From Baghdad to Boston: Dental Student’s Journey Is About Healing and Building Bridges

Modar Bilind Q. Al-Roomi, DI21, was born in Baghdad in the waning times of the Very first Gulf War. He grew up in opposition to the backdrop of regional and ethnic conflicts, and when he selected dentistry as his contacting, he applied his job to treatment for civilians caught up in the chaos sparked by the increase of ISIS. He aided located the Kurdish Dental Health Group, a aid group that aided hundreds of Iraqi refugees immediately after the slide of Mosul in 2014.

Although he is now significantly absent in Boston, earning a diploma that will let him follow dentistry in the United States, his coronary heart stays with his colleagues in Iraq, who have ongoing to support subsequent waves of displaced folks.

Al-Roomi’s practical experience of his homeland has often been a very little unique than that of most Iraqis. He refers to himself as an “Arab/Kurdish blend,” with roots in two ethnic groups that have experienced a rocky coexistence for many years: his father, Qais Al-Roomi, was an Arabic businessman his mother, Elham S. Al-Habeeb, a Kurdish physician. He is recognized to his paternal family by his Arabic name, Modar, and to his maternal relations by his Kurdish title, Bilind. This dual heritage, he suggests, is a privilege that has taught him about constructing bridges. “I are not able to visualize myself getting comprehensive by picking a aspect,” Al-Roomi suggests.

Modar Bilind Al-Roomi, DI21

Right after the get started of the 2nd Gulf War in 2003, the Al-Roomi family left Baghdad for Dubai, to return to the Kurdish town of Irbil about a decade afterwards. His mom desired him to stick to her into medicine she was the position model whom he often appeared up to. “I am who I am for the reason that of her,” he says. “Her sacrifices are the cause I am who I am currently.” When he last but not least decided on dental college, he begun his instruction in the United Arab Emirates, then transferred to Irbil’s Ishik College. It was a time when oral-health standing was bad through Iraq it was not uncommon for men and women to postpone dental treatment till pain and infection arrived at a disaster level.

Though however a dental college student, Al-Roomi decided to make strengthening oral-health in Kurdistan a precedence, and together with colleagues, cofounded the Kurdish Dental Health Corporation. The team started presenting dental screenings at colleges, armed forces bases, malls, and bazaars, and labored to hook up individuals in will need with very affordable dental treatment. Then, ISIS insurgents captured the Iraqi metropolis of Mosul, about 50 miles from Irbil, and 1000’s of refugees, largely Iraqi Arabs, arrived in Irbil looking for safety.

The Kurdish Dental Health Organization elevated dollars for two cellular dental clinics to care for the crowds transferring into refugee camps. “As a dentist, that was the only way that I could support,” Al-Roomi suggests. Even so, the treatment was pretty significantly minimal to cleanings, fillings, and extractions. Outdoors the refugee camps, the scenario was not significantly far better. “I made use of to have folks coming into the clinic inquiring for an extraction when all they wanted was a filling, because they couldn’t afford a filling,” Al-Roomi recollects. “I did a good deal of free of charge treatment.”

In 2017, amid the uncertainty of a future in Iraq, Al-Roomi arrived to the United States. Two a long time later on he enrolled at Tufts, prepared to resume his dental job.

As he was settling in as a scholar at Tufts University University of Dental Medicine’s Global Pupil Application (DIS), which prepares international-experienced dentists for accreditation in the United States, the COVID pandemic upended the way dentistry could be taught and practiced. But if lifestyle experienced taught Al-Roomi anything to this point, it was about how to adapt. As president of his DI21 class, he joined the exertion to pivot to a entire world of on-line classrooms and clinics early in the pandemic where by a COVID-risk-free sort of dentistry was currently being devised on the location.

He also threw himself into the activity of preserving his 36 DIS classmates related, towards the backdrop of Boston on lockdown. For some, the problem was the isolation for other individuals, it was attending digital graduate faculty surrounded by young young children and other spouse and children customers. “It did give us some humorous moments, involving a kid or a pet interrupting the conference,” he claims.

And for all people, there was the continual undercurrent of uncertainty. “It sort of reminded me of home during the war,” Al-Roomi claims. “It was the thought of not getting able to forecast what was going to happen—it was a unique trigger, distinctive surroundings, but the exact same precise scenario.”

Professor Ronald Perry, director of the TUSDM global student system and Al-Roomi’s mentor at the dental school, praises Al-Roomi’s leadership and compassion. “Regardless of whatever difficulties he may possibly deal with, Modar is however capable to attain out and aid other folks at the exact same time,” Perry states. “Difficulties have not tarnished his skill to assume outside of himself, and that’s kind of refreshing.”

Meanwhile, the identical refugee camps where by Al-Roomi and his colleagues addressed Arab Iraqis in 2014 had been confronted with an influx of Syrian Kurdish refugees fleeing Turkish airstrikes in late 2019, and Al-Roomi’s buddies however in Irbil have been there to present dental care for them. Now, the Kurdish Dental Health Corporation has mixed its mission of oral-health care with COVID prevention education.

Al-Roomi’s fast objective soon after his graduation in Could is to function as an associate in a dental follow. “I have a program in thoughts,” he states. “But with the pandemic, the wondering has to be limited-time period.”

Extended-time period, he’s hoping he can apply in both equally his international locations, employing what he learned at Tufts to bolster oral health again in Iraq. “I hope to provide my group with all of what I can, almost everywhere that I go,” he says.

Helene Ragovin can be arrived at at [email protected]