Steps in a Global Medical Journey

Moustafa Moustafa has wanted to be a doctor since he was a child, as so many do. But several humanitarian disasters which occurred while he was in high school, such as the Indonesian  tsunami (2004) galvanized his decision and made him decide to act.  Moustafa completed his Honors Individual Concentration Plan in Medieval Spain in 2010 while completing the requirements for medical school; he attended Yale Medical School, graduating in May 2015.  Just as we were completing this profile, Moustafa accepted a general surgery residency at the University of Virginia Medical Center.

When Pakistan was rocked by an earthquake in 2005, Moustafa, then a high school senior, organized a city-wide blanket drive in his hometown, Grand Rapids, MI.  When he arrived on campus in 2006, he determined to organize a “project with impact.”  Moustafa recalls, “I was looking for the most direct way to become the most involved in global health. What could I do that was worthwhile with a limited medical skill set?” 

His answer was “United 2 Heal,” an interfaith student organization dedicated to collecting and shipping medical supplies to places in need.  With student forces from St. Mary’s Student Parish (RC), Hillel, and the Muslim Student Association, the group gathered still-usable supplies from area hospitals, including UMMC and eventually shipped three 40’ containers of medical supplies for relief efforts.  Moustafa led the project through his last two years of undergraduate study, and saw it form a partnership with World Medical Relief.

Moustafa has also had personal experiences in global medical care, ranging from a refugee clinic at the Syrian border, to HIV research in Ghana, and a medical rotation in Buenos Aires.   They all left their mark: Moustafa was repeatedly struck both by the level of suffering and by the level of heroism on the ground.  Participating in these humanitarian efforts were “redefining moments” for him. Witnessing the disparity between need and availability, Moustafa seeks practical ways to better train and support low-resourced countries.

 “Seventy-five percent of the world’s surgeries occur in areas that represent twenty-five percent of the surgical need. Research debunks the long-held assumption that it’s too complicated, too expensive, and too difficult to create surgical programs in underdeveloped areas of the world.” Moustafa is clear on his objective. “Medicine isn’t just for those with great insurance plans. What do we do for the 14-year-old Ugandan boy with a ruptured appendix?”

On his way to his match school, Moustafa offers undergraduate pre-med advising. His enthusiasm for the topic, and for the variety of opportunities in the field, is infectious.  “Don’t think that medicine limits you to a singular life style. Do you want to be a pathologist? A surgeon in Africa? Do you want to improve public health policy on Capitol Hill? This is not the time for caution or to sit on the fence. Don’t [go into medicine] just because it will provide a nice living.”

During a student’s undergraduate career, he suggests a practical approach: “Don’t sideline academics. Make it your first, second, and third priority. Next, focus on leadership skills and on any other field about which you are passionate.

“There are so many ways at U-M to be involved. Don’t attempt to smooth over bad grades by adding to your extracurricular life. But don’t be so consumed with school, or with the idea of getting in to medical school that you forget about life. School provides you with the tools to do something else. Get out there. See exciting examples of what’s going on. Lots of people are fighting on the ground to change the system.”

Moustafa also suggests taking advantage of Honors advising and course work. He credits Professor Frederick Amrine’s class, “Imagination,” for opening his eyes to the ways knowledge develops. “It opened my mind. I learned that the structure of science is not a linear progression; it changes through paradigm revolutions.”