3 years later… 3 days later…

Wow! Third day into this global rotation and it has been an incredible experience. Just 3 years ago I was here for a summer doing my MPH research on Healthcare Accessibility for Palestinian Refugees in the West Bank. Now I’m here back in Ramallah with 3 other medical students rotating in various aspects of the Palestinian Healthcare system! Our time at the Palestine Medical Complex Pediatric Department has been quite phenomenal. Our typical day starts off with morning report, followed by rounding on inpatient patients, ending the day with a range of experiences including pediatric emergency and outpatient clinic. Tomorrow we have a lecture from a visiting British professor. It’s been such an interesting experience here both on the medical front. I have seen more interesting and rare disease here in three days than I have in 6 weeks of Pediatrics at the University of Iowa, and both centers are tertiary care referral centers. Two cases of sinus invertus, leishmaniasis, C1 Complement deficiency, Chromosome 9 ring abnormality, alpha ketoglutaric aciduria, glycogen storage disease. No, I’m not reciting diseases from my USMLE Step 1 and 2 books. An incredible experience to say the least – I can only imagine the exposure we would get during a one month rotation in just that department.

The evenings have been just as interesting for both the other students and myself. Every single night has been a learning experience. We have been talking with friends of mine that live here and share their stories with us. For example, Ghadeer and Sa’ed are both very motivated and bright individuals with Ghadeer making the decision to remain in the West Bank to learn and work and Sa’ed living here for one year conducting research, teaching, training, and empowering Palestinians. Fascinating to hear why they choose to live and work here when considering the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

This evening we were invited to a BBQ in a town called Ein Yabroud at a beautiful house and it was delicious! There was a great crowd there of about 15 people that we met with so many great stories I didn’t want anyone to stop talking. I met Molly whom I eventually realized I had heard about. She graduated from the University of Iowa and traveled to the West Bank to do a summer internship with the Rawabi City Project, but ended up staying and has been here since… 3 years later! I had heard about her from my cousin Ghassan Harb and she had heard about me from the her boss, which are great friends with my family. The saying “Small world…” couldn’t be more true – finding an Iowa graduate in a small village in the West Bank on March 30th, 2011. How does that happen? We met other incredible people working with the United Nations in refugee camps, peace core members, old classmates when I went to High School here. Our conversation topics ranged from tears (not me) to laughter including but not limited to the Palestinian Israeli conflict (of course), the Palestinian Authority, political world leaders, Iraq, and a couple of light hearted stories here and there. Keep in mind, this was in the setting of multiple rounds of dessert, tea and coffee. Something along the lines of Turkish coffee, knaffa (Cheese dessert), water, tea, hookah, American coffee… in that order. I’m stuffed. The ride home included the president of the Palestinian Authority, Abbas, who drove by us with his convoy 10 feet away, turns out he lives about 10 minutes from our home, kinda neat. Seems like we have an affinity for leaders in Jordan and in the West Bank.

That experience in addition to my conversation with good friends really has increasingly inspired me to continue my passion and strong affinity for the region. The opportunities I have at this stage in my life are amazing, I could not be in a better place at this point. It is not a hobby, one-trip wonder, or transient mission but rather, a life long obligation to utilize these resources and opportunities to truly help my heritage, country, and identity as a Palestinian and an American. At this point it’s not a question of if and who, but when and how can I make the greatest lasting impact. That is yet to be seen.

Did I mention, its only been 3 days!?

2 Responses to “3 years later… 3 days later…”
  1. Pam Willard says:

    Thanks to each of you for writing about these experiences.

  2. Taroub Faramand says:

    Harb, your blog of today stirred so many emotions. I am so excited for you and your colleagues. This is indeed an incredible experience. When you write about the pediatric hospital at the PMC, I remember when it was still a building and how I took part in bringing it to life. Managing the largest health project funded by the US government in the West Bank and Gaza allowed me to bring state of the art solutions to ensure better health outcomes. We started a movement for change. Doing so allowed us to identify young leaders such as yourselves. Palestinians deserve better health outcomes. This rotation will enable you and others to advocate among health professionals to come to Palestine and bring their knowledge, skills and commitment to making a difference. I had a vision to link Palestinian and American Insitutions for the benefit of all those who are in need. You are making this vision a reality. I am proud of you all and thank you.

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