that way. I realized that patients and their family members are highly vulnerable and are counting on the guidance and help of their healthcare team to make it through each day. One simple smile or word of encouragement can make a world of difference.

I have always enjoyed helping people. It was, after all, the reason I chose to become a PA. Sympathy came naturally to me, however, by the time I became a healthcare provider I had a better understanding of what it’s like to walk in my patient’s shoes. I also understood first-hand what their family members were going through. I had experienced true heartache and personal sorrow, and in doing so slowly traded in sympathy for empathy.

As novelist Mohsin Hamid put it “empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” I have been a PA for 5 years now and every elderly male patient still reminds me of my father. Whenever I see a patient accompanied by their child who has their IMG_1803-SMILE-01“trusty notebook” handy, I say a prayer in my heart for my father. It is a reminder that every patient is someone’s parent, child, grandparent or best friend. My experiences on the “other side” have been etched in my heart and in my mind forever, and have molded me into the healthcare provider I am today.

I urge anyone seeking a career as a healthcare provider to consider their patient’s perspective. Be ready to listen before you speak, and take the time to answer questions and ease concerns. Keep in mind that sometimes your body language speaks louder than your words. Most importantly, do not enter the room with preconceived notions or a rigid plan of action. Instead, enter the room ready to treat your patient as you would your own family, with kindness, compassion and empathy.

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The Stork Doesn’t Bring Instructions

Henda Al-Biatty, MPH
Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Co-founder and Project Manager for MOVE

There they are, the two infamous blue lines. Now you’re struck with excitement, anticipation, wonder, fear, and anxiety all wrapped up in one overwhelming burst of emotion equating to happiness because you have conceived a life. A miracle and blessing that can never be taken for granted. You spend the next 9 months in preparation for the joyous day to meet your little one, from reading parenting books, to buying a whole load of baby products (you will realize that some are just unnecessary and useless) and just nesting. When the high alerts start sounding off announcing theIMG_0386 arrival of your little one, you somehow unleash a physical and emotional courage that you didn’t think you had. And just like that, as if nothing happened, no pain or agony. The last 9 months are erased, and there wrapped in your arms all warm and smelling like a meadow of flowers, is your new baby. You know from that moment your life is not what it used to be.

Now every new parent anticipates that their life will inevitably change when bringing a new life into this world, but ‘how?’ is where it gets blurry. You have already accounted for being sleep deprived, home bound and probably covered, sometimes unknowingly, in your newborns “gifts.”. While you try to recover physically and emotionally, you simultaneously have to adapt to the ongoing needs of your little one. You probably naively thought how you’re going to control all of the x-factors that will get thrown at you. You imagine yourself dodging obstacles exceptionally well because you have superhero-like powers now. This is where you need to toss the playbook on what type of parent you wanted to be or you thought you’re supposed to be and start being the parent you need to be for your child. We don’t know what our children will be like. What their temperaments will be like, if they have any health issues after birth, if you as a parent just can’t do it alone. We don’t spend enough time preparing for the aftermath mentally, especially with the first child. We all have the invincibility cloak on, thinking we “got this” even if we spent countless nights thinking about all the “what ifs”. You will eventually get it, but after some trial and error, loads of crying, and a strong support system.

Once you and the baby have adjusted to the new planet of parenthood, things become a little calmer and mechanical. You come to realize that you no longer really remember what life was like before the 3 am alarm clock arrived. This is IMG_0164where you realize you took too many turns off the road map and now you have to find your way back to visit “me-land”. Not as easy as it may seem. While you have enjoyed conquering planet parenthood for the time being, you long to visit “me-land” even if for a moment. Returning to your hobbies, spending some time with friends, having a moment to collect your thoughts or even looking at yourself in the mirror. It’s easy for some and much harder for others. Everyone has their own circumstances governing their lives but everyone should find a way with the help of their spouse, family and friends, to break free of this automatic cycle. Stepping away, even just for a few minutes, restores appreciation, gratitude, and energy for your little one.

While parenting is difficult, to say the least, it’s well worth the reward.


