American Dream Becomes Reality For Recent UH Grad

Future neurosurgeon earns Merage Foundation American Dream Fellowship, honored June 3

At 22, Arman Jahangiri already has lived an American dream and has more than just graduating from college to celebrate. Eleven years after fleeing Iran with his family in search of freedom and opportunity, this University of Houston biology graduate's dreams for both his own and his new homeland's future have earned him national recognition.

Jahangiri is among 12 winners of the 2008 Merage Foundation American Dream Fellowship, a nationwide scholarship competition that recognizes the most exceptional immigrant students with the greatest potential to contribute to the United States. He will be honored June 3 at the Merage Foundation's fifth annual National Leadership Awards ceremony at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.

Now heading to medical school, Jahangiri has received $20,000 to further pursue his American dream. His interest in medicine was sparked while growing up in Iran, where his mother practiced dentistry at a clinic for the poor. He spent time at the clinic everyday after school, befriending the physicians and accompanying them as they attended to their patients.

"I saw how priceless the doctor-patient relationship is," Jahangiri said. "You're interacting with someone who really needs you."

He witnessed a similar dynamic many years later while volunteering at a nursing home for Alzheimer's patients. These patients knew he could not cure them, he said, but just seeing that someone cared for them comforted and reassured them.

Jahangiri plans to pursue neurosurgery, but his dream goes beyond helping just the patients he will treat. Concerned about the lack of affordable health care for many Americans, he sees his future role as that of physician, advocate, policy maker and educator all rolled into one.

In addition to the medical degree he will begin pursuing in the fall at University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Jahangiri plans to earn a master's degree in business administration from Rice University through an M.D.-M.B.A. program. He hopes combining medical knowledge with administrative know-how will make him a more effective advocate for uninsured Americans as the health care policy debate unfolds in coming years.

This future business student already has demonstrated an entrepreneurial flair while in college when he bought some T-shirt manufacturing equipment for a bargain price and started his own business. With orders from campus organizations and other groups, his thriving T-shirt business paid for college and then some. He hopes this sort of savvy and enterprising spirit will help him make a difference beyond the operating room.

"Health care needs creative, market-friendly solutions, and I want to make them happen," Jahangiri said. "Giving physicians a tax break for working in low-income clinics or training third-world health care administrators in American efficiency are some of the ideas I think might work."

Tackling such a staggeringly complex and intractable problem like health care might seem a bit ambitious for someone who has not yet started his first semester of medical school, but Jahangiri - who spent the first half of his life in a place where the future is bleak - did not come to America to dream small.

"There's no freedom or hope in Iran," he said. "In America, people are rewarded for their hard work."

Jahangiri will put most of his scholarship money toward medical school tuition, but will use about $2,000 of it for a medical mission trip to Trinidad and Tobago to assist with obstetric and gynecological surgeries.

Established in 2004, the Merage Foundation for the American Dream has twice before awarded fellowships to UH students - also destined for careers in medicine - with Jahangiri becoming the third. Information on UH's past recipients can be found at and

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: A photo of Arman Jahangiri is available on the Web at A high-resolution photo is available by contacting Lisa Merkl.

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