Jamal Hajjari grew up in Morocco, the youngest of 12 children in a farming family. As a young man, he helped out on the farm and in his father’s construction business.
He was content doing so. But he always dreamed of becoming a doctor.
Jamal, 32, will graduate from Upstate Medical University in May. At Match Day today, he learned he will be going to Emory University in Atlanta for his residency in internal medicine.
Jamal’s path to the MD was anything but direct – or easy.
It took him several attempts before he was granted a visa; he left Morocco for the United States in 2003. One of his brothers had emigrated four years earlier to Rome, NY, so Jamal moved in with him.
The plan was for Jamal to learn English, earn money and continue pursuing his goal of medical school. While studying English, he delivered newspapers in the morning and worked in manufacturing in the afternoon.
He eventually enrolled in Onondaga Community College, earning an associate’s in Mathematics and Science – the first of several academic degrees he would earn.
At OCC, Jamal heard about Upstate’s programs and enrolled in 2006. He has since earned a bachelor’s degree in Medical Biotechnology and – after taking a year off to study for the MCATs — a master’s degree in Medical Technology. In two months, he can add MD after his name.
While studying at Upstate, Jamal worked part-time in a clinical pathology lab and conducted research in the vision lab of Barry Knox, PhD.
It was during that time that Jamal appreciated the connection between bench research and clinical applications. He knew he was on the right track. “This is what I want to do,” he told himself. “This is what I am. I am a problem solver.”
Jamal also was in Upstate’s Medical Scholars program, and is the first graduate of that 10-year-old program to be elected to the national medical honor society, Alpha Omega Alpha. Jamal’s grades throughout medical school place him high in the ranks of the class of 2015.
In the Medical Scholars program, everything clicked for Jamal. “I understood every single piece. Classes were small, and I could ask detailed questions,” he said. “Without the Med Scholars program, I wouldn’t have achieved what I have.”
He is quick to add a comment reflecting his humility: “Everybody should get the credit,” he said. “I’m just driving the road that was paved for me.”
Today’s national Match Day revealed that the road is taking him to Emory University, which was his first choice. Jamal will be joined by his wife, Lamiae, an aerospace engineer, and their one-year-old daughter Rima.
They attended today’s Match Day celebration, but the gathering for Commencement might be somewhat larger – Jamal’s parents will be here from Morocco, perhaps joined by several or his siblings.