Banan Abuharb, Cytotechnology Class of 2015
While most 18-year-olds are just beginning to embark upon their future, Banan Abuharb already is preparing for life after college. She graduated from high school at 15 and went on to complete her associate’s degree—with honors—at Houston Community College Central. It was there, during a Transfer Day event, that she saw a table for The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center School of Health Professions.
“I didn’t even know MD Anderson had an undergraduate school,” she says. She collected a few brochures and, after reading more about the programs, decided on cytotechnology, the study of cancerous and precancerous cells.
Cytotechnologists evaluate cell samples from various body sites under a microscope to determine whether they are normal, inflammatory, infectious or cancerous and report findings to the pathologist. This combination of science and diagnostics gives Banan a connection with patients that's not available in other fields.
“If I’m not doing my job right, that’s someone’s life,” explains the gregarious teenager whose petite stature belies her bold personality. “If you don’t know what you’re doing, there are people you’re putting in danger.”
Another factor for selecting the program was the ability to wear traditional clothing representing her Palestinian heritage, of which she is so proud. No stranger to hard work, Banan admits the cytotechnology program is challenging. She describes her fellow students as “over-achievers,” but says they push her to always do her best.
“You want to be at the top of your game because everyone here wants to do more,” she says.
Banan’s experience at MD Anderson has taught her that helping patients isn’t limited to being a physician. She’s shifted her focus from medical school to graduate school, with the eventual goal of earning a Ph.D. Or, she may go directly into the workforce to obtain the real-world knowledge she attributes to the success of her instructors. She hopes to emulate that when she becomes a professor. Whichever path she chooses, one thing is certain: her life’s work will have meaning.
“I want to do something that matters, even if it's on a very small scale.”