A Syrian refugee who had to flee his home country because of devastating war will graduate with distinction from Dundee University today.
Rawad Qaq endured a perilous 22-day journey, across the Mediterranean by boat and over land to Germany, before coming to Dundee on a Humanitarian Scholarship to study a Masters in forensic dentistry.
Friday morning’s graduation will be even sweeter for the 27-year-old as he collects his degree knowing he has a fully-funded scholarship to complete his PhD at the University – a postdoctoral program which he hopes will help him introduce forensic dentistry and facial reconstruction in Syria to help identify victims of the war which forced him to leave three years ago.
Mr Qaq said the Humanitarian Scholarship he was awarded while living in Germany facing a bleak future completely transformed his life.
“You cannot even begin to imagine what it means to graduate with this degree,” he said.
“The education here has been fantastic; it has had a huge impact on me. Every topic I studied in my Masters was related in some way to Syria, whether it was the study of mass graves, identification of people by their teeth, health records or data problems.
“I couldn’t help during the war five years ago but now because of studying in Scotland, I will be able to pay back the support I have received here by helping identify the victims of war, not only in Syria but in other countries also ravaged by war like Iraq or Yemen.”
Professor Mark Hector, dean of the School of Dentistry, insisted Mr Qaq’s academic brilliance was one of the reasons he had been granted a highly competitive three-year Doctorate grant from the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).
He said: “Judging from the standard of work he has produced for his Masters in the School of Dentistry, I expect that he has the will and ability to become one of the leading experts in Forensic Dentistry for the identification of the decreased in Europe, if not the world.
“Rawad’s research proposal addresses the identification of human remains in a country where ante-mortem records are unlikely to be available or have been completely destroyed by war. The outcome of his research would support the efforts to ensure human rights for the victims of the Syrian conflict and to promote justice and peace in Syria. As such we are tremendously proud of his work and what he aims to achieve.”
Mr Qaq currently works as a medical interpreter for the NHS, translating Arabic to English for patients in Tayside and Fife.
Gary Jordan, from Dundee, was another medical professional to join more than 1,000 students graduating from the University this week and admitted his new career as a nurse came about largely by accident.
The 30-year-old, who received a Bachelor of Science Degree in adult nursing with distinction, has already joined the established emergency care team just in time for the East of Scotland Major Trauma Centre opening at Ninewells Hospital.
A specialist role he didn’t think would interest him at the start of his course, Gary now describes the chance to work in the department as a dream opportunity.
“I fell into nursing by accident – a happy accident,” he said.
“I had studied law and then maths with psychology beforehand and did well in both, but never really felt like either courses were for me. But after doing some volunteer work with The Samaritans, helping people quickly developed into a passion and one I realised I wanted to turn into a career.”