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Every Dog Has His Day in Emergency

Karim Mahmoud Jawad, DVM, BA Biology
Small Animal Veterinarian, Northwest Animal Hospital, Detroit, MI

It was February 10, 2017. I remember that day clearly, for multiple reasons. It was one of the worst days I’ve ever had at work, and eventually turned into one of the best. It was the day that I elevated myself, not just in my career, but as a person.

The morning started like any other for me. I set my clock to 6:45 am because I tell myself if I wake up at that time, I’ll actually get things done. In reality I wake up an hour later 99% of the time. That allows me 15 minutes to get dressed, brush my teeth, and take care of my cat before I walk out the door. I don’t really eat breakfast that early because my appetite is nonexistent, so I end up eating closer to noon, but I also don’t prepare myself lunch to take15235924_10102710161361958_2625706162728446929_o because I’m too lazy. Unless my employees bring their leftovers from yesterday’s dinner to share with me (which they usually do) I don’t eat til I get home from work.

On a typical day I will arrive anywhere 15-30 minutes late depending on morning traffic. After I park my car inside the gate, I walk to the back door only to be met by a row of hungry and restless boarding dogs, constantly barking in my ear. After that I hope to God one of my employees made coffee and I pour a cup, sit down and drink it hoping the phone doesn’t constantly ring and exacerbate my crappy mood. I love my job don’t get me wrong, but we are usually very understaffed so things don’t always run as efficiently as they should. That lack of order and consistency takes it’s toll on me from time to time. It’s so bad that on most days I find myself answering the phones, which I absolutely hate doing. Our boss, the senior doctor and owner, manages three veterinary clinics including this one. He will often have people move around between clinics, even myself. Thankfully, one of our technicians from another clinic agreed to come work today with me because the schedule book was full and I had virtually no help. 

Work was going by exactly as expected. My appointments kept coming in constantly, with people showing up either way too early or wait too late, creating congestion in the waiting room. This is normal for a veterinary practice. But given how small our building is and how little manpower we have I really try to avoid too many dogs being in such close proximity to one another. I was running around so much, and my technician made the transition between clients a lot smoother. But as the day wore on I noticed my technician and all my other employees ordered food from Wendy’s. I was a little annoyed by this because as far as I could recall nobody had bothered to ask me if I wanted to order anything. I probably would’ve said no anyway, but being that I was the one doing the most work. that didn’t settle with me. Eventually my secretary told me I forgot to do vaccines for a few dogs that were grooming. I don’t check the grooming schedule usually. If there is a dog or cat in the grooming room that needs my attention it’s someone’s responsibility to communicate that to me because my duties are not with the grooming dogs but with whoever is in the appointment books to see me. We really do try to structure things properly but no one is perfect and these particular dogs were ready to go home when they should have been vaccinated earlier in the morning. At that moment I got noticeably upset.

I told my assistant that I wasn’t made aware about these grooming dogs needing vaccines. I have a bunch of clients waiting to see me and I’m struggling to get these vaccines done with one of the dogs being very anxious towards needles. In so many words, I told my technician and assistant they weren’t doing their jobs properly. Truthfully they were in slacking but I knew I could have handled this situation much better. I eventually cooled down and took time to speak to them individually and apologized. My technician told me “if you need something to be done, just say it, and we will do it. Don’t keep it to yourself and expect us to read your mind. You need us just as much as we need you”. Historically I’ve always had a temper for as long as I could remember. In fact when I first started here, a particular outburst almost got me fired. My boss is a very kind and generous man, but he was extremely angry at me. 17834305_10103018760367078_8318781085444417353_oAfter dodging that bullet, I decided to start seeing someone, to help me manage my anxiety and stress. I still see this person to this day and I’ve made so much improvement, but my violent outbursts have more or less evolved into passive aggressiveness, which is what this particular incident could be described as. I felt horrible about the whole thing. I couldn’t wait for the day to end and the kind of cases I saw didn’t help. At 5:00 pm I got my jacket and keys and went to the front desk. I looked down at my appointment book to find no remaining patients. But then I immediately looked up, only to be met by a distressed young lady holding a yorkie with a puppy stuck in its vagina. I thought to myself “Shit, I’m not going home”.

