I’m sitting in my residency library on a gloomy spring afternoon during my trauma surgery rotation. I stare out the window at the shedding cherry blossom trees, and I reflect on how the last ten months flew by. As I’m waiting for a trauma alert to be paged out, another chest tube, another bedside thoracotomy, I think back to where I was exactly one year ago today. I was packing up my bags in Ireland, prepared to move across the pond to a new country, ready for my first full-time clinical training experience and to start a new life. Little did I know how much I would learn in medicine, and in life.
It was 2:00 AM at Beirut-Rafic Hariri International Airport, moments before a long trip to the United States. I was drinking coffee and trying desperately to distract myself. At the time, I was 30 years old, recently engaged, and a fresh graduate in pulmonary and critical care. I was on my way to begin a U.S. graduate medical education program on a J-1 visa for subspecialty training in neurocritical care.
I grew up in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, thousands of miles away in the Middle East. I went to high school with a dream that I would become a petroleum engineer. I never thought that I would be a physician; I was scared from seeing blood, and I was afraid to touch a patient. When I graduated from high school, I applied to the best scholarship program in the country, and I got accepted to study petroleum engineering abroad. At the same time, I applied to King Abdulaziz University College of Medicine in Saudi Arabia, because it is one of the best schools in the country. I applied, not because I was forced to do so by my family, but I did it to prove that I could be a doctor, although at that time I didn’t want to be one.
Having completed a residency in otolaryngology in Quebec City, Canada, I was ready for my next journey. But where would I go? Knowing I earned a position as an associate professor in one of the top pediatric hospital in Canada, Ste-Justine in Montreal, I had to find the perfect fellowship to learn from the best and bring back this knowledge with me. Who knew this journey would lead me in Cincinnati, Ohio.
I had the honor to complete a 2-year fellowship in Pediatric Otolaryngology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical. This hospital is not only the 2nd highest ranked pediatric hospital in the United States, but is the worldwide leader in performing pediatric airway reconstructions, including procedures involving the area from the top of the voice box to the trachea.