The death of a loved one. The birth of a child. A near death experience. Marriage. Divorce. Graduation. Sickness. Military service. A career dream becomes a reality. Unemployment.
They are the kinds of things, by no means all of them, that people often refer to as major turning points, defining moments -- the times that changed the course of their lives, for better or worse.
Fadi Azar, a first year UNLV School of Medicine student, says he wasn’t even around when the defining moment in his life took place.
“The turning point in my life occurred before I was even born,” he says. “My parents immigrating to this country and providing me with the opportunity to grow up here set me up for everything that I have achieved so far...Growing up here really shaped me into the person I am today.”
Opportunity. Again and again, as you talk with the 23-year-old Azar, the word comes up.
His newlywed parents immigrated to the United States in the 90s from Syria so the children they planned to have would enjoy a future full of opportunity. Azar says he had the opportunity to gain a sound K-12 education through the Clark County School District, the opportunity to receive a superb undergraduate education at UNLV, and he now has the opportunity to experience a quality medical education at UNLV.
No one can ever accuse Azar of not taking advantage of his opportunities.
He was a Durango High School Valedictorian and National Merit Scholar, honors that won him a President’s Scholarship and made him an Engelstad Scholar as an undergraduate at UNLV. Azar is grateful that community service work was part of being an Englestand Scholar. “Growing up in Las Vegas and engaging with my community has truly shaped me into the individual that I am today,” he says. Beginning in his freshman year, he was involved with the Goodie Two Shoes Foundation, a non-profit that provides thousands of disadvantaged children with new shoes and socks on a weekly basis. He remembers working with a little girl named Miranda during one of the shoe distributions.
“She had never owned a new pair of shoes. Looking down at the new pair of shoes that I was wearing, I became acutely aware of the large discrepancy in wealth and opportunity within society...I am drawn to serve this subset of the population, those deprived of the same care and opportunities that others have access to.”
Azar went on to graduate magna cum laude from the Honors College, then becoming an Engelstad Scholarship recipient at the UNLV School of Medicine.
“You should make the best of your opportunities,” Azar says.
He makes the best of them the old fashioned way -- through hard work. In medical school, he studies seven to 10 hours a day during the week and all day on weekends. “I need more time to learn than some people,” he says.