A Refugee as a Child, Hasan Now Studying to Become a Physician Assistant

A Refugee as a Child, Hasan Now Studying to Become a Physician Assistant

Hadar Hassan on a cliffThe road to enrollment in Creighton University’s inaugural physician assistant program was long and eventful for Haydar Hasan, a native of Iraq, then a refugee in Jordan, and, finally, a resident of Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska.

Hasan was just 6 months old when his parents carried him from his birthplace of Iraq to the safety of neighboring Jordan.

It was 1993, and Iraq was wracked with political instability and economic crisis brought on by U.N. sanctions after Iraq President Saddam Hussein invaded oil-rich Kuwait. In the years following Hussein’s speedy ejection from Kuwait, conditions in Iraq degenerated to a point where Hasan’s father, a teacher, and his mother, a veterinarian, took refuge in Jordan.

There began a story that resulted, eventually, not only in Hasan’s enrollment in Creighton University’s new physician assistant program but also in the gaining of a family story that Hasan says fills him with admiration for his parents and which will be told down the generations.

“I never knew how much they sacrificed when we lived in Jordan,” he says. “They kept me away from that. As a kid, they always kept a smile on my face and always made sure that life was great, and that I always had a great time.”

His parents had not expected to remain long in Jordan, Hasan says, but ended up staying eight years classified as refugees. As such, they were granted no formal work permits and so his teacher-father scratched a living selling vegetables from a wheelbarrow while his veterinarian-mother worked as a maid and seamstress where she could.

“My dad walked around with that vegetable cart 25 miles every day,” he says. “They went through very hard times.”

When Hasan was 8 years old, in 2001, word came from the U.N. that their long wait was over and that a place was available for them in the United States of America.

“I remember how super-excited they were when they got the news,” Hasan says. “They were  telling me, ‘We’re going to a great place where our efforts will bring success.’ They told me that we had a valuable, valuable opportunity. They were definitely very excited about it.”

The family spent a year in Amarillo, Texas, before relocating to Lincoln, Nebraska, where Hasan went through middle school, high school and, in 2015, graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln with a degree in nutrition science.

Now 26 years old, Hasan is on course to graduate from the Creighton University School of Medicine as a physician assistant in December 2021.

Creighton’s PA program aims to create compassionate physician assistants dedicated to exemplary patient care. The 28-month curriculum results in a Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) degree.

According to U.S. News & World Report, the physician assistant profession ranks No. 1 on the 2019 list of Best Health Care Jobs in America and No. 3 on the 2019 list of Best Jobs in America. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary of PAs at $108,610.

Stephane VanderMeulen, MPAS, PA-C, associate professor at the Creighton University School of Medicine and director of the PA program, says the PA program helps make the University’s health professions offerings complete.

“The addition of the physician assistant degree to Creighton’s lineup of health professions education program is long-awaited,” she says. “As an integral part of the health care team, PAs have been providing increased access to quality health care for decades.”

When the courses get tough and the assignments pile up, Hasan says he just remembers what his parents endured so that today he has a chance at a medical career.

“I have probably endured more than the regular person who gets admitted to PA school,” he says. “But when I look to my parents, I know I couldn’t even go through half of what they went through. They are such inspiring figures to me, a source of strength, and always will be.”