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Becoming a women’s health advocate

August 25, 2020

The CASL Victors for Michigan Scholarship empowered Hiba Jouni to embrace a global educational experience and prepared her for her future medical career.

When recent College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters (CASL) graduate Hiba Jouni (‘20 B.S.) was beginning her college career, she viewed UM-Dearborn’s smaller class sizes as a major advantage. “When choosing which college to attend, I knew that I’d be getting the best learning environment in a smaller classroom with more opportunities to ask questions, participate in discussion and have a professor who knows who I am,” she explains.

She recognizes the myriad benefits of UM-Dearborn’s classes, which offer a more personal educational experience. “The academic benefits of smaller class sizes not only enhanced my learning but also helped me form meaningful relationships with my professors,” she says, noting that her professors have “made students’ learning a top priority and made teaching seem like less of a job, and more of a passion.”

Jouni settled on biochemistry as her major because biology and chemistry were her favorite subjects in high school, and she thought that this would be the perfect combination of two topics she enjoyed. “Little did I know that biochemistry would be an entire subject of its own,” she remarks.

Still, she decided in her third year that biochemistry was the right choice for her. “Biochemistry is both a life science and chemical science, which has helped me put together the scientific foundations from biology and chemistry courses into context and gain a deeper understanding of the necessary reactions for life to exist,” she says.

One reason Jouni thrived during her time at UM-Dearborn is because of the professors who encouraged her and the classes that helped prepare her for her future career. She particularly mentions three professors who she says are “deserving of extra recognition:” Assistant Professor of Biology John Abramyan, Professor of Chemistry Ali Bazzi, and Associate Professor of Biological Sciences and Biochemistry Peter Oelkers.

“Dr. Abramyan, who was my Embryology professor, stood out for his kindness and passion for teaching,” she says. “Aside from being an incredible professor, Dr. Abramyan is someone who genuinely cares about the success of his students and goes well beyond to help his students, and overall made the course very enjoyable.” 

She notes that Dr. Bazzi, who was her Chemistry professor throughout her studies, “was also very driven and passionate about teaching and was always more than willing to explain and re-explain (and re-explain) topics that his students struggled with.” She appreciates that “his teaching style made the class easy to follow and he made sure that his students walked away from the course with good knowledge of the material,” and his influence extended beyond the classroom. “I also had the pleasure of working with Dr. Bazzi in his lab for research, and because of him I have unique insight into how chemistry textbook knowledge can be applied to the real world,” she says.

Jouni also praises her Molecular Biology professor Dr. Oelkers, who she says “exhibited expertise in the subject and presented the material in a manner that instilled a desire for me to learn more on my own.” She adds that “great professors like Dr. Oelkers demand critical thinking to look deeper and explore various angles that challenge a student in ways that sparked a passion for learning. Molecular biology is a difficult subject, but his breadth of knowledge and passion in his teaching enriched students' learning.” 

The shift to remote learning has been difficult for many students and faculty, but Jouni says the adjustment hasn’t affected Oelkers’s teaching or concern for student learning. “Even when courses were switched online due to the pandemic, Dr. Oelkers presented the material in depth and clarity and held web conference Q&A sessions to help students in any way he can,” she says.

In addition to the impact her professors had during her college career, Jouni also expresses her gratitude for the CASL Victors for Michigan Scholarship. “Coming from a family of seven, this scholarship was, of course, tremendous financial support. It allowed me to focus on the most important aspect of school–learning–rather than the stress of supporting my education,” she says. She views the scholarship as more than just financial help, adding that the donors’ support is reassuring and “encourages me to continue to strive for excellence.”

“On days where I felt overwhelmingly stressed I realized that I have been given a valuable opportunity that very few have. The donors’ generosity and investment in my education humbles me and constantly reminds me that I am seen as having the potential for the future of our society and commitment to make a difference in the world,” she says.

Jouni understands the value of this scholarship and the opportunities it offers, and takes her education very seriously. “As a daughter of two immigrants who both weren’t fortunate enough to make it past grade school, I am no stranger to powerful impacts an education can have on one’s life,” she says. “The CASL Victors for Michigan Scholarship has had a profound impact on my educational journey which I will forever be grateful for, and I hope to be a means to extend the effects of the donors’ generosity far beyond my own life so that one day I can give as much as I’ve been fortunate to receive.”

As a result, she embraced UM-Dearborn and made the most of her time on campus, seizing opportunities that would allow her to expand her skillset and have experiences that would be beneficial for her future career. In addition to her volunteer work off campus, which includes volunteering weekly with Beaumont’s Center for Exceptional Families, she was involved with student organizations and was vice president for Students for Islamic Awareness (SIA). However, she considers her trip to Honduras with Global Brigades as “one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve had at UM-Dearborn.”

The trip “was a 10 day mission trip dedicated to serving an under-resourced community to resolve global health and economic disparities,” and provided an opportunity for self-reflection and growth in addition to making a difference in the lives of others. “We had the privilege to join local doctors in providing free medical assistance to underprivileged communities, which helped me put healthcare in a global context and keep my relative privilege in perspective,” Jouni explains. “This experience provided me with tremendous internal gratification and was undoubtedly one of the most heartfelt and enriching experiences that I’ve taken part in.”

Jouni is now preparing to embark on the next stage of her journey towards her career goals. Though she says with a degree in biochemistry “the opportunities are endless,” she plans to pursue her education further. She will attend UM-Ann Arbor this fall to earn a master’s degree in physiology “to grasp an advanced understanding for the dynamic nature of the human body while preparing me for the challenges of medical school,” before going on to earn her MD/DO degree.

After medical school, she plans to fill a needed role that allows her to practice medicine and serve her community. “I am mainly interested in women’s health, particularly fertility. In communities like my hometown of Dearborn, which is home to the highest concentration of Arabs and Muslims outside of the Middle East, talented and trustworthy female OB/GYN doctors are always in high demand,” she explains. 

“In the future, I hope to return to my community to not only fill an urgent need as a practitioner, but also to partner with community-based organizations to promote OB/GYN education, dispel myths and stereotypes surrounding women’s health, and transform taboo topics into healthy dialogues. In doing so, I will fulfill my dream of becoming a women’s health advocate, as well as a community health champion,” she says.

As she works to achieve her goals, she remembers the support that helped her along the way. “To the donors for the CASL Victors for Michigan scholarship, your immense generosity and faith in students like myself will continue to impact me for much longer than four years. I am forever indebted to you for your generosity and investment in my education and my future,” she says.


If you want to learn more about Hiba’s trip to Honduras with Global Brigades, you can watch this video she made highlighting her experiences.

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