Category Archives: Personal

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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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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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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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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Reach for the Stars

By Centurium Frost, BFA
College for Creative Studies, Detroit, MI

My name is Centurium Frost. This is my real birth name, and yes there is a reason why my name was given to me. Most parents tell their children to go after their dreams or reach for the stars, so mine named me after the Alpha Centauri star system and said “that’s your destination”. Its also loosely related to a Centurion, who were officers of the ancient Roman armies. But for short, you can call me by my nickname, “C”.


I am a 31 year old from Detroit, Michigan, raised most of my life by my father and older sister. My mother passed away in 1990 when I was 5, due to cervical cancer, and then my father remarried when I was 13. My father was co-owner of an electrical supply company. But after my mother’s passing he closed the business down and became a residential electrician, allowing him to create a schedule that filled the void of a parent that was now gone. A work ethic was instilled in me at a young age. I can recall my father telling me stories about me carrying bricks around as a toddler and doing a full electrical service change in my teens. My father kept me busy! He had me involved in any and every activity. Boys & Girls Club, basketball, T-ball, gymnastics, you name it I probably did it. Of all of the activities that I had participated in, the one that I stuck with for 20+ years was martial arts. Being involved in martial arts definitely helped develop discipline and reenforced my work ethic. That discipline rewared me in the form of acquring several black belts/degrees while becoming a lead instructor of different styles and then going on to win a national Kickboxing title.

The other “art” besides martial arts that I was heavily involved in were the visual arts. I was introduced to it by my stepmother. I would watch in amazement as she would doodle on a napkin or make caricature retirement cards for coworkers at her job. It was then that I knew I wanted to make this into a career. I would beg and plead asking her to teach me how to draw and her response was “it’s easy, all it is are shapes”. She encouraged me to keep trying and also bought me art supplies as well as enrolled me in art programs during the summers. I thought going to school for art was going to be fun and easy (You know what they say…if it sounds too good to be true, then IT IS!).

I was a professional collegiate student! My first year was at the College for Creative Studies (CCS) and then transferred to Henry Ford Community College (HFCC). It took me a total of 7 years to obtain my Associates in Fine Arts and another 3 years to obtain my Bachelor with a focus in Illustration. It was during those 10 years I found my passions. At HFCC, a ceramics class was required for the Fine Art degree. I was not fond of this new media or process, but once I was introduced to the potters wheel and glazing, I was addicted! The idea of going from a blob of clay to some type of functional piece was mind blowing to me. Once back at CCS, I still couldn’t “shake” this ceramic thing. So I embraced it and made clay my canvas by digitally creating my illustrations and then applying them using decals.


During my last semester at CCS (winter semester 2013) I was diagnosed with stage III cancer. Receiving news like that is devastating at any age, but at the age of 27 when your 20’s are supposed to be your prime years, it was world shattering. Devastated but not defeated, though Gods grace and favor, I successfully completed 8 rounds of chemotherapy (96 hours of continuous chemo every 3 weeks) while continuing to work part time, go to school, prepare my senior showcase and graduate! I am proud to say that I am in my third year of remission. Experiencing death at a young age and then two decades later almost experiencing my own demise forced me to re-evaluate my life. We are never promised tomorrow so we MUST make good on today. With that mindset I wanted to get my artwork out for the world to see. I didn’t want to establish the victimizing mentality of many artist of “it has to be perfect before I show you”, especially with the age of social media. There is no time better than now.

Towards the end of 2013, I encountered the mother of Paul Rosenberg (Eminem’s manager) at a movie theater in Birmingham, Michigan. Even though she was not Eminem I was still star struck! I mentioned to her that I do art and would really like to give Eminem a piece of my work. She graciously extended the invitation to accept the artwork when it was ready. Before completing the customized mug for him, I was watching FOX 2 Morning News and noticed that the anchors all had their own issued coffee mugs. The thought of “It would be sweet if those were my mugs” came into my mind, and with that I made the entire cast their own customized mugs as well. I delivered the mugs to everyone and then waited to see if I would receive a reply.

