“I said, how about I come to the Health Center? I’ll see the patients right then and there?”
We thought it sounded like a good idea too and, in 2014 Wassim became the first specialist to operate out of the Health Center. It was an immediate success and paved the way for more specialty practices at Lowell CHC.
“I was a continuation of the care team – just another doctor in the building,” he recalls. “Working closely with the providers at Lowell CHC, plus the interpreter services, it was helpful on so many levels.”
What made Wassim able to identify and address this gap? In many way, he saw himself in his Health Center patients.
“Life has given me a lot. I have been lucky. But, I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t get help along the way.”
Wassim grew up in Beirut, Lebanon in the midst of a brutal civil war. Listening to reports on the latest bombings or sniper locations before leaving the house was a way of life. He credits his dad with keeping the family grounded.
“If it wasn’t for my dad, I wouldn’t be here today. I have never met someone more driven or resilient.”
Wassim’s father had dreamed of a career as a surgeon himself, but he never even had the opportunity to finish High School. He desperately wanted his children to have more options.
“My dad insisted that education is the way out of poverty,” Wassim recalls. “And that no one should ever work harder than his kids to get there.”
The oldest of five children, Wassim lived by that mantra. At 15, thanks to hard work and scholarships, he was accepted into the competitive American University of Beirut. There, he completed his medical training and eventually earned the opportunity to travel to Pennsylvania, then California, for his residency.
Next, he was offered the chance to stay in the US by taking a position in rural Maine. After living in Beruit, then California, the lack of diversity in his new community was startling. But surprisingly, Wassim fit right in. “They really embraced me!” he says. His commitment was for three years. He liked Maine so much that he wound up staying for six.
After that, Wassim took a position at Saints Medical Center. New to Lowell, his main association with the area was a Lebanese Bakery he and his wife would stop at on long drives to visit her family in upstate New York. “It just felt like it could be the right fit,” he says of the Hospital and community.
It was, indeed the right fit and Wassim remained with Saints, which eventually became part of Lowell General. His work ethic, humor, and positive energy earned him the admiration and respect of his colleagues. Today, he serves as Chief of Surgery.
What does Wassim hope for his own three children? A career in medicine, of course! And a deep appreciation for hard work and caring for others.
“Happiness is all about making other people happy - when they appreciate something you do.”
That’s just one reason Wassim supports the Health Center – as not only as a provider, but a donor as well. He firmly believes that Lowell CHC is meeting a need not being addressed in the same way anywhere else. “We could not live without the Health Center,” he says adamantly.
“You have to practice medicine in a way that it responds to the healthcare needs of the community – the Health Center does just that.”