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Transcript of Adnan El-Yazigi interview in English
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Title: Transcript of Adnan El-Yazigi interview in English
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Language: English
Creator: Al-Hadi, Esam ( Translator )
Jardee, Barbara ( Transcriptionist )
Publisher: Jardee Transcription
Place of Publication: Tuscon, AZ
Publication Date: 2011
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Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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System ID: AA00008570:00003

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Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 1 Dr. Adnan El Yazigi December 3, 2011 Jacksonville, Florida Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Alhadi: Hello and Thank you Dr. Adnan El Yazigi. Adnan El Yazigi: He llo. Alhadi: We are very happy to have you with us today for this interview at the house of Mr. date is Saturday December 3, 2011, and it is now 2:30 PM. It is great to have yo u Dr. Adnan. Adnan El Yazigi: I am happy to be with you. Alhadi: Let us begin with your early stages of life before coming to America. Would you please tell us about that period including your place of birth and any other details about that period? Adn an El Yazigi: I was born in the town of Al Nabk in the Qalamoun region in Syria. My family was originally from a village in the suburbs of Hums named Zaidal. It is located five kilometers way from Hums. My family in Zaidal is big and most of its member s ended here in the USA. I had my high school education at the Qalamoun High School in Al Nabk, and then moved to Damascus where I had my B.A. in pharmacology and chemical pharmacology. My desire to continue my education and to obtain a Ph.D. in pharmacol ogy brought me to the USA, where some of my family members, including my sister and other relatives, had already established themselves. I came to Jacksonville and started

PAGE 2

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 2 my studies with an English language course because the second language we had in Sy ria was French. I spent four months in that English language course then moved to Gainesville where I had an intensive English language course at the University of Florida. I also attended the College of Pharmacology at UF for one quarter in 1972. Half w ay into that quarter at UF, I received a research assistant fellowship from the University of Houston. pharmacology there. It took me one year and four months to finish my studies in Hou ston, and after that I returned to Jacksonville to be with the rest of my family members. I began working as pharmacist, and in the meantime I continued making contacts and sending applications to different universities. Luckily, I got accepted into the U niversity of Minnesota College of Pharmacology program. I moved to Minnesota in August 1974 and remained there for four years until I obtained my Ph.D. in Pharmacokinetics. During my period there, I also worked as a teacher associate II. That was the hi ghest level of teaching assistantship. The then dean of the pharmacology college at the University of Minnesota was also serving as an advisor for the college of pharmacology at Riyadh University in Saudi Arabia. He was helping them to develop their acad emic program and curriculum and also with staff recruitment from the USA. They were interested in individuals who have knowledge of Arabic. He suggested that I should meet with the dean and vice dean of the college of pharmacology of Riyadh University wh ich is now the University of King Saud. I met looking for someone in that field. I applied and they offered me an assistant professor

PAGE 3

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 3 position at the college of pharm acology at Riyadh University. I worked with them for three years. Alhadi: When did you go to Riyadh? Adnan El Yazigi: It was in 1978. In the summer of 1980, the Cancer Therapy Institute at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital was still under constructi on under the supervision of an American company called Hospital Corporation of America, and they were trying to recruit staff for that institute. I got in touch with them and they proposed to offer me a position with the institute. I went back to Jackson ville, Florida, and then returned to Riyadh in August 1981 to join the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. It is a fact to say that I and another seven or eight scientists were the people who actually brought the Cancer Therapy Institute in Riyadh into opera tion. We covered a variety of specialties such as pharmacokinetics, radiation therapy, cyclotron operation and radionuclide production. the institute to function m ore efficiently and professionally. The Americans who established the institute also helped to develop its programs and continued to be the actual managers. After I joined the institute, we continued to recruit more scientists to work with us. Alhadi: H ow many years did you spend at the institute? Adnan El Yazigi: I was there for four years when it was still a therapy institute. After that, the hospital administration decided to make it into a research center to deal with the scientific problems that deal with cancer diseases and other cases with chronic diseases that the hospital was receiving from other hospitals. This shift resulted in a broadening of the research efforts it had been focused on for the first four years which was cancer therapy.