This dog was an intact female who I haven’t seen in a long time (nor did I know she was pregnant). The clients have another male dog in the home who is also intact, which explains this situation. The dog in question was suffering from dystocia (difficultly giving birth) and she couldn’t push this puppy out. The dog even tried pulling her pup out with her mouth, but ended up gnawing off its the rear legs. I managed to pull the puppy out manually with lubrication, but of course he was already dead. The problem was only just beginning, for it was likely this dog had more puppies. If that was the case, she’s gonna need an emergency c-section. Even more problematic is I knew looking at the client that she wasn’t gonna be able to afford the surgery, and we are not a 24 hour emergency hospital. My boss was already gone and my staff already left for the evening. The client agreed to pay for an X-ray and we found three more puppies left. We discussed the price range for this surgery, which I called my boss to see if we could work something out with her. He gave me a price that was fairly reasonable, it was just a matter of the client agreeing to it. My boss asked me if I was going to do it and I told him “I’m not sure yet”. I just couldn’t take it anymore though, if this lady didn’t agree to the surgery nobody else is going to do it for cheaper, and her dog was probably going to die along with her puppies. After giving her the price she said she was going to get money from some relatives who agreed to help pitch. I took the money as a down payment, and while it wasn’t a lot of money, I told my technician “f*%& it, we’re doing this”. 

As we were getting everything prepared to do the surgery, I called my boss and I told him I’m gonna cut. I don’t think he believed me because he never came by. Now I’ve assisted with a couple C-sections on previous dogs and cats, but I never took the lead. My technician was more experienced with C-sections while assisting other doctors so she was guiding me through the whole thing. My assistant already went home for the night, but she told me she would be back if we decided to do the surgery, and as such she returned. Given the circumstances we needed as much people to help as we could get, so the client came back. After I opened the abdomen, I could visualize the uterus very easily. After a few incisions I managed to get all three puppies out. Unfortunately one of them, a male, was already pronounced dead. The other two, both females, managed to survive with the help of my assistant and the client holding and massaging them back to life. After lavaging the abdomen of uterine discharge and contents, we proceeded to remove the entire uterus and ovaries (not just because they were so friable and weak from me manipulating them, but also to avoid a future pregnancy). Doing a spay on a dog that is in heat or pregnant is not easy. There’s a lot of inflamed tissue, large blood vessels to be mindful of, and the dog is already in a dire state to begin with. But I had my technician with me and she gave me the confidence I needed to see this through. 

After we completed the surgery and closed the abdomen up, I was in complete shock. I don’t want any of you to think that I was in complete control of the situation, because I wasn’t. I was terrified and I knew that we could lose this dog even with a successful surgery. If I didn’t step up to the plate and take the bat, the alternate outcome wouldn’t have been much better. I used this as an opportunity to see what I was made of, to see if I knew what I was doing, and to put four years of Veterinary school to good use. My technician looked into my eyes and said “dude, you’re my hero”. I told her I couldn’t have done it without her. Not too long ago I was arguing with her about her work ethic and now I have tears of joy running down my face because of how grateful I was to her for getting me through this ordeal. Mom16508524_10102891473735508_95269319280587318_n woke up well and got to see her two remaining puppies in front of her face for a change. We couldn’t keep the dog in the clinic because we don’t have after hours services. But we could tell she was going to be fine and we sent her home with the proper medications and instructions. The client is still making payments for the surgery as we speak, the mom got her sutures removed two weeks later, and the puppies were nursing just fine. Everything worked out for all parties involved, thank God.  

I was very humbled on this day. I learned how to appreciate the work others do for me and to not take anyone for granted. These people aren’t just my employees, they are my family. I love everyone of them even if I don’t always show it, including my boss. As a matter of fact he called me the following day before I drove into work again. He asked if I was crazy and why I did the surgery without him? I told him I was going to, I made that very clear. He said he didn’t believe me! But after the laughs subsided he said he was so proud of me. The man isn’t just my boss, but my mentor and a second father. For him to say that made it all worth it, and I knew I was meant to do this for the rest of my life…..or until I decide to open up a restaurant. Alright I’m getting carried away, but one day!

