“There was a time in my life when I was told by every professor and adviser that I shouldn’t go into medicine—that I would never make it,” says Jasser Khairallah.
Khairallah spent the majority of his life in Chicago’s South Side where he was often exposed to hardships extending beyond the classroom. It also was where he learned the importance of family, culture, and perseverance.
Khairallah did not have a lot growing up, but one thing he could always count on was family. He lived primarily with his mom, but also had four aunts and 17 first cousins all living within a one block radius. His family is his biggest influence in life—most notably, his father and uncle.
Both his father and uncle died prematurely due to what Khairallah describes as a lack of a primary care physician. His father died after being comatose for three months following a stroke. His uncle died after a life-long battle with heart ailments consisting of six open heart surgeries throughout the course of his life. With both his father and uncle growing up in Brazil, primary care was rarely, if ever, provided.
ATSU’s 6 pillars of diversity
1. Integrated infrastructure
2. Committed leadership
4. Targeted diversity
5. Diversity education
“If they had someone who could have seen these signs earlier, that’s who could have kept my father with me,” Khairallah says.
His family’s struggles are the driving force behind his desire to be a primary care physician.
“It’s the sole reason I got into medicine,” he says.
Khairallah thought his desire to serve those in need fit perfectly with ATSU’s mission of serving the underserved. He is now a second-year student at KCOM.
Khairallah says his life at ATSU is challenging, especially the workload. Looking to classmates for guidance, Khairallah has established a network of friends he knows will support him regardless of the challenges encountered. Khairallah grew up in an incredibly diverse community—his high school had 60-70 different countries represented by their student body. He says diversity was one of the main reasons he chose ATSU (see sidebar).
“They do an amazing job of finding kids from different walks of life and bringing them into one school to serve a common goal, but at the same time, not forget where they came from,” he says of ATSU’s culture of inclusion.
Khairallah was heavily influenced by his mother’s family and their Palestinian heritage. There was often a stark contrast between the conservative nature of his family and the liberal environment he was exposed to in school. He says elements from both cultures have made him who he is, understanding that in order to grow, he must adapt to the different shades of life.
“I surround myself with people who have a different way of viewing the world and what they want to contribute to it,” he says.