December 18, 2013 was the day where everything had changed for me! I had went through my day as normal (being in the studio from early morning until the evening) but noticed that my Facebook activity was unusually busy. I look at the notifications and there are people congratulating me for being on FOX 2. Perplexed at first, I was overcome by sheer disbelief and amazement. I then realized that the cast talked about my work on air!!! They gave me a shout out on air, on their FB page, and sent me an email to give me thanks and express their gratitude. This was the birth of my website Centurium’s Creations! That single moment has been a launching pad for me and my brand! Since then I have personally been interviewed and currently have a piece of my work as a part of the FOX 2 set. My work has been in the Detroit Free Press several times, gotten into boutiques around the Metro Detroit area, featured nationally and internationally, personalized commissions, and now doing whole/retail and vendor shows.

People talk about “living up to your name” when I was younger. Knowing the meaning of my name…that seemed unattainable. I feel that I haven’t reached the Alpha Centauri star system yet, but I am well on my way.

Thank you

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The Beard and the Call

By Jack Schidt (pseudo name), MD Candidate

Medical Student

Sleep did not come easy last night. It was fickle. He’d promised not to take it for granted after years of an uneasy and antagonistic affair with the sandman. He was lucky to be sleeping reasonably well of late, as his days were so draining that when he went to bed, exhausted, he would fall asleep quickly. Last night he was not so lucky. Sapped of energy as he was, the minutes dragged into even longer hours. When the daylight shined through the broken shutters, he threw back the covers and descended to the kitchen to brew a strong coffee.

male-head-hair-and-beard_318-57831His eyes were particularly bloodshot and the bed was his stylist. “It’s been two months,” he thought. “Two months and no call.” He looked back at the pocked bathroom mirror exploring his gaunt face with paradoxical inquiry, much in the way one explores the still painful cavity of a recently extracted tooth. It showed a thick beard with bristles sticking out in all directions. There were more white hairs than he cared to count, and a couple of uncoordinated copper-red hairs he couldn’t explain.

Picking up the razor, he found himself at the familiar impasse, debating whether to groom or shave it all off and start over. The realization was not immediate, but slow and horrible. He realized that somewhere in the back of his mind, he made a pact not to shave until they called, and that the longer his beard got, the more unlikely such a call would come.

The waiting was getting unbearable. The uncertainty was a million times worse than any rejection. “Why won’t they call?” he said out loud, and felt like the subject of a reality show with an invisible audience saying poor bastard doesn’t have a clue. Shaking the feeling, he frowned and looked back at the razor.

His innate stubbornness, borne of generations of farmers and porters, saw him pick up a comb instead. This beard was the living embodiment of his despair, and yet it felt like an achievement, albeit small and petty in a way. He found himself thinking that if they don’t call, all he’d have left is an increasingly long beard to keep him company. It was already the longest he’s ever been able to grow. It was thick and starting curl, and as he wasn’t going to be boarding any airplanes anytime soon, certainly not if the phone doesn’t ring, he thought he’d keep it.

With little ceremony, he regarded his facial foliage as a triumph, such as it is, and hoped it would give him solace. Then felt his heart sink as he realized he no longer believed the call would come, and that his coffee was getting cold.

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Setting Up an Educational Philosophy: A Personal Experience

By Shady S. Shebak, MD

Psychiatry Resident, Virginia Tech Carilion School of Medicine, Roanoke VA

I have developed a personal educational philosophy over the past several years during psychiatry residency training. I have come to understand that in any educational philosophy, there are elements of pedagogy (classic teaching that was designed to teach children), but as Knowles1 discussed, adults are internally driven and learn best when they feel as though their interests and their independence are respected. Group work, discussions, and relaying of experience to one another is essential when discussing how adults learn, and as we will see, androgogy (adult learning theory) as explained by Knowles has elements of several of the classical and resurgent learning theories, as well as educational philosophies.

Malcolm Knowles

Malcolm Knowles

From reading Knowles, I realized that indeed, I am always much more keen on learning when I am included in creating a teaching environment that will house my mind. He makes a point when laying down the foundations of androgogy that traditionally teachers were the planners (and might I add executioners) of the learning process. Teachers most definitely have a crucial role in planning lessons and didactics, but involving their adult students (be they undergraduate or graduate students) shows a respect and creates a sense of comradery that I find very fruitful and motivating. On a personal note, I’ve learned best when I’ve been given an opportunity to involve myself in the planning of what I am expected to learn. This is the defining difference between pedagogy and androgogy.

