April 25, 2022

‘We do things a little differently here’: Biology graduate, future WSU doctor ready to serve

Tareq Hanna will graduate with honors this spring and begin his medical education at the Wayne State University School of Medicine in July.

Tareq Hanna is one step closer to fulfilling his lifelong dream of becoming a doctor.

Hanna, who will earn a bachelor’s in biological sciences with a minor in chemistry from the Irvin D. Reid Honors College at Wayne State University this May, will take just a few weeks off before beginning his formal medical education at WSU’s School of Medicine in July.

“I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was a little kid, and after my experience with the physicians and community around this campus, I couldn’t be more proud that I’ll be a Wayne State doctor,” said Hanna.

A field of service

A first-generation Arab American whose parents immigrated to Canada from Iraq, his undergraduate journey was heavily influenced by a desire to share kindness and build communities up through understanding. Surrounded by family heavily grounded in the hard sciences, like engineering and medicine, Hanna felt a natural pull toward a field that applied research and data to solve real-world problems.

“I didn’t realize it at the time, but I look back on it now and realize that Canada’s socialized health care system was a godsend for my family and for so many others,” Hanna said. “That level of access is so special. I believe that access to quality, affordable care is a basic human right.” 

Wayne State’s historic commitment to serving Detroit drew Hanna to the university, where he developed an even deeper appreciation for the critical roles that diversity and access play in health care.

“The School of Medicine is among the most diverse medical schools in the country, and a national leader in serving the underserved,” said Hanna. “I want to learn from and with people from all walks of life because I want to be able to offer the best health care for all of my future patients, who will come from all walks of life.”

Hanna notes that cultural and social experiences can impact the perceptions of both patients and their health care providers — and that, in some instances, those experiences can become barriers to care.

“It’s not enough to just be smart and to understand the human body. You have to be sensitive, too,” Hanna said. “I want my future patients to feel like I treat them with the same dignity, respect and understanding as family.”

Exploring medicine

As an undergraduate student, Hanna took advantage of opportunities to serve Detroit and the broader medical community. He volunteered with the Wayne Health Mobile Unit to provide COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, as well as other preventative screening, to residents in Detroit, Dearborn, St. Clair Shores and beyond.

“Wayne State doctors have led Detroit and the country in terms of community-focused pandemic response,” said Hanna. “Being able to work with the Mobile Unit was an eye-opening experience about the impact that accessibility can have on the health of a community. We watched people walk, in some cases, miles to receive services — it was that important to them. And it’s that important to us, too.”

Hanna, who wants to specialize in surgery, has explored various areas of medicine with mentors on- and off-campus. He has served as a dermatological surgical assistant with Dr. Ayad Abrou, who is a two-time WSU alumnus. Additionally, under the guidance of David Njus, Ph.D., professor of biology, and Ph.D. student Praneet Marwah, he has completed research related to Parkinson’s disease, which was awarded the first prize among chemistry and biology students at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Symposium in 2021. Hanna also shadowed cardiologist Delair Gardi, M.D.,  and orthopedic surgeon Abdullah Omari, M.D.

Although acclimating to college was a challenge at first, Hanna noted that the Pre-Med and Health Science Center advisors and staff helped him find his rhythm.

“I think doctors are servants, and that it is the highest honor to serve people who trust you with their health,” said Hanna. “I’ve been able to work with incredible servant-physicians and others dedicated to furthering medicine who have been inspirational and motivational mentors.”

While he explored other medical schools, Hanna said that Wayne State’s School of Medicine was his top choice — for many reasons.

“Wayne State just does things a little differently. At other medical schools, their greatest accomplishments happen in the classroom; here, our greatest accomplishments happen in the community.”

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