Student Profile - Omar Hamza

Freshman enriches campus culture

Omar HamzaAs a freshman, Omar Hamza has already emerged a leader by founding a new organization for Muslim students on the Lamar University campus.

Hamza, a pre-medicine/psychology major and chemistry/biology minor from Port Neches, recognized a need for students of his religion and reached out to his friends to start the Lamar Muslim Association (MSA) as an official campus student organization.

“We had all of these people who didn’t have anywhere to go to pray every Friday, and wanted a place to talk, relate and support each other,” said Hamza.

The group’s goal is to create a community for Muslim students and to educate people on campus about MSA and their religion. Hamza says the group is essential for the campus because it breaks stereotypes and encourages others to be understanding.

“Forming MSA is very important because Muslims are usually very wrongly represented through the media,” said Hamza, “We would like to show students at Lamar the reason Islam truly means peace.”

The group plans for MSA ambassadors to meet with other campus organizations, talk about who they are and eventually hold interfaith events.

“We just want to show that we are normal students just like everyone else. Don’t believe everything on the news. Get to know us. We’re involved,” said Hamza, “You’d probably never think that a Muslim would be involved in cheer, and here I am. We are all involved in all kinds of different things.”

Hamza is a recipient of the Cardinal Elite and the Dr. Jack Orrick scholarship for Pre-Med Students in 2016 and 2017. His drive in education stems from his home life.

“My parents are immigrants from Syria and Palestine and they came to the United States when they were pretty young,” said Hamza, “They had nothing to begin with, built themselves up, went to school and are both doctors now. Education was always a priority in my household.”

His family’s success also influenced his decision to go to Lamar University.

“I chose Lamar because my dad is a professor here and my mom and sister graduated from here. They all had awesome experiences at Lamar. I didn’t even apply to other colleges,” said Hamza.

Hamza chose his career path because of his interest in the science of the human body and how it functions.

“There’s just a huge amount of information in our bodies, and it tells you how everything in life works,” said Hamza. After school, he wants to open his own clinic or invest in opening a hospital. Ultimately, he would like to open centers abroad and participate in Doctors Without Borders to aid refugees.

“My drive to work abroad and with Doctors Without Borders comes from the sense of accomplishment and true happiness of helping others who cannot help themselves,” said Hamza, “To save lives as a living is incredible but to save the lives of those who have no home or no wealth is something entirely different. It’s something that will genuinely bring purpose to my life.”

With mentor Ashwini Kucknoor, associate professor of biology, Hamza has conducted biological research on antibiotic resistance in different local soil samples.

“So far, we have been researching at local farms, in the Big Thicket, and Lamar’s community garden,” said Hamza, “High resistance in the soil isn’t good at all, because it means that everything is becoming resistant to the antibiotics that we use.” That, in turn, demonstrates that  “there’s an overuse of antibiotics and medicine,” he said. Ultimately, “we need to find more or stop using them.”

“My goal in my research is to completely understand this issue so that I can apply it to real situations later on in my career, and maybe develop medications or techniques to lower the resistance,” said Hamza.

Along with the MSA, Hamza is a member of Lamar Cheer, Lamar Ambassadors, the American Medical Student Association, Lamar Club Tennis, and is a student in the Reaud Honors College.

“Being involved on campus is a huge priority for me because I truly believe that empathy is one of the most important characteristics one can have,” said Hamza. “It means keeping your mind completely open and never judging an organization or student until I’ve truly gotten to know them. Being involved on campus not only helps me empathize, but also teaches me a lot from the various students at Lamar with very unique minds and goals. Each student has a story and I can learn from each and every one of them.”

After researching Lamar Ambassadors, Hamza thought he would be a good fit because of his range of involvement.

“I can communicate what life is like on campus for various groups of people,” said Hamza, “I can talk across the board to donors and people interested in Lamar.”

Hamza credits Lamar for opening him to these opportunities.

“My experience with Lamar has been really great,” said Hamza,  “I was lucky enough to get a full scholarship. The environment is great; I appreciate that I can actually talk to my professors and that I have had the chance to join all these organizations and make new friends.”