Two UH Grads a Step Closer to Realizing the 'The American Dream'

Azim Karim and Hassan Khalil Receive National Honors, Vaulting them Toward Medical School

After leaving their native countries with their parents, two recent University of Houston graduates have been pursuing the American dream.  

As recipients of a pair of prestigious national fellowships, two graduating seniors - Azim Karim, a double major in biology and history, and Hassan A. Khalil, a biomedical engineering major and mathematics minor - are getting closer to making that dream a reality.  Karim received a Merage Foundation for the American Dream Fellowship, and Khalil received an Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi Fellowship and Award of Excellence.  

"We are tremendously pleased that these students have received such national recognition for their outstanding work and creativity.  I am delighted for them and for their families," said Donald J. Foss, senior vice president for academic affairs and provost.  "The University of Houston has many opportunities for undergraduates to obtain hands-on, individualized learning experiences.  The success of these students is a testimony to them, primarily, but also to the faculty members who worked with them."  

Karim's goal is to become a medical doctor, specializing in cardiovascular sciences, as well as perform clinical investigations into treatments for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders.  His two-year, $20,000 Merage fellowship will bring him a step closer.  While attending UH, his research experience included roles as research assistant with Baylor College of Medicine, Methodist Hospital's DeBakey Heart Center and The University of Texas Health Science Center.  

"Azim is an outstanding student, and he has given much of himself to the community," said John Bear, dean of the UH College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics.  "He is very deserving of this award, and we are proud that he is one of our students."  

A native of Pakistan, Karim moved to Houston with his family when he was an infant.  During his freshman year at UH, he volunteered for a medical relief mission in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. He says that experience taught him many things about practicing medicine that cannot be found in textbooks.  

"The task of providing medical relief to the villages is what I now believe to be the true essence of medical care - a community of physicians working alongside a volunteer staff to combat disease and partner with families to provide service to patients," Karim said.  

This is the second consecutive year that a UH student has received the Merage fellowship, which is given to just 14 promising immigrants across the United States each year.  In 2005, Mohamad Halawi, a native of Lebanon, was awarded the fellowship along with numerous other scholarships.  

Karim's fellow graduating senior, Khalil also looks forward to excelling in the medical profession.  His $5,000 Phi Kappa Phi fellowship will fund his first year at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.  He was among 100 students nationwide to receive the fellowship and award.  

"Receiving this fellowship is an honor for me personally, but it is also great to represent UH and the biomedical engineering program in this way," Khalil said.  

Khalil, who came to the Untied States from Iraq with his family at the age of 16, is an award-winning researcher.  His research on the human vascular system allows for new experimentation in artificial organ control that aims to maintain important physiological parameters and makes experiments more flexible, easier, more predictable and less expensive.  In 2005, his model of the circulatory system earned him a professional engineer's fellowship from the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs.  Khalil collaborated with doctors at the Texas Heart Institute on this project.  

In addition to his work with the Texas Heart Institute, he has interned at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston and Rice University's National Space Biomedical Research Institute, as well as volunteered at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital.  Khalil plans to earn his M.D. with the goal of becoming a cardiac surgeon, medical researcher and professor.  

"Hassan has been an outstanding student in our biomedical engineering program and, as the first person to receive an undergraduate degree from the program, is an excellent model for other students to follow," said Ray Flumerfelt, dean of the UH Cullen College of Engineering.  "What he has accomplished with his research into artificial hearts and circulation is of significant value and shows his strong potential for the future."