Duha Alfatlawi

Even when Duha Alfatlawi was little, she noticed disparities in the medical system. She saw members of her community face educational and financial barriers to getting medical care, and she saw the impact that infrequent doctor visits had on their overall health and mental wellbeing. Alfatlawi knew she wanted to help.

In her sophomore year at Harvard University, Alfatlawi, a 2017 Most Valuable Student scholar and 2023 Gunther and Lee Weigel Medical School Scholarship recipient, began working toward change by interviewing patients to learn their health needs. She then found healthcare professionals to write articles that address these needs using understandable terms. However, Alfatlawi quickly made a discovery about the people she was serving.

“During the interview process, I often came across a familiar sight: uninsured patients who could not speak English,” says Alfatlawi. “I conducted those interviews with a translator. That's when it occurred to me that merely putting the information they requested in a simple English was not enough.”

She then made the articles available in different languages and added a list of free healthcare resources including nonprofit organizations, clinical trials and government-funded insurance plans.

While this work greatly benefited the community, Alfatlawi felt there was still much more to be done. She joined the Harvard Kidney Disease Screening Awareness Program, a free program for disadvantaged patients, where she led blood-glucose testing and collected blood and urine samples.

These experiences helped Alfatlawi see how she could best help those in need.

“I realized that, of all the ways I could address the problem of healthcare inequality,” says Alfatlawi, “I want to be a doctor that not only treats those who show up at the clinic, but also seeks to treat those who cannot get to the doorstep.”

In addition, Alfatlawi worked with Engineers Without Borders to create a water distribution system in the Dominican Republic, volunteered at a hospice, and mentored high school students.

Through all her accomplishments, Alfatlawi is proud to represent the Elks.

“When I became an MVS semi-finalist, I knew that I would not only continue to receive support from my community, but that a new national community would be invested in my success,” says Alfatlawi. “I entered college with a commitment to make the Elks community proud. From becoming a mentor to disadvantaged high schoolers to building a water distribution system in the Dominican Republic, representing the Elks National Foundation has given me a dedication to serve and contribute to the communities around me.”

With the Weigel scholarship, Alfatlawi will attend the University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine, where she will specialize in primary care.

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