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A Storm Like No Other

Wassim Jawad, MD, BSc Biology
Cardiac Electrophysiology Fellow, University of Massachusetts, Worcester, MA

cardiology-critical-care-fellowshipWhat am I put on this Earth to do?” We all ask ourselves this question every now and then; some of us more than others. I didn’t struggle much with it, at least not early on. I always knew I was going to be a doctor. It’s a long, grueling path, but one I did not waver from. I soldiered through four years of pre-med, four years of medical school (the first year of which was disrupted by a category IV hurricane), three years of internal medicine residency, and was halfway through my third and final year of cardiology fellowship. I felt like I had reached the top of the mountain. After countless punishing night calls, research, board exams and certifications, many are more than ready to move on and be done from training. I was no different in that sense, until I had that “moment” that everyone tells me about.

I could have just walked away. It had been another long day in the invasive cardiology lab, performing procedures and doing consultations. As always I make my way to the Cardiac Care Unit and sign out my patients to the on-call team, then I go home and enjoy whatever is left of my evening. Nobody would have thought twice about my leaving, I had already fulfilled my responsibilities of the day. I was at the nursing station, and I overheard a conversation about a patient that had just been admitted into the unit with a cardiac arrest. I thought to myself, “Okay, not unusual for the CCU, we deal with cardiac arrests all the time”. The on-call cardiology fellow was already on top of it, so I started to make my way out. The next thing I knew, the nurse told me the patient had already been shocked by the paramedics more than ten times, and another 15-20 times in the Emergency room.

Patients with very sick hearts are susceptible to potentially life-threatening “arrhythmias”, or abnormal heart rhythms. If not immediately treated with an electrical shock to restore normal rhythm, these conditions can be fatal. In rare cases, these arrhythmias keep recurring, requiring multiple shocks until the patient either dies, or the underlyinggraduate process is determined and definitive so that timely treatment is delivered. This is called ventricular tachycardia or sometimes a “Ventricular Fibrillation Storm”. What made things even more dire in this case was the patient was 26 years of age.

I walked into the young man’s room, and his emergent care was in full swing. His nurse, a big burly looking guy, was reduced to a ball of sweat trying to keep him alive with what was probably the best CPR I have ever seen performed. The code cart stood next to his bed, each drawer being emptied as drug after drug was being pushed by another nurse. Another nurse stood by his monitor, taking note of the time and which medications have been administered. At the helm was the on-call cardiology fellow, directing traffic and shouting out orders. With every shock delivered, normal rhythm would be restored, only to have the patient degenerate again into ventricular fibrillation minutes later, hence turning the process into a state of perpetual agony. This young man was dying right before our eyes and there is nothing we could do for him it seemed.

How long have you guys been at it?” I asked the fellow. “More than 30 minutes. We’ve tried everything and he keeps going back into V-Fib” she said. While she remained calm, the look of concern was clearly evident on her face. She had been running this code for longer than many would consider a valiant attempt, just hoping he would pull through. She didn’t want to see a 26-year-old man die….Neither did I!

I poured through his chart, reviewing what we knew about him already, as well as his electrocardiograms. At the time, the prevailing thought was that he may have been suffering from myocarditis, an inflammation of the heart muscle, often precipitated by a viral infection. This is commonly seen in younger patients, and can present with V-fib storm. However, all the conventional management approaches did not provide relief.

When your treatment plan isn’t working, you must always re-evaluate your diagnosis. This is a fundamental concept when it comes to managing patients. I began to look and see what else could be going on. In quickly reviewing his electrocardiograms, I noticed that he may have something completely different. I asked the fellow if she had tried treating him for V-fib storm precipitated by Brugada Syndrome (a rare disorder affecting the electrical conduction Wassimsystem of the heart, rendering patients at risk for fatal arrhythmias). She said she had not, and at that point she would have tried anything. We initiated treatment, and almost immediately, the extremely tense and ominous atmosphere had subsided. The patient’s heart rhythm finally stabilized, and our relentless, sweaty nurse who performed the chest compressions stood above our patient, desperately trying to catch his breath. We all stood there in silence, waiting to see when he would go back into V-fib, but it never happened again. A collective sigh of relief overcame everyone in the room. Our young patient lay there, hooked up to the mechanical ventilator, half awake, with tears flowing down the side of his face. After more than 62 shocks, countless chest compressions, and a barrage of medication infusions, he was going to walk out of our hospital. This man’s journey through life did not end on this night.

