Senior year of high school, Ahmad Hakoum decided to make a lifestyle change that would end up making a huge impact on his life. 

“I looked in the mirror one day and was like, ‘I’m super skinny. I need to do something about this,’” Hakoum said.

So he went to the gym with a few friends. That first step was difficult, but he gradually built a habit of lifting weights. Over time, gaining muscle helped him gain confidence. Exercising became a way to relieve stress, and it taught him how to stick to a routine to ensure steady progress over time.

The discipline he garnered from this experience, he says, will serve him well as he faces his next big challenge – medical school.

This fall, Hakoum will attend the UK College of Medicine’s campus in Lexington, Ky., a city he has called home for nearly a decade. His family immigrated to Lexington from Syria. Ever since, he has grown fond of the nice mix of city life and "the beautiful nature around it.”

He attended the University of Kentucky for his bachelor’s degree in biology. During his undergraduate training, he completed a summer research program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston on the disease x-linked dystonia-parkinsonism (XDP). “The experience was very memorable because it transformed the way I think about research and science,” he said.

Hakoum took a gap year between undergraduate training and medical school for more research experience, this time working on a grant-funded project at the UK College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment studying water and disinfection byproducts.

In his future career, Hakoum is interested in endocrinology and neurology as specialties, but also, preventative medicine and how lifestyle changes can impact health. After all, he understands from personal experience. Now, when he sees old photos of himself, he recognizes the progress he has made, and he is grateful that he took that first step.

“This journey has taught me how to be disciplined and patient, which helped me in all areas of my life, especially in my pursuit of medical school acceptance,” he said.