From the war in Iraq to South High School, student now ready to head to med school

DENVER – Being in the halls at Denver’s South High School brings back memories of great teachers for Mena Hashim, especially when thinking about her old science teacher.

“I was like, really upset, frustrated, and I was like, 'I don’t get this,'” Hashim said while walking through her old school. “He walked me outside and he was like, ‘You are such a smart student I know you can do it. You’re going to be an amazing doctor one day.'”

But that road to becoming a doctor started long before Hashim walked the halls at South for the first time.

“I lived through a war in Iraq and I saw a lot of things that kids shouldn’t be seeing,” she said.

Hashim saw the horrors of war in the years before she moved to the United States with her family. And even back then, she did what she could to help others in need. In fact, it was her grandfather who was the first to call her “Doctor Mena.”

“He had a cut and I brought him a band-aid and I felt like I was a doctor, like a hero, you know,” she said.

It was that sense of purpose that brought Hashim to the Denver Scholarship Foundation’s Future Center at South. There, she learned what she needed to do to apply for college, apply for scholarships and write eye-catching essays.

“When I heard I got accepted to the University of Colorado Denver, I was very, very excited,” Hashim said, although she said the first year or so of college was tough. “I was stressed out. I took it way too serious.”

Hashim learned to balance school with a social life which helped her enjoy college a bit more, and she ended up graduating with a degree in ethnic studies. That may seem like an odd thing for someone who wants to be a doctor to major in, but it makes sense to her.

“I chose ethnic studies because I worked at the VA hospital and I worked with a very diverse group of people," she said. "I noticed miscommunication because of cultural differences.”

Hashim said that is something she noticed herself when she first came to the United States as a teenager, and it’s something she thinks doctors can improve upon.

“Just learning small cultural differences that can make you closer to the person you’re talking to because you’re aware they’re not going to have the same experiences as you in life,” she said. “You can’t approach them as you would everyone.”

Right now, she is waiting to see if and where she will be going to medical school. Ultimately, she said she would like to work back that the VA hospital. She said she has a lot in common with many of the patients.

“We’ve gone through the war," she said. "I learned a lot about PTSD and it made me realize I have it as well. It’s okay. It just makes you more resilient to go through those experiences.”

To learn more about the opportunities available to students through the Denver Scholarship Foundation, visit their website, DenverScholarship.org.

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