Iqbal El Assaad: hopes to specialise in paediatrics.
Twenty-year-old Iqbal El Assaad made history by becoming the youngest doctor in the region when she graduated from the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar (WCMC-Q) yesterday.
As a gifted child, Iqbal’s favourite pastime was reading or solving a mathematics equation.
Her cognitive skills were so advanced that she learned algebra by sitting with her older siblings while they did their homework.
“I used to teach my children words and numbers to prepare them for school, but I never taught Iqbal to count. She would watch her siblings closely and learn from them,” said her father, Mahmoud Omar El Assaad.
By the time she was five, Iqbal’s intellectual prowess was widely acknowledged at her school in Lebanon, and the teachers facilitated her development by allowing her to skip several grades.
Iqbal, who is of Palestinian origin, was determined to fulfil her childhood goal of becoming a doctor in order to provide medical care to Palestinian refugees who lived in camps.
“Since I was very young, I really wanted to help people. My family did not live in a camp, but we had family members who did and I used to visit them,” she said. “I became aware that they had a lot of medical needs and I felt that the best way to help them would be by providing family healthcare.”
So when she completed high school at the age of 12, the minister of education in Lebanon stepped in to help her secure the most competitive scholarships.
“When they told me about the opportunity to study at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar and I read about the university and Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, I was very happy. Weill Cornell is known across the world for offering top medical programmes and I was really pleased to receive a scholarship from HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser,” she says.
Having earned her Doctor of Medicine degree from WCMC-Q, she has voiced gratitude to Sheikha Moza and to others who helped her along the way.
Iqbal will be starting her residency at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic in the United States this summer and she hopes to specialise in paediatrics, with a long-term view to becoming a paediatric cardiologist.
She has not forgotten her childhood dream, and intends to continue working hard and with the utmost dedication until she realises it.
“My biggest dream is to come back to Lebanon and open a free clinic for the Palestinians in the camp and to help them out as much as I possibly can,” Iqbal said.
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