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Connecting the World to Improve Health Care

minute read

Written by JT James on May 17, 2024

For many, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) may seem very distant, both in geography and culture. However, for one newly graduated Doctor of Pharmacy, bridging the gap between nations feels as natural as chatting with a neighbor next door.

Growing up in Abu Dhabi, Zohour Anouassi inherited her parents’ curiosity and appreciation for the world beyond the borders of their Middle Eastern country, exploring new places to learn about and gain respect for the diversity that unites us all. This same curiosity motivated her to pursue her doctorate degree in the United States, leading her to become the first Emirati at CU Pharmacy, where she recently completed the International-Trained PharmD (ITPD) program. Her decision to pursue her doctorate in the U.S. stemmed from her adventurous spirit, childhood experiences, and an eagerness to explore new horizons. She is paving the way for future Emirati generations while shaping the future of healthcare in the UAE and beyond.

Aspiring to Give Back

Zohour always wanted to be a scientist, inspired by her father – a renowned veterinarian, professor, surgeon, and author – and her mother, a strong businesswoman and the first woman to establish a nursery in the UAE. She was determined to continue her father’s 40-year legacy and mirror her mother’s strong will to help future generations. Her future in the veterinary sciences was set. Until a conversation one day with her dad changed everything.

"He always encouraged us to embrace the unknown, insisting we could pursue any career we desired that serves humanity," she recalls. “He suggested I consider the growing field of pharmaceutical sciences, and the more I read about, the more intrigued I became.”

It was the beginning of a new career trajectory.

"I discovered that the pharmacist serves as the beacon of health and hope in so many sectors,” she explains. “And there’s such a high demand for pharmacists now."

 

Turning Grief into Determination

Her second-grade teacher noticed that Zohour was being picked on by some classmates.

“I remember her always embracing me whenever I felt bad,” she says.

That was until one day when her beloved teacher stopped coming to school without any explanation. Zohour later learned she had passed away from cancer. Several years later, a cousin one month younger than her was also diagnosed with and later succumbed to cancer. The pain of that event had a devastating effect on the entire family and left an impression on Zohour.

“My grandmother was going through treatment at the same time as my cousin,” she says. “I still remember her telling me ‘I thought I would be the first to leave, not him,’ and I cried in silence. That day, I painfully understood, cancer and death had no regard for age or gender, and further pushed me into wanting to be an oncology pharmacist.”

Forging Her Own Path

UW Library Hogwarts

 

Anouassi at the University of Washington Library, which is famous for looking like a "Harry Potter" building.

Zohour obtained a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy followed by a in pharmacy followed by a master’s in health economics from the prestigious Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi. While there she studied the vital role that economics plays in healthcare and the profound impact it has on everyone – from patients, to providers, to insurance companies – within the system. She was the first Emirati to complete the two-year master’s program.

She then ventured into clinical practice, breaking down another barrier by becoming the first UAE national to secure an ASHP-accredited PGY-1 Pharmacy Practice Residency at the Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. This residency provided her with invaluable insights into various aspects of patient care and helped her become American board certified (BCPS). Zohour also indulged her passion for teaching by providing clinical lectures to several universities in her homeland. Additionally, she assumed leadership roles in organizations like the M42 Youth Council, aimed at guiding and empowering the country’s youth in the medical field.

To obtain an ACPE-accredited PharmD and delve deeper into the U.S. healthcare system, Zohour decided to continue her education at CU Pharmacy after a recommendation by a close friend. In addition to her studies, she completed several rotations, each one led by supportive preceptors who often went out of their way to help her gain the most knowledge of her passion in oncology during each experience.

She recently wrapped up her final rotation at the renowned Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle – the first CU pharmacy student to have a rotation there, paving the way for future students from the school. Now that she’s graduated, Zohour is set to begin her oncology residency followed by a few months off to – not surprisingly – explore the world and “gain more appreciation for the diversity that unites us all.”

Learn More About the International-Trained PharmD

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