Moving on to the classic learning theories, humanism resonates most strongly with me. Learning for the sake of self-improvement, improvement of the human condition, and eventually to gain self-actualization2 are driving factors in my striving to learn and gain knowledge. I believe the self-actualization is actually to attain or achieve a level of wisdom that a true lover of learning yearns for; in the same manner as Parsifal yearned for and chased the Holy Grail during his mythical expedition. Humanism is in summary, what medicine is. In Arabic, one of the terms for physician is hakim, which stems from the word hikma, and hikma means wisdom. I think humanism leads one to wisdom, and is essential to the practice of medicine. As Stern, et al.,3 outlined, humanistic physicians demonstrate respect, empathy, and integrity in patient-doctor interactions. Furthermore, I find humanism a summary of many of the classical learning theories, as it has within it the appreciation of role-modeling of social learning theory4, as well as reflecting and creating knowledge out of experience, and emphasis on the learner as outlined by constructivist learning theory5.

Let me shift and discuss another learning theory that I find important, and that is narrative learning theory. The best way to explain this theories importance to me as it relates to my learning is to provide a story… a narrative.

It was my first week as a psychiatry resident. I was presenting a patient to an attending who was filling in for my team for that day. I was expecting it to be an easy day as he was ‘just filling in’. As I started to present the case and the diagnoses, he asked me for my reasoning. I told him that the patient has a long history of these diagnoses, and that is when the attending asked me to be careful in sticking to the diagnoses in the chart. He told me I should always challenge what is in the chart and that sometimes we may have to rely on past diagnoses, but that we should always try to conduct a full diagnostic review for our patients if we expect a diagnosis. He also said that by relying on the chart for my diagnoses, I may be missing the bigger picture that the patient may have underlying personality issues or developmental issues that are mimicking another disorder. By not doing a full review with the patient, and without challenging the chart, I may be missing a big component of the patient’s presentation.

Looking back now, it is almost an obvious lesson, but at the time it was a big step forward for me. As I became more analytical, more comfortable with changing diagnoses or removing diagnoses, and even more comfortable suggesting new treatment plans. I utilized this attending as a role model, and since then, I’ve chosen him to be my mentor. He has provided me with books on mythology, story-telling, as well as articles that challenge the status quo within psychiatry. I’ve learned a great deal by putting more effort in acquiring the narratives of my patients, as well as from reading stories from various cultures and eras. He ignited in me a latent curiosity that has taken me on a journey of learning through reading stories, understanding my patients’ stories, and modeling his own qualities that I find appealing. Hence, my encounters with him are representative of narrative learning theory as these encounters hold a significant portion of my unfolding book of life, but these encounters are also embodied within social learning theory, which places emphasis on learning through modeling4. I’ve reflected deeply on these encounters with him, but I’ve also spent considerable time reflecting on my life in general; upon my childhood, my loved ones, and my future. I agree with narrative learning theorists that our experiences and our actual person are one and the same, and that these things are much more intimately related than what many constructivists have postulated6.

Parsifal Postcard 1900's

Parsifal Postcard 1900’s

Oral traditions, poetry, Perennial wisdom from thinkers and writers alike, as well as spirituality are things I consider to be essential for my continued growth. I view my life, human life, nature, careers, interests, and paths to be sacred. This sacred feeling or plane is something I believe is hardwired into us, and thus any knowledge produced from the heart, with purity of intention falls under this ‘sacred’ category that I’ve created for myself. And because of my belief that it is hardwired into us, I feel as though all learners have a capacity to grow and learn by utilizing traditional and spiritual methods. Hence, seeking knowledge from the outside world as well as from my own inner world is a form of worship, and I feel constantly energized and replenished when learning something worthwhile.

