My story starts in Palestine. Born and raised in the Middle East, my life became a list of things I had to do to stay alive. Growing up surrounded by fear and chaos, I pictured the endless possibilities that awaited me. One day as I was sitting with my friend having coffee, we heard a bomb detonate; people frantically started running and terrified noises echoed throughout the shop. I will never forget the panic and grief in my mother’s voice when she had to decide which of her two daughters to rescue first. Years later this story remains close to my heart. I never grasped how certain situations can define you. But this one did.

At sixteen, my parents decided to escape the violence and immigrate to the U.S. This pivotal decision changed my life and paved the way for many blessings. Their courage and sacrifice enabled me to receive the best education and pursue goals that were previously dreams on a piece of paper. Living in the U.S. allowed me to appreciate the infinite opportunities ahead, while also providing time to reflect on my childhood and the experience of those who continue to live in areas of the world with less privilege. It was here that I began to realize the health disparities that I was subject to in my homeland. The lack of adequate healthcare and the fear it created. The concern is that at some point someone I love will be put in harm’s way and unable to receive the healthcare they deserve.

Adversity and disparity in healthcare have propelled my interest and passion in serving people in need and in pursuing a career as a Physician Assistant (PA). Currently, I am working as a registered dietitian in a Neuroscience step-down unit at Duke University Hospital. This career has allowed me to grow clinically, explore my interests, and continue to provide compassionate care to my patients. I have always had a passion for helping others, in a field that is constantly evolving. As a dietitian, I can interact with patients on a more personal level and be a part of their journey to recovery. I feel humbled to share that I have positively impacted the clinical outcomes of countless patients. One rewarding experience was my interaction with a young teenager who was being treated for central nervous system vasculitis. His course was complicated by ischemic bowel and intolerance to various tube feed regimens. During his admission, I was able to follow him closely, help implement the best nutritional plan, and build a close and trusting relationship with his family.

While I have appreciated the opportunity to watch patients rebound from traumatic brain insults to full recovery, I have also found that helping patients who do not fully recover cope with their new disabilities is equally, if not more, rewarding. Instances like these allow me to appreciate the work I do, while also affirming my conviction to be more clinically involved, play a larger role in my patient’s journeys, and help in determining the best course of treatment for them. As a PA I know I will be able to achieve that.

I work alongside multiple neurology PAs on my unit. Working in a team with a patient-centered approach has allowed me to witness firsthand the positive impact this career can have. They embody all the characteristics I wish to emulate – confidence, skill, respect, and empathy. After working with several PAs, I quickly realized my passion to pursue and position myself to collaborate alongside multiple members of the healthcare team. I appreciate the flexibility of serving independently while also working with others. The majority of my clinical experience and interactions as a dietitian regarding patient care have been alongside PAs. Shadowing a PA perform different neurosurgery procedures allowed me to witness the importance of the relationships they build. It has also equipped me to be of greater service to support my mentees in the future as my mentors supported me and used those opportunities to help others who share similar dreams of pursuing this career.

I recognize how fortunate I have been to have had the opportunity and mentors to facilitate my unwavering dedication to caring for patients. I feel incredibly honored and privileged to study the human body, in a structured healthcare system that will prepare me to provide informed decisions along the way. The health disparities I witnessed in Palestine allow me to better serve others and motivate me to expand the reach of healthcare to all in need. These diverse experiences allow me to appreciate the available healthcare resources here, as well as provide perspective, and opportunity to bring diversity, empathy, and compassion to my role as a provider serving the less fortunate. I cherish my diverse experiences in the manner that it has shaped the young woman I am today. I look forward to continuing to grow in my knowledge, skills, and love for healthcare and my patients.

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