When you think about the Middle East and Persian Gulf, war, political conflict, violence, and the brave work of the men and women of the U.S. military enter the imagination. However, there are also thousands of years of rich cultural heritage and areas of wealth, stability, extraordinary generosity, and innovation that get drowned out by the noise. During the summer of 2012, three of my classmates and I traveled to Oman—southeast of Saudi Arabia—through a formalized exchange at Boonshoft. We did observational rotations at Sultan Qaboos University Hospital near Muscat, and had our perspectives on the region opened and enlightened in ways we could never have imagined. For three weeks, I was learning from physicians in hematology and general surgery; and every afternoon and on weekends (which are Thursday and Friday there), we were exposed to the region and culture through student ambassadors from Sultan Qaboos University with truly hyperbolic generosity. I did this as part of a requirement for the international health track that the school has set up for us; I would venture that one third or more of my class traveled last summer--from Nepal and Vietnam, to Jamaica and Native American reservations.
While in the Middle East, I had the opportunity to visit Dubai, the glass city growing in the desert like the land of Oz; and Jordan, where the Dead Sea, Sea of Galilee, Red Sea, Roman ruins, Petra, and Wadi Rum were a collision of ancient and modern, and evidence of some of the regional turmoil was seeping just barely into its borders (especially north toward Syria). One of the Ph.D. students at Wright State University is from Irbid, Jordan and I visited his family there—in fact, his brother has come to Dayton for an elective that started this week at Kettering and I am looking forward to seeing him and hearing his impressions of the U.S.!
The other piece that had summer 2012 on my mind was a Middle Eastern meal that I had over the weekend. Last Sunday in Dayton was the Day of Caring, a fundraiser to help combat homelessness and hunger that happens annually at schools, churches, and community organizations. Ralla, one of my classmates, helped to set up sites at both Boonshoft School of Medicine and the Miami Valley School; the former serving a pancake breakfast, the latter serving food from the Middle East. It was a great moment to look back at that phenomenal opportunity to travel, and to remember through the tactile, sensory experience of eating; that trip seems so far away from studying for our renal course, it is like reflecting on a dream.