For Ayah Al Qaryoute, medicine is the family business.
Ayah's father is a plastic surgeon and professor at a top medical school in Jordan. Her sister is completing a vascular and interventional neurology fellowship at the University of Minnesota, and her twin brother is a family medicine doctor in Jordan. In 2015, Ayah began practicing medicine in Jordan as a licensed general practitioner.
Throughout her training and practice, Ayah encountered many patients with blood disorders and became interested in the mechanisms of these disorders. Always curious about possible treatments, she knew research was key.
"Hematology was one of my favorite subjects in medical school," she said. "I always found myself curious about molecular pathways, mechanisms of action and just loved the scientific aspect of diseases, so I knew I had to pursue a Ph.D. after medical school."
In 2017, Ayah was accepted to UNT's College of Science program to begin her doctoral degree in biochemistry and molecular biology. She focused her research on thrombocyte production in zebrafish. Thrombocytes are blood cells that play a crucial role in maintaining hemostasis -- the stopping of blood flow -- by sealing the blood vessels after an injury. Changes in thrombocyte production can lead to a variety of conditions, including bleeding disorders. Zebrafish have a similar genetic structure to humans, sharing 70% of the same genes, and research on zebrafish has contributed significantly to scientists' understanding of many human conditions.
Trying to mimic immune disorders in humans and further understand spleen function, Ayah performed a minor surgical procedure on zebrafish under the microscope with general anesthesia that involved making a tiny incision, removing the spleen, and closing the wound afterward.
Despite her love for her studies and hard work, Ayah experienced a tremendous shock halfway through her doctorate program, when her mother suddenly passed away in 2019.
"I stayed strong and held on to my goal, in spite of many hardships and challenges," she said. "I pushed myself through the difficulties and obstacles that came with the six long years of my doctoral journey."
As she persisted at UNT, Ayah co-authored two publications, won the 2022-23 Outstanding Teaching Fellows/Teaching Assistants Award from the Faculty Senate and maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her Ph.D. program. She successfully defended her dissertation in Spring 2023 and is eager to move onto the next phase of her life.
"I am extremely grateful to UNT for giving graduate students an invaluable opportunity to gain teaching experience," said Ayah, who also plans to obtain a teaching position at a university and medical school -- just like her father. "In the current job market, this experience is highly taken into consideration."
Ayah appreciates the wide variety of support services available to students. She encourages incoming freshmen to make the most of every resource and extracurricular activity UNT has to offer.
"Dedicate yourself to your work, studies, and wellbeing," she said. "It's important to stay focused on your end goal. You will make it if you stay patient and persist."
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