Hadeel Abdulkareem: My Passion to Help Others Heal

A native of Baghdad, Hadeel Abdulkareem moved to Chicago in 2009. She currently attends Northeastern Illinois University, working toward a degree in Biology. She is also the recipient of Muslim Womans Alliance Ayesha Scholarship. Her dream is to become a primary care physician and help people around the world who lack access to quality medical care.


My four siblings and I were forced to leave behind the things we loved the most. I left my big, beautiful house, my favorite books, and the wonderful drawings I drew every night before bed. The hardest thing for me to do was say goodbye to my grandpa and grandma. It was also difficult to say goodbye to my favorite uncle, whom I considered a second father, knowing that I likely wouldn’t see him again. My father left his job and my mother left her entire family. The last image I remember of Baghdad was dead bodies, injured people and blood all over the sidewalks and streets. But let’s start at the beginning.

When I was young, I lived in a large house in the heart of Baghdad, Iraq. I was surrounded by people who loved me more than they loved themselves: aunts, uncles, and grandparents. When I was ten, I fled my home country of Iraq because of the war. Threatened by militia and fearing we would be killed if we did not leave, my family was forced to flee to Syria as refugees. In short, I left everything I loved in Iraq and carried myself along with my family, hoping for a future in Syria.

Growing up as a child during war gave me the strength and passion to become a positive influence for the world. The last image I remember of Baghdad was dead bodies, injured people and blood on the sidewalks. At that time, I wished I had the ability to help the people who were suffering from pain. My dad and I went to the hospital. All we saw were people who were hurt and not receiving any medical attention. They were asking for help from us even though we weren’t doctors. As a child I cried, asking my dad to go and help them.

In Syria , my father faced the challenge of having to provide and care for a family without being able to find steady work. UNICEF helped us with health care and adjusting to our new life. Seeing this I decided I wanted to become a doctor. I want to give back to others, just as those who helped me and my family.

After two hard years in Syria, my parents faced another large decision: to move our family to America to pursue a better life. We arrived in 2009. My family and I found ourselves needing to adopt a new culture, learn a new language, and start a new life once more.

I believe health is the most important resource that should be available to anyone who needs it. Being a doctor isn’t an easy job. I have lost many loved ones because of doctors that were unable to do their job in Iraq. I had two siblings, Halla and Omar, who died at a very young age due to the poor health treatment in Iraq. My mothers’ only sister died of cancer because she was unable to pay for a treatment plan in a private hospital. Instead, she was forced to go to a public health hospital, whose inadequate care caused her death.

I want to study many areas of medicine and learn what it takes to become a successful doctor. My ultimate goal is to one day go back to my home country and help people who are in need and deserve good health treatment. I want to give people like my siblings Omar and Halla and my aunt the medical attention they deserve.

I have suffered and fought through a lot to get to where I am now. I didn’t give up because I have a goal that no one can stop me from achieving. I want to make my family and community proud of me. All the hard times my family and I have been through give me the strength to be where I am right now – and motivate me to follow the path toward becoming a physician.

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