PAGE 4

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 4 I became the head of the pharmacokinetics department. We began to cooperate with other oncology specialists on some clinical trials. My role in these trials was to cover all that related to the field of pharmacokinetics. All the drugs that were used in ca ncer therapy were very strong and highly toxic. The role of pharmacokinetics is to reduce the toxicity and to increase the efficiency of these drugs. This is what I have been doing. My colleagues and I were able to produce many publications and papers o n these research projects. I have 165 publications listed on my resume including 95 papers and many other short reports and abstracts, in addition to a number of conferences that I have attended. I have also been invited to many other conferences as gues t speaker to talk about my field of research and also about our experience from the King Faisal Hospital. Alhadi: This is very good. It is indeed a wealth of knowledge and rich experience. When did you finish working for the institute in Riyadh? Adnan El Yazigi: I returned back in 1998 after seventeen years of work for the institute, and another three years of work for the King Saud University. Alhadi: Is it fair to say that most of your professional experience came from your work in Riyadh? Adnan El Yazigi: This is true for the research part of my professional experience. However, after coming back from Saudi Arabia in 1998, and up to this date, I associated myself with a company named Southern Testing and Research Laboratories in Wilson, NC. I am the founding manager of the pharmacokinetics division in this company. I told them that I want to go back to Jacksonville where the rest of my family is. I should mention that during these years, all my family members and many of my relatives moved to Ja cksonville. My father died in 1989, and two years later [1991] my mother came to

PAGE 5

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 5 settle in Jacksonville. I proposed to the company that they open a branch in Jacksonville and that I can be their partner. They accepted the idea, and accordingly the South ern Testing and Research Laboratories, Jacksonville, was established. I became the manager and partner in this company. I recruited many employees to help me in running this company. Alhadi: When did this company start? Adnan El Yazigi: It started in 1 998, and I am in this position since that date. Alhadi: This is very impressive. Adnan El Yazigi: Thank you. I should also mention that during this time I became an adjunct faculty with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. I joined their psychopharmacology department and continued working with them for three or four years. When my work at the company became too overwhelming, I decided to reduce my work with the Mayo Clinic. Alhadi: It is a great honor to know about such an impressive professional history. Adnan El Yazigi: Thank you very much. Alhadi: It has become very clear that you have a very long experience with a wide range of educational systems. You began your university education at the University of Damascus and then you moved to the University of Florida and then to the University of Houston followed by your period of study at the University of Minnesota, and finally your teaching and work experience in Riyadh. I am going to ask you to draw a comparison between the Arabic educational system on one hand and the American system on the other, in your field of specialty.

PAGE 6

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 6 Adnan El Yazigi: There are no grounds for comparison at all. I feel proud that I am a graduate of the University of Damascus. It is undoubtedly one of the Arab universities that have established academic traditions. However, there were no research activities at all. They focused mainly on teaching basic science subjects such as chemistry, physics, and all fields of biological sciences. Research in these fields was absent. Thi s is certainly a big drawback. I was hoping to cooperate with them, but due to a lack of material and equipment facilities, it was not possible to realize the many hopes and ideas I had. It is also a fact that faculty members at the University of Damascu s are burdened with a very heavy teaching load. This makes it even harder for those who wish to undertake any research to do so. Again, I reiterate what I said earlier about basic science fields there. These helped me immensely to carry on my graduate s tudies here with no problem at all. The problem appears when it comes to the field of applied sciences. Most of the instructors there were graduates from France. Those of them who taught topics such as pharmacochemistry, for instance, had no opportunity to develop their knowledge in this the opportunity to follow up and communicate with other science research institutions to get further professional development. To m e, this was undoubtedly an academic deficiency. I am talking about my days thirty or forty years ago in the college of pharmacology. I hope it is getting better now. I heard that they are now offering M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Alhadi: How was it at the Riyadh University? Adnan El Yazigi: The case of Riyadh University was completely different. As I mentioned earlier, I went to Riyadh University following a recommendation by the dean of the

