Member Stories

Jasser Khairallah Image

Jasser was only a young man when he watched both his father and uncle die. It was this experience that led him to medicine and more specifically, primary care. Jasser served as the translator between the doctors and his family following his father’s stroke and later when his uncle sought care for his heart condition. What he witnessed was a disjointed system of care; many of the doctors were specialized and knowledgeable, but none of them seemed to be aware of complete patient histories or to take the entire situation into account. There were cardiologists, neurologists, and other specialists, but none provided basic primary care, which caused Jasser’s family to suffer greatly. It was this experience that made him realize, “my future had to be in primary care because I don’t want any kid to have to go through what I went through, watching their father die over a three month period.”

Even though he was committed to becoming a doctor, Jasser was often discouraged from continuing on this path in college. If it weren’t for his mother’s encouragement throughout his education, he never would have made it where he is today. He hopes other students with a desire to pursue primary care do not to give up because a school counselor tells them their grades are not high enough or because the cost seems too great. “You have to make your own path. For me, I did that through attending a post-baccalaureate program at Dominican University in River Forest, Illinois. It was there that I finally received encouragement and direction toward my goal.”

While at Dominican University, Jasser started a local chapter of MEDLIFE, an organization dedicated to improving access to care for low-income families around the world, and took two mission trips to Ecuador in 2012 and Peru in 2013. In medical school, he started work locally with a mobile clinic in Milan, Missouri, where he provides care primarily to immigrant low-wage workers. Many of his patients are afraid to even seek care because of their immigrant status.  As a result of these experiences, Jasser has learned firsthand the importance of building trust and providing inexpensive care options.

Jasser says that receiving an NHSC scholarship has really improved his medical school experience, “All of that future financial worry is gone and I have been able to really focus on the present and enjoy my time in medical school. The NHSC scholarship allows me to really sit back and enjoy the choices I have made to get where I am.” He adds, “Joining the NHSC is a commitment, but student loans are a terrible burden. If you know you want to serve underserved populations, you have to try for it.” Jasser can relish learning about best practices in primary care and can volunteer to help low-income and at-risk populations without the worry of debt accumulating year after year.

He says, “A lot of people have a misconception that primary care is a monotonous field and you just see the same thing over and over, but that isn’t the case. You see a lot of hypertension and diabetes, but the presentation and back stories are all different and the treatments are specific to each individual. If you want to get involved in a patient’s life and be a real force for change, then primary care is for you. You can’t really do that in any other field.”