At just 20, Iqbal El-Assaad is the youngest student to graduate from Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar in its 10-year history.
This phenomenally gifted student arrived at WCMC-Q from Lebanon to start medical studies aged just 14 and six years later she successfully completed the challenging MD course to become probably one of the youngest medical doctors in the world.
She graduated from high school at 12 years old. “That’s because I use to skip classes,” Iqbal said. She started schooling at a private school in Lebanon and by the time she finished, her efforts were recognised by the Lebanese Ministry of Education who promised they would get her “something that is really good”. With the assistance of a scholarship from Qatar Foundation and the generosity of her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Iqbal secured a place in the medical program at QCMC-Q.
Iqbal was born and raised in Lebanon. Her father is a small businessman who is in poor health and no longer working actively.
“My dad tells me that when I was really younger, like two years and a half, I used to learn from my other siblings. I learned how to count from one to 10 just by myself and listening to my brothers and sisters who were reciting homework tasks.”
She is the youngest of four children and at aged three years and a half she started kindergarten where teachers observed that she was very advanced for her age. From kindergarten Iqbal went straight to Year 2 and it has been a steady progression of skipping classes through primary and high school since then.
She has an older brother who finished high school when he was 14 now he is doing second year PhD in physics at Lyon University. Another brother has just started working as a mechanical engineer.
Iqbal’s phenomenal academic achievements are matched by her strong desire to help the less fortunate. Growing up in an underprivileged community where people lack access to primary health care gave her the strength and determination to pursue her education and to become a doctor.
“Living with those Palestinian children in the refugee camps of Lebanon, looking into their eyes and listening to their experiences in their own words touched me deeply,” she said. Remembering their faces and the pain of the struggling community, she felt the urge to become a pediatrician. “Those children and the upcoming generations need a doctor to heal their wounds and someone to be by their side as an advocate to guide them and light their path during their most difficult stages,” Iqbal said.
She is mature beyond her years and admits she was always the youngest member of her class but it was never a problem. She has always had older friends and no problems socializing or getting along with them in the classroom.
Currently her interest is in pediatrics and she is also thinking about doing a pediatric cardiology fellowship in the future. Iqbal was drawn to pediatrics because she grew up hearing dreadful stories about parents and their children suffering because they could not afford treatment. Soon she will be leaving for residency at the Cleveland Clinic for Pediatrics, in Cleveland, Ohio. She is definitely thinking about returning to the Middle East region after training and she is hoping to work between Qatar and Lebanon.
But it is not all work and no play for this young lady. She enjoys watching TV, prefers Real Madrid superstar Ronaldo to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the football stakes and even knows that the popular kiddies cartoon character SpongeBob Squarepants lives in a pineapple under the sea.