(VIDEO) Microbiology major Asher George traveled to the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq to observe surgeons and physicians aiding Syrian refugees.
When Asher George first arrived on the campus of Texas Tech University, he did not know he had just taken the first step in a journey that would lead him around the world.
The senior microbiology major came to Texas Tech from his home town in Mesquite, Texas through Camp L.E.A.D., a leadership training and personal development program for high school students, in the summer of 2014. He returned to campus the following summer as a Clark Scholar to perform research on an alternative therapy to antibiotic resistance.
George said he realized there was ample of opportunity for him to grow at Texas Tech and made the decision to enroll as a full-time student in fall of 2015.
After spending more than three years in the Lubbock area, George has become accustomed to the flat, dry landscape surrounding his home away from home. But this past summer, he got to experience a completely different terrain.
George spent almost two weeks in May in the mountains and greenery of the Kurdistan Region of Northern Iraq with Operation H.O.P.E., a locally founded volunteer program for surgeons and physicians. He became involved with the program after meeting Dr. John Thomas, the program's founder, at church.
After discussing the program's goals and previous service trips, Thomas invited George to come along with other surgeons and physicians on Operation H.O.P.E.'s next trip to the Kurdistan Region. George's journey began following the spring 2017 semester, and he returned to the states in the last week of May.
While abroad, George said he had the opportunity to not only observe surgeries and refugee camps, but to also document his experiences through the lens of a camera. He said the trip was about much more than simply gaining experiences as a surgeon.
"I aimed, through this trip, to be selfless in serving others by thinking less of myself, speaking less for myself and even acting less for my gain, so that I could put all my energy into serving people," George said.
In the hospital, George got the chance to watch American and Kurdish doctors overcome language and cultural barriers to teach and learn about complex medical cases. He said the Kurdish doctors had adequate medical training, but their medical infrastructure benefited from the American doctors' residency-like training and teaching.
George said he got to see firsthand how programs like Operation H.O.P.E. can work not only in certain regions, but all over the world.
In fact, one of George's biggest lessons of the trip was not related to surgery or the doctor's office at all.
George's time in the Kurdistan Region coincided with the refugee camp's final examination period. He said he was surprised to see children running through the streets of the camp with textbooks in their hands. The children's eagerness to learn made George remember to not take his time at Texas Tech and in the Honors College for granted.
"It's easy to skip class. It's easy to become complacent with the opportunities we're afforded here," George said. "Seeing that education is the stepping stone for success in the future empowered me as well to see that I can use what I have here at Texas Tech to eventually go on and help others through the medical field."
George plans to attend medical school after graduation and aspires to become a general surgeon. He said his time at Texas Tech has provided him with a strong academic foundation as well as made him feel welcome to the area.
"Texas Tech is one of those places you can go to and feel at home even though you're away from home," George said.
After earning his medical degree, he hopes to continue conducting medical missions that offer both support and teaching to all areas in need around the world.
He said in order to help you must first recognize the need on a worldwide scale and then offer a solution.
"There is a lot that can be done in the future," George said, "and I hope to be a part of that."