Growing up in Iraq, former Sharp Grossmont Hospital volunteer-turned-med-student Wisam (Sam) Razook recalls a war-torn country in crisis — with few options for the sick and injured, and doctors who faced a losing battle.
“Once after an explosion in the street, I saw people rushed to the hospital and left lying on the floor bleeding,” he says. “The doctors worked so hard just trying to save people, running from room to room. Few experiences ever spoke to me like that.”
In 2007, when he was 18, Razook’s family immigrated to the U.S. Shortly thereafter, as a college biology major, he became a volunteer at Sharp Grossmont.
During his time at Sharp Grossmont, Razook served as one of the hospital’s Tender Loving Care (TLC) volunteers, who spend much of their time bedside with patients. He specialized in old-fashioned interaction, conversation and simply being present.
“Sam would take the newspaper, playing cards or magazines with him and just interact with the patients,” says Linda Van Fulpen, manager of volunteer services. “He did a lot of listening.”
Razook remembers seeing patients’ faces light up when he visited. “I imagined how much more I could do if I were actually their doctor, because even as a volunteer I was making a difference,” he says.
His role also included acting as the volunteer liaison between the cardiac catheterization lab and the operating room, and patients’ families. This provided him the invaluable opportunity to interact with the doctors and families together. And this is where he met Sharp-affiliated cardiologist Dr. Nassir Azimi.
“One Saturday, I walked outside and saw a young volunteer sitting there, eating lunch, so I sat with him,” recalls Dr. Azimi. “I met a young version of myself — curious about medicine and pre-med and not certain about his pathway. He was also an immigrant, like me.”
Dr. Azimi took Razook under his wing, allowing him to shadow him. He also offered advice and encouragement, and served as a reference for Razook’s medical school application.
Fast forward to 2018: As a UC San Diego graduate in his third year of med school at Arizona’s Midwestern University, it was time for Razook to begin rotations. It was a no-brainer who he’d choose.
Razook returned to his old stomping grounds at Sharp Grossmont and completed his rotation with his friend and mentor, Dr. Azimi. He’ll graduate med school in spring 2019, and then it’s on to a residency.
Razook praises Sharp Grossmont’s Volunteer Services team and program, as well as Dr. Azimi and others, for providing this window into the life of a doctor. “This isn’t a field for everyone, so volunteering was a great way for me to gauge if I could handle different patient personalities, treat people when they’re sad and still help them heal,” he says.
Dr. Azimi is confident in his friend, whose TLC volunteer gig at Sharp was indeed foretelling. “Sam is calm and smart. More importantly, he is compassionate and caring. I know he will make a great doctor.”