My name is Razan Taha. I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria until the age of 27. I have been living in the United States for the past 10 years. I completed my medical school in The University of Damascus, Syria. My dream was to travel to United States to complete my residency and become an American Board-Certified Family Physician. With a lot of effort and dedication, I was able to succeed in pursuing my dream. In 2010, I received an acceptance letter from Creighton University to join their residency program in Omaha, Nebraska. That’s where my journey started.
When I first came to the United States in 2010, I was granted an Exchange-student visa that allowed me to complete the residency program and then go back to my home country upon completion. By the time I finished my residency (3 years long), this country felt like a home to me. I fell in love with the place, the people and the lifestyle. I started searching for options to see what I can do to be able to continue living and working in the US legally. After lots of research on immigration laws, I found out about a way that allows me to switch my Exchange-student Visa into a Conditional Visa that can be eventually switched into a Permanent Resident status. The process was very lengthy and it required that I work for about 4 years at an underserved area to help people in need. I followed the requirements and worked for 4 years in Central Valley, California. Once I was done with my 4 years of service, I was able to become a U.S Permanent Resident.
When I first started the residency program in Nebraska I wasn’t sure how people will look at me considering that I wear the headscarf “Hijab” and that I completely stand out. I wasn’t sure how my patients and my coworkers will feel. Fortunately, my experience turned out to be amazing. People were very nice, accepting, and respectful. The staffing at the hospital was amazing. I was always welcomed with a smile. I made a lot of strong friendships that I will sure keep for the rest of my life. I got to connect with amazing patients every day. All my patients were very respectful and accepting. I enjoyed being able to provide the excellent care for patients and helping them make better choices for their health and wellness.
Living in Nebraska was completely different than living In California. The location of Nebraska makes it a lot less diverse compared to California. I did not experience any racism of any kind in either state, but Nebraskans looked at me with lots of curiosity. People there had a lot of questions for me to answer about my religion and my hijab. They were surprised that I spoke English, and that I am a doctor. I used to tell them that I wore hijab because it’s a part of my religion and identity. Some women decide to wear while others choose not to. I respect people regardless of what they choose to worship (if any) and how they express their beliefs and their religions. I was more than happy to answer their questions and to clarify misconceptions. I was always very proud of my hijab. It was a choice that I made many years ago, yet I never regretted it. I am completely on my own for the past 10 years, and I could have taken it off if i wanted to, but It’s my decision to wear it.
During my visa transition stage between 2013 and 2017, I chose to work in Central Valley, California. There was a huge shortage in providers. I was happy to work at a mainly Hispanic populated area. I got to learn their language and understand their culture. The clinic where I worked was a very busy practice. We served everyone that walked in whether or not they had an appointment and whether or not they had health insurance or even an ID on them. Due to the severe lack of health care physicians in that area, I was not only doing primary care, I was looked at as a cardiologist, a neurologist, a gastroenterologist. I had to manage a lot of complicated cases that primary care physicians usually never deal with. I am very thankful and proud I was able to provide health care and health education for these people in need.
Fast forward to 2018, a new immigration policy was passed that prohibits people from Syria to enter the United States. Luckily for me, my mom, dad, and siblings left Syria long time ago, but I still have a big extended family (aunts, uncles, and cousins) who live in Syria and would love to come and visit me in the US. It’s very heart-breaking and sad for them not to have the opportunity to even visit or see us. This law specifically targets Syrians and a few other Muslim countries. Even if I try to go visit them myself in Syria, I will be questioned and investigated at the US airport upon arrival. I shouldn’t have to think twice before I’m able to visit my home country. There has to be better screening tools that allows Syrians to visit without compromising the safety of the United States. I don’t want problems to happen in any part of the world. But at the same time, I don’t think that disqualifying ALL Syrians from visiting or entering the United States is a fair decision. This immigration policy affects me on the personal level knowing that since I have left Syria, I have not seen my aunts, my uncles or my cousins who I grew up with.
America is a place where dreams come true, especially for people with high education. I love the US Constitution for allowing people to have the freedom of religion and the freedom of speech. I am happy that I’m able to have the freedom to say what I want to say and to practice my religion and express myself freely. I also love that there is a lot of diversity, especially in the Bay Area. I love that nobody is a majority and nobody is a minority. Being raised in Syria until my mid 20s, I have never seen an Indian, Asian, or African American person until I moved to the States! Diversity is a great state of being able to step out of our bubbles and explore different religions, cultures, languages, and food. We all are human beings who happen to be born in different countries and taught different languages. We shouldn’t let that be a factor on how we treat one another and how to care about each other.
Historically speaking this country was made, built and found by immigrants. This country combines many different races, ethnicities, languages and cultures in one place. Most of the immigrants I know are highly educated, hardworking and ambitious. Majority of the engineers in the Bay Area are immigrants and a very high percentage of physicians are immigrants. Open your heart, open your mind and just look at the people around you and you’ll notice that a lot of the people that you deal with are immigrants.
I would love to become a US citizen one day. I love this country. I learned a lot from being here. Syria will always be my home country where I was born and raised. The United States is my second home where I continued my medical journey and where my children were born.
I am very proud to represent Syrian Muslim females as productive, hardworking, ambitious, loving and caring people. It’s my mission to let the world know that we are valuable and needed in this society. I am a strong believer that we all have to learn to respect and accept one another. In order to make the world a better place we have to start by being kind to one another.
I want everyone to step out of their zones and start treating everyone with dignity and respect. I want people to bypass the looks and appearances. I make sure I treat everyone with love, respect, kindness and care.