Faculty Friday Spotlight: Dr. Mohamed Aziz

Dr. Mohamed Aziz received his medical degree from Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, and taught pathology at New York Medical College and Hofstra University in New York for decades. Prior to joining AUC, he served as senior director of the division of cytopathology at Northwell Health System in New York City, chief of pathology at Saint Vincent’s Cancer Center in Manhattan, and as the vice president of Omegapath Diagnostics Corporation, Utica, New York. For a brief period, Dr. Aziz was the doctor of the world famous Expedition Cruise “Lindblad Explorer.”

Dr. Aziz at AUC's Celebration of Academic Excellence on Friday, February 22, where he received the Faculty Appreciation Award from students. (Photo credit: Warda Alam)

Describe an experience that helped form you as an educator.

I was inspired by my all-time greatest teacher and mentor early in my career. This great man, Dr. John Gillooley, was the chairman of the department when I started my residency. He had a powerful, positive impact on me and helped to shape my future as an educator.

It may sound unusual, but I also believe that my travel, especially to remote and exotic areas of the world, which was part of my prior work in expedition cruises, allowed me to listen to young people of different cultures and backgrounds. I learned the art of listening, sharing ideas and debating concepts. I remember a powerful discussion with a young 12 year-old African boy with limited education and minimal connection with the outside world. The quality of his thoughts and vision raised this question in my head - What could be if this intelligent young boy had the opportunity to have the optimal education? I dreamed of being his teacher and having this young boy in one of my future classes, enjoying every minute and being grateful to be part of his journey of growth and accomplishment.

How did you become convinced that you should come to AUC, or what attracted you to AUC?

My wife, son and I love travel. Together we have explored six continents including most of the Caribbean Islands. I was always attracted to them. Living in New York for more than 35 years, the idea of working as a full time educator later in my career on one of the islands was always in my mind. St. Maarten fit into the formula very well. The reputation of AUC as a great Caribbean medical school made my future plan focused and real. Since some of my former star residents and fellows were actually AUC graduates, I had enough knowledge about the quality of the school.

What is your favorite thing about teaching at AUC?

The mixed culture and quality of the students, the friendly family atmosphere, the strong bond and connection between the students and faculty are only few of the many things I love about teaching at AUC. I have to mention that I appreciate the AUC students' commitment to their studies and their focusing on the material. I feel that they have an additional sense of responsibility which makes their serious commitment so powerful and so obvious.

Are you involved with any student organizations or other student activities?

This is one of my favorite activities here at AUC. The student organizations I am involved with are too numerous to list. The benefits of student involvement in these organizations are important and vital for their career development. Through these organizations, they learn more about themselves, develop soft skills, learn how to work with a team and they get networking opportunities. They also gain practical experience in a safe environment, can use some of the skills they learn in class, gain leadership skills and why not, yes, get a little break from studying. One of the most important benefits is being able to give back to community and of course, having the chance to provide a needed expansion of their resumes.

But I have to admit that my real and major excitement is mentoring my medical students and guiding them through the initial steps in the field of research and article writing. I am thrilled with their excitement going through the process of being a first author and correspondent for the first time and eventually seeing their name appearing as a first return in Google search for a peer reviewed article. I myself cannot imagine that first and second year AUC medical students have already published 12 case report articles in less than a year in peer reviewed journals. It is even more exciting to know that all of them are going through this experience for the first time under my guidance. 

What are some of your favorite things about Sint Maarten?

I love this island and knew a lot about it before coming here to work. It seems that this island can easily steal and capture any heart. It is truly a unique tropical paradise. It is hard to select just a few of my favorite things about the island, but if I have to choose, I would say its friendly people, the culture of two countries and its outstanding landscapes. Beside its great beaches, maybe one of my favorite things about this island is that it is the gourmet capital of the Caribbean with the melting of two cultures and the presence of more than 300 restaurants presenting European and world cuisine mixed with a beautiful Caribbean flavor.

What makes you look forward to the start of a new semester?

It is all about new students, new thoughts, new visions, new excitement and a fresh new generation of very special young people who will soon be my colleagues. And yes, new learning experiences for me, learning from life and from my student’s, learning never ends.

How would you like for students to describe you years from now?

I want my students to remember me as the one who taught them that “in medicine the answer to most questions is yes, but, how much yes.” I want them also to remember me as the one who advised them “to have medicine as their hobby and if they do, the sky will be the limit to their success.” Also, I want them to remember me as the one who taught them how to love what they learn and how to truly love medicine.

Dr. Aziz has authored book chapters in medical textbooks, published multiple articles in medical journals, and has presented his work at numerous national and international meetings. 

What’s something about you that not many people know about you or that your students would be surprised to learn?

Many of my students and faculty may not know that at some point in my life, as a young man of only 28 years old, I was part of a peace agreement between two countries, Egypt and Israel back in 1981. Although I was a simple junior member dealing with some detailed aspects of the cultural section of the agreement, I believe and consider this experience the most powerful experience in my life and I will continue to treasure it as long as I live.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Spending time with my wife and son, travelling, soccer, reading, creative art work, watching documentaries and also exploring and enjoying the island. 

What would you be doing if you hadn’t gone into medical education?

This is an easy question for me. I would be an artist or teaching Egyptian history.