Student Profile - Ayah Hamza

Ayah Hamza seeks meaningful change, human rights through medicine

Growing up in the United States as the daughter of Arab immigrants, Ayah Hamza of Port Neches has sought to play a contributing role in securing global human rights since childhood, when she recognized the extent of injustice in the Middle East.

Now the senior dietetics major, who will begin medical school at the Texas College of Osteopathic medicine in Fort Worth this July, hopes to use her education in medicine to expand and ensure the protection of human rights in underserved areas through healthcare.

“I’m passionate about humanitarian aid and generally helping others—specifically in situations of conflict or flagrant abuses of power that we see too often in our world today,” Hamza said. “I realized through my undergrad that the best way I could help others was through medicine. I volunteered in Jordan in 2014 where I was able to aid amputee refugees. Seeing their conditions and the pain some of them were experiencing is what brought me to the conclusion that I had to exemplify my belief in healthcare as a fundamental human right by becoming a global physician.”

Hamza hopes to practice both in the United States and with organizations such as Doctors Without Borders (MSF) abroad.

While pre-med has been Hamza’s focus since she began her college education, she changed her major to dietetics in the spring of 2015 after recognizing the ways an education in dietetics and nutrition could allow her to be of greater aid to patients.

“I was originally a forensic chemistry major, but after a friend suggested I look into dietetics, I realized that it basically was the basis of preventative medicine. What you eat has a significant impact on your health; most of the top causes of death are or can be diet-related diseases,” Hamza said. “Since I want to pursue preventative medicine as my future specialty, diet and nutrition are definitely things I hope to emphasize when I’m a physician or if I volunteer abroad.”

During a conference trip to New York City with Lamar’s Model United Nations group this spring, Hamza was able to gain perspective on an aspect of humanitarian aid she previously hadn’t considered: policy and lobbying.

“I’ve always been pretty active and vocal about issues, utilizing various forms of media to explain and spread information about global conflict, various crises, and what people can do to help,” Hamza said. “However, I hadn’t really considered how important the policy and lobbying aspects of these issues were. The political side is just as important as fieldwork.”

Throughout the conference, Hamza acted as the delegate from Botswana to the United Nations Human Rights Council, or UNHRC. She simulated negotiations, gave speeches, lobbied for Botswana’s needs and helped pen working papers which became resolutions—documents similar to bills which lay out a plan of action for an international issue.

“Being involved in Model UN definitely opened my eyes up to that other side of aid, and it’s something I’d like to incorporate into whatever I do in the future with medicine,” she said. “While I can go out there and provide healthcare, I can also be involved in the policy aspect or lobbying aspect crucial to sustainable growth in the health sector.”

As the president of Lamar’s Honors Student Association, vice president of the American medical Student Association, treasurer of the LU Nutrition and Dietetics Association, a Senior of Significance, and a member of Feminists of Lamar, Phi Kappa Phi, Kappa Omricon Nu and Phi Beta Delta honor societies, as well as a peer mentor for the Honors Student Association, Hamza traditionally tells the freshmen she encounters a few things to prepare them for their experience at Lamar.

“I tell incoming freshmen two things. Firstly, never enter any experience, transition, or phase of life with a negative outlook, because your attitude will determine the outcome,” she said. “Secondly, immediately join organizations and become an active, contributing member of campus. Those first doors you open for yourself will in turn open doors to opportunities you could only dream of.”

According to Hamza, the more one does on campus, the more they’ll be able to do with their lives after graduation.

“I find that when you get involved, you get an urge to improve whatever it is you’re working on, and this applies to every sphere of your life,” Hamza said. “With increasingly difficult leadership positions, students learn to take risk and responsibility in their own lives and become the masters of their own stories. If you give your all to your college experience, it will give you everything in turn.”