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Get to know: Lamees El Nihum

She is among the pioneers of Texas A&M’s medical engineering program

Meet Lamees El Nihum, one of three engineering and medicine—EnMed—pilot students at Texas A&M University College of Medicine. EnMed is a collaboration between Texas A&M College of Engineering, College of Medicine and Houston Methodist Hospital to educate a new form of doctor—a physician engineer. Vital Record spoke to El Nihum about her experience as a pilot student, her thoughts on the engineering-based medical degree program and her aspirations.

Q: Why did you choose a career in medicine?

 A: Growing up, I looked up to my physician father with all the admiration and awe that a child can muster, observing in him a passion for medicine and a genuine sincerity toward the patients he served. Thanks to my father and every other physician who has in some way served as a role model in my life, I have been enamored by the profession of healing, and I pray to one day be a nurturing and healing force in the lives of my patients.

Q: What made you choose Texas A&M College of Medicine?

A: I attended Texas A&M University during my undergraduate years and am a proud Aggie along with my family of seven. Fellow Aggies will know ‘there’s a spirit can ne’er be told’–having been part of the Aggie family for so many years, I wouldn’t dream of going anywhere else.

Q: What was your biggest hurdle getting here, and how did you overcome it?

A: During my undergraduate years, I had my life planned out–I would graduate in this semester, start medical school at this date, start residency at this school, start practicing in this state, and so on. As with most premedical students, time was an urgent issue for me. I wanted to complete medical school as soon as possible to start my career and enjoy what would be left of my 20s.

But in total opposition to my life plans, I was not accepted into medical school the first time around. Although rejection was crushing and hard to accept, it also fueled my determination to finish the journey I started. I learned that a gap year wasn’t the end of the world–just an opportunity to stay focused, take needed classes, retake necessary exams, travel abroad and spend time with family before jumping into medical school.

I also learned that contrary to popular belief, medical school is compatible with life–with having a life, that is–and that it’s possible to fully enjoy and find meaning in school, family and friends even in the hectic throes of medical school. In the end, I take the good with the bad and count my blessings. If I had been accepted the first time I applied, I wouldn’t be here today in the EnMed program, and for that I am very grateful.

Q: What has your experience been like so far?

A: Medical school has been a complete turnaround from my engineering undergraduate years and has brought about a total lifestyle change. From days filled with lectures and labs and practice patient encounters, to coming home to a supportive family every night and unleashing the day’s experiences on them, every day is an encouraging reminder of why I started this journey in the first place. Medical school is challenging and fast paced, but it’s also exciting and rewarding to know that each day we are learning things that we’ll soon directly experience in the field. The academic program here at the College of Medicine is incredible, my peers are my second family, the faculty and staff have absolute faith in us and give us the one-on-one time we need and the EnMed program is unparalleled throughout the country. What else can I say?

Q: What’s the coolest thing you’ve done at Texas A&M?

A: During our gross anatomy course in my first semester of medical school, I had amazing teammates who gave me the honor of making the first cut on our cadaver. That was a momentous moment for me and marked an exit from the textbook world into the literal human body, only a week after our induction ceremony!

Q: If you could invent anything through this program, what would it be?

A: Currently, I am interested in fetal surgery and pediatric heart surgery, and I want to impact patient care in cardiovascular surgery for those affected by congenital heart disease. My goal through EnMed is to develop a device or process that will aid cardiac surgeons or interventional cardiologists to better treat those born with congenital heart defects. Success herein would allow for fewer invasive surgeries, or perhaps even eliminate the need for them, as children with congenital heart disease grow older. I believe that in addition to research, only time is needed to make minimally invasive procedures a staple of the future.

 Q: What impact do you hope to have on the world?

A: I believe my role in making the world a better place starts by impacting the people around me, both in and out of the healthcare setting. As a physician, I would give the best care that I could to my patients. As an engineer, I would strive to do my part in bringing the two fields of engineering and medicine together, and as a human I would hold on to the belief that kindness and goodness are contagious and help a community to bond and prosper. My goal is to wake up every morning knowing that I’ll give the best I have, and that at the very least I would be one of the small, persistent forces that joins the efforts of other like-minded individuals in making a true, meaningful impact on the world.

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