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We are excited to announce the 2021 recipients of our foundation’s scholarship: Enky Mhlongo and Behnaz Lahooti. They have been selected from a group of 77 strong applicants coming from 36 countries with inspiring life stories of strength and perseverance. Congratulations Enky and Behnaz!
I am a South African student who recently graduated from Westminster College in Fulton, MO in the premed path with a B.A in biochemistry (biology emphasis) and a minor in public health. The reality of living in rural South Africa is that if there had been enough public health services and facilities, some of my family members and millions of South Africans who died from HIV might have been saved which is why I want to become a doctor. I won’t lie and say that growing up without my main source of stability and support was not hard because it is by far the hardest thing that I have ever dealt with and still struggle with on a daily basis. With a deadbeat father, a deceased mother, and an aging grandmother selling cosmetics on the corner of the streets just to keep food at the table for her two grandchildren, the odds have always been against me. However, if there is one thing I inherited from my mother, is the strength of a lioness and the perseverance to work hard.
My name is Behnaz Lahooti. I am a passionate scientist with M.S. in chemical engineering from Iran, currently pursuing a Ph.D. in pharmaceutical sciences at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. As a woman researcher, I have experienced outrageous gender inequalities and discriminations in Iran. Consequently, I came to the U.S. with an American dream to become a notable pharmaceutical sciences researcher and develop innovative therapies. I was ready to embrace certain challenges, including not being allowed back to Iran to meet my family during my entire Ph.D. training.
Unfortunately, I have encountered more life challenges than I had anticipated, including switching lab twice due to unforeseen circumstances. Still, as a person with an unsinkable soul, my determination to finish the Ph.D. program and achieve my American dream became stronger throughout these hardships. Thankfully, I managed to build a strong research portfolio to be eligible to apply for National Interest Waiver, the initial steppingstone for the immigration process in the U.S.
I am truly honored to be one of the first scholarship recipients of the Mai Anh Do & David Nguyen Foundation. Word is insufficient to express my sincere gratitude toward this foundation to provide specialized scholarships for international students like me. With the foundation’s help, I am one step closer to achieving my dream and reuniting with my family. I also look forward to the mentorship by inspiring team members who will guide me on my professional development trajectory.