Reem Karmouta had long imagined herself pursuing a career in health care, but becoming a doctor never crossed her mind. A proud Muslim, Syrian American raised in Orange County, California, by parents who emigrated from Aleppo, she had met people from different places and a wide range of backgrounds.

Yet she rarely encountered anyone who looked exactly like her, especially in the medical field. But that changed the moment she met a physician who, like Karmouta, wore a hijab. Seeing herself represented helped her recognize and embrace the passion she felt about becoming a doctor.

“I realized there’s room in medicine for me, even if I look a little different or if my background is a little different,” Karmouta said. “I realized my differences could even be celebrated.”

Inspired to pursue a scientific education, she attended UCLA, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in human biology and society. Now a fourth-year student at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, she found out earlier this year she would get to stay on campus — her top choice — for the ophthalmology residency program.

She was drawn to the field partly because every ophthalmologist she met at UCLA, including research and career mentors Dr. Irena Tsui and Dr. Monica Khitri, was incredibly intelligent, skilled and compassionate.

“I feel like I found my home and my people in ophthalmology,” Karmouta said. “The field blends the challenges of surgery with the rewards of supporting patients when they’re facing possible vision loss — when they’re most in need of support.” 

Read more about Karmouta on the Geffen School of Medicine website.