22 Jun 2015

Doktor Muda

Iqbal El-Assaad doktor termuda di dunia
NORHANA FARIZA HARUN
27 Januari 2015



PADA usia 20 tahun, Iqbal El-Assaad kini bergelar doktor termuda di dunia selepas berjaya menamatkan pengajiannya dari Kolej Perubatan Weill Cornell (WCMC-Q) di Qatar.

Ketika berusia 12 tahun, beliau lulus dengan cemerlang dari sekolah tinggi dan berada di kedudukan teratas di dalam kelas. Bukan itu sahaja, beliau juga telah menguasai subjek biokimia dan matematik yang merupakan antara pelajaran penting untuk ke sekolah perubatan.

Melangkah ke usia 13 tahun, Iqbal bukan hanya belajar memandu, malah kebijaksanaannya telah menarik perhatian Menteri Pelajaran Lubnan yang membantu beliau mendapatkan biasiswa perubatan di Qatar.

Baginya, kekurangan penjagaan kesihatan di kalangan rakyat Palestin adalah antara faktor utama beliau ingin menjadi seorang doktor.

Kehidupan peribadi

Iqbal dibesarkan di Bar Elias, iaitu sebuah perkampungan kecil di Lembah Beeka, selepas ibu bapanya tiba di Lubnan. Di sana, beliau berpeluang melawat saudara maranya yang tinggal di kem pelarian dan kemiskinan yang membelenggu pelarian di situ benar-benar menyentuh hatinya walaupun ketika itu beliau masih seorang kanak-kanak.

“Saya adalah paling muda dalam keluarga dan bapa mula perasan minat saya untuk belajar dengan abang ketika masih berusia dua setengah tahun. Bagi bapa, pendidikan adalah paling penting terutamanya bagi anak perempuan.

“Katanya, lelaki akan keluar mencari kerja tetapi pendidikan adalah senjata bagi wanita di masa hadapan. Kami dibesarkan dengan diajar betapa pentingnya pelajaran dan ibu bapa saya sentiasa membantu anak-anak mereka belajar,” katanya.

Pendidikan awal

Iqbal bersekolah di sebuah sekolah swasta di Lubnan yang berdasarkan kurikulum di negara itu. Selepas dua tahun, pihak sekolah memberinya biasiswa penuh. Beliau juga kerap melangkau gred dan selalu menjadi pelajar paling muda dalam kelas.

Selepas habis sekolah tinggi, Menteri Pelajaran Lubnan ketika itu, Khaled Qabbani mengiktirafnya sebagai pelajar termuda yang pernah menamatkan sekolah tinggi.

Iqbal memberitahu Khaled tentang cita-citanya untuk menjadi seorang doktor. Khaled berjanji untuk mendapatkannya biasiswa dan kemudian bertemu Pengerusi Yayasan Qatar Sheikha Mozah bint Nasser Al Missned.

Nyata, rezeki berpihak kepada Iqbal apabila Qatar menawarkan beliau biasiswa penuh di (WCMC-Q), sebahagian daripada kumpulan cawangan kampus elit Amerika di Bandar Pendidikan.

Iqbal memulakan pengajian dalam bidang yang diminatinya itu dikelilingi mereka yang kebanyakan berusia sekurang-kurangnya lima tahun lebih tua daripadanya.

Cabaran jadi pelajar termuda


Menjadi pelajar paling muda di sesebuah tempat pengajian bukan perkara mudah. Bagi Iqbal, waktu paling sukar dihadapi adalah ketika mula-mula tiba di Qatar.

Biasiswa penuh diterima dari Qatar Foundation dirasakan menambahkan lagi tekanan, kerana baginya dia perlu membuktikan kepada diri sendiri bahawa amanah yang diberikan kepadanya tidak akan sesekali disia-siakan.

“Saya membesar dengan pelajar lebih tua daripada saya, jadi saya sudah biasa berurusan dengan mereka yang lebih berusia dan saya juga cukup matang untuk bekerja dengan mereka. Interaksi antara dua golongan berbeza umur turut membantu meningkatkan cara saya berfikir,” katanya.

Selepas menghabiskan pengajian, Iqbal akan kembali ke Timur Tengah dan bekerja di antara Qatar dan Lubnan sebagai membalas jasa kerana telah menaja pengajiannya selama enam tahun.

Selain itu, beliau juga ingin kembali ke Lubnan untuk membantu rakyat Palestin kerana mereka sebenarnya adalah inspirasi utama beliau menjadi doktor selain mahu memenuhi impian zaman kanak-kanaknya yang ingin membawa perubahan kepada kehidupan masyarakat di wilayah bergolak itu.

