Student Spotlight

From Lebanon to Arizona: Falling into dentistry

Growing up in Kfarhazir, Lebanon, I have always counted on my family for support. They are the reason why I am in my final year of dental school in the United States, graduating with a dual degree in dentistry and a master’s in public health in May. I will be the first dentist in my small Lebanon village and the first dentist in my extended family. It has been a long and challenging journey, but made possible thanks to those who support me.

Family photo taken in Lebanon in 2006

My introduction to dentistry

On July 12, 2006, I left the only place I had ever known: Kfarhazir, Lebanon. My childhood home, my personal sanctuary, my life as I knew it. Growing up I was blessed to have my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins all within a mile radius in my village. However, Lebanon was in the midst of war and my parents wanted to escape with my brother and me. Leaving my huge support system behind suddenly at age 10 was very tough. After a few weeks in Southern California, I settled into a drastically different environment: new school, friends, teacher and neighbors.

Family photo taken in California in 2009

Before we left Kfarhazir I visited a dentist in the neighboring village since my village didn’t have a dentist. The dentist recommended braces to treat my overbite. Five months before the war began, I received braces. Months later, I had not seen a dentist or an orthodontist because my parents were job hunting and didn’t have insurance. I had broken brackets, snapped wires, and an overabundance of rubber bands. I started doing my own experiments. I probably did more damage than good to my teeth. I experimented with rubber bands on different teeth and used wax and other things to cut wires or remove broken brackets. It was then my spark for dentistry ignited.

Finish reading Sylvia’s story in the January issue of Contour magazine.

~Sylvia Akar, Arizona ’22

Sylvia Akar

Sylvia Akar is a student at Arizona School of Dentistry & Oral Health, graduating in 2022.

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