It was after all this that I realized that my journey through arduous training was not going to end after cardiology fellowship. I went on to specialize further in the field of cardiac electrophysiology (the study of heart rhythm disorders). I look back on this ordeal as one of the most powerful experiences that shaped the direction I wanted to take my career in. I was motivated by my loving family, my wife and my children, who teach me the value of life everyday.

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The Best Moms Become Grandmas

Shady Shebak, MD, MEHP (Candidate)
Founder and Chairman of MOVE, Movement for Outreach-Volunteerism-Education
Child and Adolescent Fellow, Michigan State University Department of Psychiatry, East Lansing, MI

Second Semester…

It was December 10th, 2009. I was in medical school, and it was nearing the end of my second semester. We were actually studying for finals, and finals were critical for me this time around. I was not doing so well in my classes, as it was an off semester for me. I was struggling through biochemistry, pretty much failing the class, and having difficulties with immunology and physiology. It was a rough time for me, mostly because I was just not getting it that semester. Sometimes, we go through unexplainable periods in life where our energy, our hearts and souls are just not into ‘it’, and this was the story of my second semester in medical school.

Shady MDAnyways, I was in a tough spot. I needed to pass all of my finals, and actually needed to do fairly well on my biochemistry final in order to pass the semester and not have to retake any course. If I failed all three, heaven forbid, I’d actually be dismissed from medical school! I was anxious, terrified at the prospect, and could not tailor my focus to one final at the expense of the others since I was in pretty bad shape in all three classes. What a mess!

Nothing could have prepared me for what happened next. I was taking a break from studying. Actually, we were taking a break from studying, as I studied with a consistent study buddy, and we decided to just relax for a bit. I went onto Facebook, and I saw that my brothers’ had changed their profile pictures to my grandmother’s picture. I immediately knew what this meant and broke out in tears. I could not hold back my emotions. I loved my grandmother to pieces, and she really was a mother and a caretaker for me. More than my siblings and maternal cousins, I spent the most time with her as the oldest of the “kids”. I was practically raised by her for much of my childhood. I always wanted to sleep at her house, and we’d stay up at night watching old Arabic movies and shows. The Arabic channel at the time was called “TV Orient”, and I remember I would just enjoy those moments dearly.

One time, I remember becoming fairly ill, vomiting and I had a terrible headache. I’m sure there were many more instances of illness, but this time sticks out to me as my grandmother put my head on her lap and read various Qur’anic verses. I was about seven years old, so I thought this was some magical ritual going on! Surprisingly, I felt better.

When I saw the Facebook picture, all of these memories flooded. I remembered all the nights I spent teaching my grandmother English, while she would teach me Arabic. I remembered all of the times I spent with her shopping for candy, or going on walks, or Shady Shebak grandmalaughing hysterically. I remembered her grace, her love, and her life lessons. I remembered her stories that she told us about her childhood in Lebanon, learning English from Mrs. Brown, whoever that is! And I also remembered her 10 year struggle with Alzheimer’s, as she gradually began to forget and lose insight and behavioral control. Fortunately, I knew her so well before and after the Alzheimer’s, that my memories were of a fuller picture of who my grandmother was. She was a lady, a wife, a mother, a grandmother, a friend, a pious Muslim who never missed a prayer.

With those memories, I remember taking the rest of the day off from studying, and I reflected on her life. I spent the weekend lightly studying, and went in the following week to take my finals. I did the best I could, and after my last exam, I headed right to the airport to spend my two week break with my family and friends back in Michigan. I had a few hour stop in Charlotte Airport, and I decided to open my laptop and check my grades. Only immunology was posted, and I had passed! It wasn’t for another two days until all of my grades posted, and with God’s grace, I had passed all of my exams. I went on to finish medical school, and never had a semester quite like my second semester ever again!