Inspirasi sebagai doktor

Menurut Iqbal, beliau membuat keputusan untuk menjadi doktor ketika berusia 12 tahun. Membesar sebagai seorang Palestin yang tinggal di Lubnan, beliau melihat banyak penderitaan dalam kalangan Palestin Lubnan memandangkan mereka tidak mempunyai insurans
kesihatan.

“Lawatan ke kem pelarian menyedarkan saya ramai ibu bapa di sana yang melihat anak-anak mereka menderita tetapi mereka tidak dapat membantu kerana tidak mempunyai wang untuk berbuat demikian," katanya.

Kini, Iqbal berkhidmat di bahagian pediatrik di Hospital Kanak-kanak di Cleveland, Amerika Syarikat selama tiga tahun dan bakal menyambung pengajian dalam bidang kardiologi pediatrik selepas tamat tempoh tiga tahun tersebut.

sinar harian



The youngest Arab doctor
Mohammed Yahia

Published online 16 May 2013

Graduating from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q), 20-year-old Iqbal El-Assaad is possibly the youngest Arab doctor ever.


Iqbal El-Assaad during her graduation from WCMC-Q. Iqbal El-Assaad during her graduation from WCMC-Q.© WCMC-Q

Iqbal El-Assaad is the youngest medical doctor to graduate from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) in its ten-year history. When Iqbal was a toddler, she learnt algebra by watching her older siblings study. Before El-Assaad's fifth birthday, her favourite pastimes were reading books and solving mathematical problems.

Following her graduation, Nature Middle East spoke to Iqbal about what it's like to be a 20-year old medical doctor and hear what she plans for the future.

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in medicine?

I made the decision to be a doctor myself when I was 12 years old. Growing up as a Palestinian living in Lebanon, I saw much suffering among my people since the Palestinians in Lebanon did not have health insurance.

My family and I visited the camps and saw how harsh the conditions there were. I saw many parents who see their children suffering but they can't help them because they don't have the money to do that. These visits to the camps made me feel that it is my responsibility to study medicine and try to help these people. Many of them cannot even afford the medication they need.

What role did your family play in your decision to pursue medical school?

I am the youngest among my siblings and my father first noticed when I was two-and-a-half years old that I was keen to learn when he was teaching my brothers. For my dad, education is always number one – especially for a girl. He always said that the boys will eventually find work but education is a girl's weapon in the future. We grew up on this idea and my dad always encouraged me that if I have a dream I want to pursue, my parents would always help me.

I went to a private school in Lebanon that was based on the Lebanese curriculum, not an American school. After paying my tuition for the first two years, the principal of the school gave me a full scholarship. I used to skip grades and I was always the youngest person in my class.

I graduated from high school when I was 12 and Khaled Abany, who was then the education minister in Lebanon, honoured me as the youngest student to ever finish high school. I told him that I dreamt of being a doctor and he promised to try to secure a scholarship for me. The next day he contacted Sheikha Mozah [the Chairperson of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development] and she promised me a full scholarship to study at WCMC-Q.

Was it challenging being the youngest student in college?

The toughest time was when I first arrived in Qatar. I felt a lot of pressure because Qatar Foundation had given me the full scholarship without any tests. So I wanted to prove myself and prove that I was up to the trust people put in me.

The Lebanese education system prepares you very well for college so in terms of science and maths I found I was very well prepared.

I grew up with students who were always older than me so I am used to dealing with older people and I am mature enough to work with them. I always liked to study with friends in school and that carried on in college. This interaction has helped improve my way of thinking so that eventually people don't even notice there is an age difference.

What is your next step now after graduation?

I am leaving soon for a three-year residency at the Children's Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. After that I want to apply for a fellowship in paediatric cardiology, which will take three more years. I then want to come back to the Middle East and work between Qatar and Lebanon – to pay Qatar back. They have been sponsoring me for the past six years. I also want to go back to Lebanon to help my Palestinian people because they are the main inspiration for me to be a doctor and I would like to fulfil my childhood dream to make a difference to their lives.

Why paediatrics?

I can't say exactly why, but I just love it. In our third year in college I found I was really happy to be able to help little kids. I also see the hardship of Palestinian children living in camps in Lebanon and that is part of the reason why I want to pursue paediatrics

Are you interested in doing any research?

I definitely want to pursue research. I did research during the summer of my second year and I fell in love with it. I even published at that time and was involved in two other studies. I really like the idea of discovering something new.

I hope in the future I can join an academic health centre where I can treat patients and also work in research.

What advice would you have to young people who would pursue medicine?

The only advice I would have is for students to study hard and make use of the opportunities in Qatar. Having world-class universities here in the Middle East is beyond imagination. This is the most important stage in their lives and they have to work for it.

For premed students, enjoy your lives now! It is a good time especially if you have good friends and it is not really too hard so you can get the best of both worlds.

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