Commit, persevere, be flexible, but never break
Though born in Pennsylvania, Mohamad Yousef and his family moved to Ramallah in the West Bank when he was two. He was fourteen when the second intifada began, and he basically lived his high school years in a war zone, a community where people expected to die at any time from conflicts they had nothing to do with. Many families couldn’t find food or even water. Electricity was unreliable. Schools were often closed. Medical attention was scarce. As the hostilities continued, roadblocks, curfews, and checkpoints delayed or prevented travel through the West Bank. The unemployment rate exceeded 50%, according to Mohamad, and those jobs available were poorly paid. Young graduates began leaving the country to find work. Even after the fighting abated, people suffered from nightmares, sleep disturbances, and constant fatigue. Conflict impacted every aspect of life. “It is really hard nowadays to find a family who doesn’t have one or two of its members who passed in the war, or were imprisoned for their political activity,” Mohamad says.
He came to HSI as a fifth year medical student at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) in Irbid, Jordan about twenty miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee, seeking intercultural exchange and new ideas in order to “transfer a wonderful peaceful experience,” as he put it, “to my colleagues in Jordan and Palestine.” One of his advisors describes Mohamad as having “a solid commitment to bettering society” with a sense of responsibility beyond his years, taking the initiative in “blending community outreach with academic capacity…in a non-political context.”
One of Mohamad’s early undertakings was to become a project coordinator for the Civil Society Development Center (CSDC), a non-profit entity affiliated with JUST. Over a three year period, he organized national projects—an anti-tobacco campaign, a blood donation day, an AIDs day, and three children’s projects: “Teddy Bear Hospital,” “Spread the Joy,” and a campaign to manage Celiac disease. He also steered an international project promoting healthy diets for school-age children, involving fourteen countries in the MENA region (Middle East and North Africa.)
Over the same time period, Mohamad became involved with a new NGO, the Jordanian Medical Students’ Association (JMSA), working his way up to President, supervising six committees: Public Health, Medical Education, Research, Reproductive Health, and others. JMSA sent Mohamad to international conferences held by the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA) in Canterbury, UK; Kuwait; Glasgow, Scotland; and Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Through IFMSA, he became a trainer leading workshops in leadership, empowerment, time management, presentations skills, conflict solutions and more.
Through all of his active participation, Mohamed has learned so much about leadership: organization, analysis, listening skills, presentation skills, evaluation feedback, open-mindedness, democracy, and ongoing professional growth. He became adept at delegating and following-through. He’s learned fundraising, proposal writing, and dealing with both the private sector and government parities. He’s also gained insights into his fellow humans, like the value of simple kindness, support, and appreciation of his partners, contributors, and those around him. He knows how to use his own passion to inspire others. He discovered that if he expected a lot from people, that’s what he got back, and vice versa. He’s learned to be committed, to persevere, to be flexible but never to break. He’s learned to build on previous successes, but perhaps most importantly, he is not afraid of failure, since a number of them seem to accompany each success.
And yet, despite his prodigious accomplishments, Mohamad’s academic standards are high, and he finds time to participate in the University’s orchestra as well as a smaller band.