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Sugar, Spice, and Psychiatry’s Nice

Rabia Toor, MD, BSc Biology
Saba University School of Medicine, Saba, Caribbean Netherlands, NL
University of Windsor, Windsor, Ontario, CA

It’s been 4 weeks since I graduated medical school. I’m officially an M.D! But the 25 years leading up to me becoming the first physician in my family was a long and difficult road to say the least.

rabia-coverI remember when I was in the second grade and I had an assignment where I had to
“Draw What You Want to be When You Grow Up”. I was obsessed with Britney Spears at the time, so naturally I drew a singer with a bedazzled microphone signing in front of huge crowd of fans. My mother, who recently emigrated from Pakistan a few years prior, saw the drawing and asked me, “What is this? Draw a doctor.” And so, at the tender age of 7, the journey to medical school began. My mother and father emigrated from Pakistan to Canada with my sisters and I in 1998 and were pretty typical in terms of first generation parents. My father was an engineer, who rightfully so, never let us forget his struggles of studying under a street lamp for his exams in his village, and my mother was a stay at home mom, dedicated to build a happy family with full bellies.

As long as I can remember, my father used to tell us stories of their struggles of coming to a better country for the sake of their kids. He wanted to be a doctor back in Pakistan; he even got admission to a Military Medical School but failed the physical exam because his eyesight was too weak due to his diabetes. My mother on the other hand though, felt like she had to prove something to her family back home. She bore three girls compared to all her siblings and relatives who had at least one son. This did build some sort of insecurity with her because she wanted us to ‘do something with our lives’ and by ‘doing something’, I mean becoming a doctor, engineer or lawyer.

I always had it in the back of my mind that I would have to become a doctor. There were too many issues riding on the fact that all three of us, my sisters and I…simply had to become doctors. This profession, at least back in the day, meant financial stability and true intellect. So, not only were you the brightest person in the room, but also the wealthiest. And with these two factors getting mixed into cultural norms, it led to pride, reputation and status. I know, I know, it sounds pretty archaic. That’s because it is.

rabia-bakedAnd the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that I didn’t want to pursue medicine as a career. I was an incredibly creative person; I knit and crochet, scrapbook and bake! So my plan after graduating university was to take a culinary course in pastassiere and open up the bakery of my dreams. But at every end, whenever I plead my case to my parents, it would always be met with, “Sure, you can become a pastry chef. After you become a doctor.” There was simply no way I could change my betrothed profession. I reluctantly applied to medical school, but at the same time applied to culinary school in Ottawa. A week before receiving my acceptance from medical school, I got my acceptance to the George Brown School of Culinary Arts. I didn’t tell my parents about my acceptance to chef school. The next month, I was on a flight to the Caribbean to start my first semester of medical school.

I hated it. I hated it so much because I felt so much pressure from my parents. I hated the fact that it was all for status and money and pride. I struggled with major depression and anxiety because I was NOT happy. I was drinking; I was smoking and deteriorating as a person. And my sisters took notice. They tried to tell my mother that I was struggling but all she had to say was, “Do what you have to do. But you can’t quit. You have to finish medical school.” I was in complete shock. My mother was completely fine with me going against my religion, simply to get an M.D degree. Every few phone calls; I would beg to quit medical school. But it wasn’t an option.

It wasn’t until the end of my third year of medical school where, I did a complete 180. I finally ended up having a breakthrough with my parents and received treatment for depression (cultural taboo…but that’s a story for another time). And shortly after, I began my psychiatry rotation. I saw individuals like me and I felt like I could give them something that I couldn’t before. I had been in their shoes. And I wanted to help. I finally had that feeling of wanting to be of service to others, that feeling that I saw everyone around me having since my first semester classes. I FINALLY wasn’t pursuing medicine for my parents. I found my passion! I found my own niche and it opened up a whole new world for me.

rabia-cookiesI used to think that a lot of things, from my personality to all of my interests had to be mutually exclusive. If I became a doctor, there is no way I could still like baking. It’s just NOT what doctors do. If I became a doctor, I had to become that stereotype of a professional, graceful, classy individual. I couldn’t be my hilarious, laughs-way-too-much goofy self. And that lead to doubt and fear and anxiousness. But after figuring out how to integrate my passions INTO medicine, that is where I found my true happiness.

