When you graduate from high school aged 12, with biochemistry and algebra in your skillset, you are bound to do brilliant things. Iqbal Al Asaad certainly did, graduating as the youngest ever Arab doctor at 20, in 2013.
The child prodigy, who says she began learning as a toddler while listening to her father tutor her older brothers, grew up in a rural Lebanese village and was struck at an early age by the poverty she witnessed. Her visits to Palestinian refugee camps, where she often heard stories of sick children unable to get the medical care they needed, inspired her to become a paediatrician. Her dream caught the attention of Lebanon’s education minister, who secured her a medical scholarship under the Qatar Foundation and she joined Weill Cornell Medical College in Doha.
She is now furthering her credentials under the Cleveland Clinic Children’s Paediatric Residency Programme in the US.
But Al Asaad’s dream to return to Lebanon and help the Palestinian refugees who inspired her career may be difficult because Palestinians are not allowed to work as doctors in Lebanon.
Wherever she ends up, the genius humanitarian is sure to make an impression in the Arab medical world for decades to come.