Biology courses propel graduates toward medical school
Bahaa Abdellatif ’21 found success in the classroom and a sense of accomplishment in the community.
By: Heather Mayer Irvine
Wednesday, December 8, 2021 10:36 am
Photo courtesy of Bahaa Abdellatif.
Bahaa Abdellatif ’21 jokes that he wanted to be a doctor in high school “like everyone else.” Or, at least, anyone who doesn’t want to be an engineer. But once he began to seriously consider pre-med programs, he landed on Muhlenberg College and its biology major.
“During my time at Muhlenberg, I really realized that [being a physician] It’s what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, ”says Abdellatif. “I felt like my passion was really starting to form while taking science courses in college.”
To say that Abdellatif took advantage of all the opportunities that the College and the surrounding community had to offer would be an understatement. Over the course of his four years, Abdellatif served as president of the BYOB (Be Your Own Boss) entrepreneur club during his final year, worked as a learning assistant for biology courses, conducted two research projects with Erika Iyengar, associate professor in biology, he volunteered for Lehigh Valley Hospital and accompanied health professionals during school vacations.
“I wanted to make sure I knew all the ins and outs of studying medicine, so I did a lot of research,” he says.
His job for BYOB, he says, was to help him think more creatively, outside the box of science.
“The small environment in Muhlenberg provides many opportunities to participate,” he says, noting that he was inspired by two groups of freshman workshops: biology and chemistry. During his junior and senior years, Abdellatif conducted two biology workshops.
“There is an incredible leadership experience that I would never have had in a large school,” he says.
Abdellatif is finishing his first semester at Boston University School of Medicine, and he says it is the courses at Muhlenberg that helped set him up for success in a grueling medical school environment.
“Muhlenberg installed in me the love for science and that [came with me],” he says.
Abdellatif’s fieldwork, so to speak, in the Allentown community has prepared him to become the best doctor he can be, he says. He walked 10 minutes from campus to Lehigh Valley Hospital to help transport patients, change sheets and perform other seemingly mundane tasks.
“The hospital setting is where I want to spend the rest of my life, so I wanted to give back to that system,” he says. “It’s the little things, for example, putting a blanket on a cold seat in a wheelchair and seeing a patient’s eyes light up because they know you care.”
It recognizes the importance of physicians being immersed in their communities and notes that that commitment leads to better clinical outcomes.
“When you are immersed in the community, you learn the struggles of the community and that helps you treat your patients better,” says Abdellatif.
As for college students considering pre-med? Take the process, which is overwhelming and scary, he says, step by step.
“A grade doesn’t define you,” he says. Enjoy your time at school and do what you love. Not because your parents want you to or because it will make you more money. Do what you love. Your four years will go by faster than expected. Do your best. “