I like to think of my passions as emergencies or urgencies, and the way I address these emergencies is to teach them to others in the hopes of reforming and adding onto incomplete ideas. As someone who is somewhat introverted and somewhat extroverted, I usually form an idea or ideas, make personal conclusions about that idea, and then I share the idea with friends or colleagues in the hopes that they will add onto it or take something useful from it. Teaching should not be something that is dry and fully curriculum oriented, nor should it be done with the goal of ‘bestowing’ knowledge upon another. Rather, it should be done enthusiastically, with inner purpose, and with the goal of sharing knowledge and attaining knowledge through the experience of teaching. Some of my favorite learnings occurred outside of the rigors of curricula, and at times, without verbal exchange. Teaching and learning is multi-dimensional, complex, and truly a personal and collective process. We live in a social environment, and if we pay close attention we will find a library of plots, as mentioned by Sarbin7, and we will find lessons all around us and within us. In teaching my students, I want to ignite that inner curiosity, and will do so by utilizing all that I have outlined above. I will respect my learners’ adulthood and independence, utilize discussions, and encourage writing, oral presentations, and reflection amongst my learners. I value what I have learned and what I will continue to learn, and value what I teach, holding that duty to be sacred. As a scholar, mystic, and Muslim saint Imam Ali once said, the taxation of knowledge is to teach it! I recommend all who participate in education develop a personal philosophy about teaching and learning.


  1. Knowles, M. Androgogy, not pedagogy. Adult Leadership. 1968:16(10):349-386.
  2. Merriam SB, Caffarella RS, Baumgartner LM. Learning in Adulthood: A Comprehensive Guide. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass. 2007:275-297.
  3. Stern DT, Cohen JJ, Bruder A, Packer B, Sole A. Teaching humanism. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 2008:51(4):495-507.
  4. Bandura A. Social Learning Theory. New York, NY: General Learning Press; 1971.
  5. Schweitzer L, Stephenson M. Charting the challenges and paradoxes of constructivism: a view from professional education. Teaching in Higher Education. 2008:13(5):583-593.
  6. Clark M, Rossiter M. Narrative Learning in Adulthood. In: New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education. 3rd update. Wiley Periodicals; 2008:62.
  7. Sarbin TR. The Narrative as a Root Metaphor for Psychology. In: TR Sarbin (ed). Narrative Psychology: The Storied Nature of Human Conduct. New York: Praeger; 198

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Why read?

By Henda AlBiatty, MPH

Michigan State University School of Public Health, East Lansing, MI

“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” ~William Styron, interview, Writers at Work, 1958


I can’t remember the first book I ever read or when my passion for reading flourished but as a young child my room was constantly filled with books. Most of my books were novels with the most suspenseful plots and intriguing characters. When I started reading a book I was transported from my current reality to the wonderful world of my imagination. I felt as if I was living the adventures, riding the emotional roller coaster and becoming one with the story. The books, the story, the characters they became part of my life, my memories; it was inescapable. Every time I finished a book I was left weary, lost almost of how to re-enter my reality without my friends and our unforgettable journeys. The taste of a great book always lingered on until I began the next one.

By Henda AlBiatty

By Henda AlBiatty

After working in an elementary school setting for the past two years I observed that most students don’t have a zest for reading. The younger children who are just learning to recognize words and connect sentences together find reading as sense of accomplishment. With the older children the skill of reading is utilized to finish homework assignments and take exams. The passion to read as a form of growth and exploration is almost non-existent. While the skill of reading is highly emphasized in a classroom environment the motive is ultimately to have high test scores. By instilling a self-propelling desire to read books whether fiction or non-fiction children and adults alike are more compelled to comprehend the information, connect various ideas together and critically think beyond the text.

Reading is not just for leisure but rather for growth, excitement and education. The importance of reading begins at birth. During the first three years of a child’s life the brain is about 90% developed. By adding reading sessions during the goodnight rituals children will develop stronger cognitive associations between the visual and auditory contents of the book. With all the various advancements in technology, reading is a just a click away. Reading visually or audibly is more feasible and inexpensive than before. Seizing these opportunities and incorporating them into your lifestyle will create a great impact. For children and adults, reading enhances their vocabulary, cultivates their interests, and ameliorates their writing skills.

Our world is ever changing but the written word will not cease to have the greatest effect on our lives.



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