Aya Al Sayed is a 27 year-old Palestinian refugee currently studying medicine at Lebanese American University in Beirut where she has completed four years and hopes to pursue pediatrics.

Like most medical students, Aya faces long days in class followed by an intense daily study schedule that goes into the early hours of the morning. It’s an all-consuming commitment that Aya has wholeheartedly embraced. Her incredible personal story is one that has both defined her and now motivates her to help others.

Aya comes from the Ein el Helwah refugee camp – the most populated and volatile camp in Lebanon – which in its 67-year history has been subject to intense bombardment and frequent fighting. The camp has poor living, education and health conditions and security is a constant challenge.

Her father is unemployed and her mother passed away two years ago due to cancer and poor health care. She has two brothers at university who are also working at the same time to support themselves and their family.

Aya has always been a top student, who completed a Bachelor’s Degree in Science with distinction at American University of Beirut. With a high GPA, she earned admission to the competitive medical program at Lebanese American University.

While Aya’s story is already one of incredible perseverance and dedication, it is the chapters that are yet to be written which will likely be the most remarkable.

While many young doctors might plan for a career in private practice, at a hospital, or in research outside of Lebanon, Aya is determined to improve the care for many Palestinians who endure conditions in the camps in Lebanon that would be unfathomable for most of us.

Her goal is to volunteer with Medecins Sans Frontieres in South Sudan before returning to work in the refugee camps in Lebanon, so that she can help improve the level of care for children in particular. For her work she will earn a pittance and face a daily caseload that will easily exceed 100 patients.

Yet, the potential positive impact of supporting Aya’s education is almost impossible to quantify or qualify in terms of the lives she will touch directly and in those that will be inspired by her.

“I want to come back to work in the camps. I feel at home in my community, they respect me, and I want to help them.”

by Marissa Pura