The Robert Logan Nugent award was established by the Alumni Association in 1964 to honor former University of Arizona executive vice president Robert Nugent. Ever since, the university has selected graduating students who epitomize the ideals of service and academic engagement to receive the award.
One of this year’s awardees is Tala Shahin, who will graduate with a dual degree in Arabic and physiology and start medical school at UA’s College of Medicine Tucson.
Shahin is also a first generation Palestinian American, an experience that taught her resiliency, dedication and loyalty growing up.
“Understanding the struggles of those who came from war-torn countries and experiencing these difficulties firsthand during my time in Palestine taught me to be a cosmopolitan learner through engagement with people from a multitude of backgrounds,” Shahin said.
According to Shahin, much like hardships, medicinal needs extend to all members of a society, not discriminating our differences.
During her time at UA, Shahin has volunteered in hospices as a pre-medical ambassador, helped resettle refugees, traveled to Ghana and participated in undergraduate research.
Shahin joined the Undergraduate Biology Research Program and began working with Dr. David Armstrong, a former professor of surgery at the UA, studying surgical treatments for foot ulcers in patients with diabetes.
“Tala was absolutely great, curious with sterling ambition,” Armstrong said.
Shahin loved the interdisciplinary nature of research and the ability of her studies to impact patients' lives. According to Armstrong, Shahin’s work has been published in scientific journals related to plastic surgery.
Even though she really enjoyed research, Shahin knew medicine was still for her.
“Pursuing medicine reminds me of the shared oneness of humanity, regardless of personal identity, which works to unite rather than divide individuals and communities,” Shahin said. “Becoming a dedicated caregiver is my calling, and to rise to that sacred duty is my greatest ambition.”
This ambition lead Shahin to join UA’s Pre-MD Ambassador Program, where she worked with program coordinator Lenora Harkins.
During her time with the ambassadors, Shahin created a pen pal program between the ambassadors and a class of local elementary students interested in science.
“Tala is one of the nicest, smartest, most down-to-earth individuals that I have ever met,” Harkins said. “I’m proud to have mentored someone who I feel like has given so much to this world, and she is just getting started.”
Shahin also served as a co-organizer for the Tucson Interfaith Packathon, which helped collect and package over 50,000 meals for southern Arizonans. Along with volunteering at a local hospice, Shahin also worked as an intern at Banner-University Medical Center’s Emergency Department.
Shahin was also transformed by her experience traveling to Ghana to volunteer for Unite for Sight. Shahin worked with the non-profit to identify community barriers that prevent effective eye care treatment for those living in poverty.
“My experiences with the Ghanaian people’s humbling realities, vibrant culture and rich communal relationships stripped away all superficial notions of differences and reminded me that through understanding and tolerance, our human oneness becomes blatantly obvious,” Shahin said.
In the end, all of Shahin’s experiences have culminated in her ambition to attend medical school and serve, while also empathizing and trying to understand those communities who medical progress has left behind.
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