Going through my own depression as a Pakistani Muslim woman medical student, it helped me understand the need for psychiatric services for minorities, for Muslims, for Pakistanis, for women and also for physicians. I fit all four of those minorities and in each of these categories, talking about depression or psychiatric illness was a taboo. And seeking treatment for it, well forget about that. It’s just not going to happen. But through my own journey, I became an advocate for the treatment of mental illness and medicine has been a direct path to me being able to help others in that position.

Initially, my career path was chosen for me. But now, I am the one who chooses to continue working in the field of medicine, in my own, unique way. I was able to find my own happiness, myself.

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Treat Others Like Family

By Ali Chami, DPM (Candidate)
Kent State University College of Podiatric Medicine, Indepedence, OH

Like many people in the Dearborn, MI Arab-American community, I am a first generation American. My parents worked hard to put food on the table while their children went to school, in hopes of them living better, more comfortable lives than they did. However, my siblings and I were never really nurtured to excel in academics. My parents didn’t have the time to simply sit down and tutor me, let alone speak much English. I grew up hating school, and I was never thrilled about being forced to do things I didn’t want to do. I saw the years between elementary and high school as a burden more than as a privilege. I was literally in summer school every year from 7th grade til graduation. Due to this, I was the guy who had an asterisk next to his name on graduation day. I felt embarrassed for my parents and myself. I was determined to make it up to them, and more importantly, to myself.

chamis-parentsWith my diploma in hand, I was ready to start college. I didn’t know what field I wanted to study, and worse, I had no guidance. Most parents (especially Lebanese) want their children to do something prestigious, preferably in the health sciences. Initially I chose pharmacy, but one semester into college, a high school friend convinced me to change paths and become a nurse anesthetist. During this period, I enjoyed learning as much medical knowledge as my determined brain could absorb; from symptoms to diagnoses, complications to medications. The clinical setting was amazing. I got to help treat patients and went the extra mile for them as best as I could. But despite this I felt the nursing field was limited. I did eventually complete the courses required to finish the nursing program, but I took more classes to ready myself for medical school. I decided to pursue podiatric medicine as my specialty due to the surgery aspect and the potential of owning my own practice one day.

During my clinical time in nursing, I learned so much from interacting with patients. The biggest takeaway was to be happy with the life you have because it can be much worse. I always wished my family had the luxurious lifestyle growing up, but nowadays its completely different. The reason for that is for the health of my loved ones. There are so many people who have unfortunate illnesses and would trade anything to rid of it, even if it means being homeless. This ideology stems from the six weeks I had in obstetrics, with the fortune of being able to witness a Cesarean section being performed. The procedure went well, however the newborn wasn’t born exactly “normal”. The child had 6 toes in one foot and 4 fingers on one hand. The mother was so saddened, but every clinician in the operating room was happy. Not because the child was born with a unique abnormality, but because it was a non-life-threatening defect. I’m sure they’ve seen many worse cases, and I believe that’s why they kept telling the mother “it could be much worse”. As my fiancé and I progress through our relationship, the topic of children has been brought up multiple times. It always ends in us praying for healthy children, no matter what our situation is.

chami and helena.jpgAlong with nursing, the clinical aspect of podiatry has taught me to go the extra mile for my loved ones as well. When you’re caring for patients, you feel like it’s your duty to give it your all. I didn’t really feel this way for my loved ones (growing up). There would be times where I would give minimal effort because I felt it wasn’t my job to. Nowadays, I find any chance I can to help, whether big or small. The reason for this was from an elderly woman I treated. She came in for routine foot care, no problem. When I was finished, she told me that she’s been to multiple Podiatrists in the area but not one person treated her the way I did. Then she asked a little bit of my background and we soon found out that she was a neighbor of my grandparents. As she started to tear, she basically told me that my ancestors and she were family. I was also told that I treated her like family the whole time, and she asked for God to keep me on this earth. This struck a cord with me. I thought to myself “this is how family should be treated, no matter what.”

From that moment on I planned to go the extra mile for those I love. Not just for the family that I currently have, but also for the family I hope to create in the near future. It is important for me to do that if I hope to have the same impact on other people’s lives as I did with that patient. I plan to carry myself this way as I start my own family, to ensure that they live the best lives possible, in the same way that my parents wanted for us.

