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The power of role models: Hind Almushattat nominated for ECHO Award

Published on 22-11-2022 12:10
UvA medical student Hind Almushattat is one of three students who have been nominated for an ECHO Award, a prize for successful students with a non-Western background who stand out as a result of their entrepreneurial attitude, organisational capacity, active social involvement and constructive approach to challenges related to exclusion.
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Hind completed the Bachelor's and Master's programmes in Biomedical Sciences, transferred to medicine and is currently an MD/PhD candidate, combining the Master's programme in Medicine with a doctoral programme in the ophthalmology department of Amsterdam UMC. Hind contributes to inclusion in various ways. For example, she is a board member at the Cultural Centre Utrecht (CCU) and co-founder of CITO and tutoring training for pupils with a non-Western background (CCU Training). Through these channels, she is committed to establishing greater connection and reducing inequalities in education. Finally, Hind is also working hard within the medical field to make future doctors more culturally sensitive and the medical world more diverse. 

Photo Hind Almushattat

Congratulations on your nomination. Did you expect it?  

'It came as a surprise! For me, this nomination wasn’t an end in itself; my commitment to equal opportunities is so interwoven with my daily work and mindset, I hardly think about it these days. Of course, I'm very pleased to have been nominated. I feel that what I have to say and what I stand for is valuable. This nomination will allow my message to reach more people, so I'm happy about that.'

What is your message?

'I regularly get asked whether I face racism and discrimination in the medical world. As an Iraqi Muslim woman and refugee, some people think I should be 0-2 behind. In actual fact, I’ve never experienced it that way. In my view, the fact that I grew up between two cultures has only made a positive contribution and has actually increased my chances in this society. By the way, that doesn't mean the path I have taken was easy. I also had to overcome obstacles. However, I believe it helps to focus on what is possible, on what you can influence yourself. That allows you to create your own opportunities. This mindset brings me a lot of positive things.' 

How come you have this attitude to life? Where did you gain such wisdom? 

'Partly as a result of my work as a board member of the Cultural Centre Utrecht (CCU), where we organise cultural and social meetings about connection and identity, among other things. This focuses on fostering similarities and understanding differences, as well as understanding who you are and what you stand for. I am also committed to equal opportunities in education. Unfortunately, education is not the "great equalizer" it should be. For example, my little brother is faced with all kinds of prejudices and exclusion because of his visual impairment. His impairment has created a disadvantage for him that isn’t easy to overcome in our job market. Making education more accessible to every child will allow us to reduce this inequality of opportunity. That’s why I set up CITO and tutoring training for children with a non-Western background, together with other young professionals. Once again, we are showing what is possible as a role model.' 

In your opinion, what needs to change in the medical world to create more diversity and inclusion and how are you contributing to this? 

'Doctors should be more culturally sensitive. Cultural divides and language barriers give rise to a wide range of ideas about the cause, progress, severity and desired treatment of the condition, often with adverse consequences for the patient. For this reason, I am committed to anchoring “intercultural differences in the consultation room” in the medical curriculum. In addition, the medical world itself could be much more diverse. To contribute to this, I provide study programme information together with other non-Western students. Decentralised selection is also used for the intake of medical students, with the result that students who can afford training or a course in decentralised selection are more likely to be admitted. We are now looking into whether we can offer this kind of training free of charge at the UvA, to ensure that everyone has a fair chance.' 

You are committed to many things, to themes that could also meet with resistance or that might affect you personally. How do you keep up the energy required to do all this? 

'It's not difficult for me, because I believe so strongly in the added value of what I do and also because I find my field extremely enjoyable and interesting. This is something else I often give as advice to other students or pupils. In some cultures, parents have certain expectations regarding the choice of degree programme. Let go of that and choose something that will really make you happy, something that suits you. Then it will mainly give you energy, instead of costing you energy. And once again: find role models. Ask for their help and be inspired.'

About the ECHO Award

With the awards ceremony, the national expertise centre for diversity policy ECHO helps to shine a light on excellent students with a non-Western background who can contribute to creating equal opportunities for all. The winners are rewarded with a fully organised summer course at the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) in the United States.