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Sentimental Journey

By Hael Ghaleb, DC
Palmer College of Chiropractic, San Jose, CA

My name is Hael Ghaleb. On July 15, 1987 I was born in Sana’a, Yemen. Since my father was a United States (U.S.) citizen at the time, I was also born a U.S. citizen, abroad. Most people who see my birth certificate think my father was serving the military, but he was actually a musician. He partied until he was about age 40 and decided to settle down and create a family. My mom was 20 when they got married and she wanted to study Russian Literature, but of course my father had other plans. After I was born, my father decided to move back south, to Aden, where both of their families live. I can recall driving through the mountains, living by the sea, and can also recall parts of preschool and kindergarten.

adenIn the fall of 1994, a civil war broke out between the North and the South. We were far away from the conflict, so some family members who were near the fighting moved into our apartment. We were living in my maternal grandfather’s place, next door to a diplomat. The mansion he lived in had big gates and villas. I remember bullets bombarding his house until he surrendered, and the soldiers in Jeeps rolling in, as well as the day the war ended, with the North winning. My father knew then that we had to leave the country.

No one in the family was happy about the decision, but they all understood why it needed to be done. To my dad, it was a sign from God, to take your kids back to the U.S. where it was safe so that they can get a proper education. We flew into Chicago in late October 1995, and then we drove east to Dearborn, Michigan. Seeing snow for the first time, I was thinking how weird it was that houses in America had roofs that dispersed rain water rather than collect it, or how weird it was not to being able to see mountains anywhere I look. I missed living by the sea and mountains, but I was so happy and excited because everything was new. The cars, the roads, the police, the businesses, and the people were all different from what I was used to.

It was a bit difficult at first. All the kids called me “boater”, I had never seen a computer in my life, and for once I didn’t have to wear a school uniform. My brother and I conformed quite easily, especially given the fact that we were still surrounded by an Arab American community, making the transition a lot easier for us. Unfortunately, around that time was when the World Trade Centers fell, and shortly after that, my parents divorced. My mother moved out of the house and we moved in with her, but of course kept half of our stuff with our dad and we were welcome there any day of the week. It was hard of course, but if I could go back in time I wouldn’t change a thing. They both remarried a few years later and produced more children with their new spouses. I went from being the oldest of two to the oldest of seven in no time. My parents seemed a lot happier, I was almost done with high school, and I was also excited by the prospect of raising a baby brother and sister.hael

Time seemed to fly the older I got, and before I knew it I was attending Wayne State University with a focus on Pre-Medicine and Biology. I was dating my high school sweetheart at the time. She lived in Canada and we would have to cross the bridge or tunnel once or twice per week to see each other. She started attending Wayne State as well and I moved out of my house into an apartment next to school for the last two years of my undergraduate studies. I wasn’t sure about becoming a medical doctor and dealing with insurance companies or big pharma. I felt home sick even though home was just a ten minute drive. My ex-girlfriend came from a Chaldean Catholic family and were strict about who their daughters’ date. They never did accept me of course, being a Muslim and asking for their daughter’s hand in marriage. The longer we kept seeing each other the harder it was to break up, but unfortunately our relationship ended after 5 years. Since then I was lost about what direction I wanted to take with my educational career, until I discovered Chiropractic medicine and finally chose a school in San Jose California. Everything seemed to be working out, for if I didn’t move to California my ex and I would continue to struggle with the break up and hurt each other. I broke her heart either way when I moved west, but I had to go out on my own and restart my life. I felt like a brand-new man with a different perception. The easy-going lifestyle, wonderful weather, culture, sports, and of course Silicon Valley were right up my alley.

But it was just as difficult as it was wonderful. The home sickness was severe, and I missed my little siblings dearly; they were growing so fast. I pushed on, with each challenge or problem that I had to face, without my family, molding me into the man I am today. Through the good times and the bad times, I made a great deal of friends inside and outside of school and became so close to so many of my peers. We still speak almost every day and I’ve been back to California on two occasions to watch them get married. As I sit here at this moment typing, I realize that it has been 3 years since I graduated Chiropractic school. That period of my life flew by so fast, and at the end of the day all you can do is laugh. You dread the time it will take you to reach your goal, but once you reach it (ironically) you’re stuck reminiscing about the journey.

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