PAGE 7

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 7 pharmacology college at the University of Minnesota, who was als o acting as an advisor for the pharmacology program at Riyadh University, and was also helping them with their curriculum to match that of the American universities. He suggested that I should go and start the pharmacokinetics program there. In Riyadh Un iversity, there was a huge emphasis on research. Faculty promotion is tied to the number of published research papers. This is similar to the system in any American university that I have been to. The impact of the American university system on the Riya dh University which later became King Saud University percentage of professors and instructors at King Saud University got their degrees from American universities. Alhadi: I think it is notable that not only the King Saud University but also most of the Saudi universities have almost literally adopted the American University system. I think when it comes to education, it is a good policy to start from where the others have reached, rather than s tarting from the beginning. Adnan El Yazigi: That is wonderful. However, I may disagree on one point that not all the Saudi universities are like that. They have varied systems. It is true that the influence of the American university system could be f elt on all of them, but to different degrees. The King Fahd University in Dammam, for instance, is almost 100% American. Everything there follows the American system. For this reason, its graduates are highly qualified. Riyadh University may rank second after King Fahd University. I recently heard that the Riyadh University is ranked #106 worldwide. Alhadi: Another example may be the new University of King Abdalla.

PAGE 8

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 8 have there recently, but from my readings and follow up, I can assume that this university will soon be one of the magnificent universities in the Arab world. Alhadi: Let us move to another topic. Unfortunately, we are running out of time because we have only thirty minutes for this interview. Would you, as a member of the Arabic community here in Jacksonville, tell us about this community? What activities d oes it undertake and to what degree is it interacting with the surrounding American society? Adnan El Yazigi: Arabs in Jacksonville are deeply rooted. I believe the first Arab immigration to Jacksonville took place in 1880. I am proud to state the fact that my relatives were among those early immigrants. Those were the uncles of my father and mother who came to Jacksonville from Hums and Al Nabk 1880. At that time, those who had Arabic ethnic background suffered discrimination. Consequently, they hid their original names such as the Yazigi name. In addition to the fact that these Arabic names were hard to pronounce, they were also indicative of being an alien. Changing names is one step the Arab community members had taken to get immersed in the big ger American society. Taking a new name happened by making a slight change in the original name. One of my grandchildren changed their last name to be Joseph. Today, t he Josephs make one big family here in Jacksonville. Another early immigrant was called Abdulateef. His children took the name of Albert. All of those were actually off springs of the bigger Yazigi family. Another group who descended from another uncle of my father changed their original Arabic name El Yazigi to Elian. The only group that kept the Yazigi name

PAGE 9

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 9 is the one that came in the early 1950s. This is the time when the situation became different and they felt no need to hide their ethnicity any more. Today, there are no less than forty or fifty families who are Yazigis, in addition to the other groups of the Josephs, the Elians, and the Alberts. Alhadi: This indicates very clearly that a big number of your family migrated to Jacksonville. To w hat extent are you still maintaining connections with Syria? Adnan El Yazigi: The older generations have no connections at all because all of their relatives are here. The new immigrant generations are still maintaining very close connections. I and my brothers, for instance, are married to Syrian ladies, and all our in laws are in Syria. For that reason, we go to Syria every few years to see our relatives and to refresh our relations. Alhadi: When did you go to Syria last time? Adnan El Yazigi: It wa s in 2007. I took my wife and my mother to see her brother who is still alive. Alhadi: Do you have children? Adnan El Yazigi: I have a son and a daughter. My son is thirty one years old and he is a doctor. He works for the Shands Hospital in Jacksonvil le. His name is Edward Jack Yazigi and he is an internal medicine specialist. He is also board certified. My daughter is named Suzanna Maria Yazigi and she is a chiropractic physician. She recently graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic in Port O range in Florida, and she is now practicing chiropractic medicine here in Jacksonville. Alhadi: Is their decision to go into the health and medical field a choice of their own or were they influenced by you?

PAGE 10

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 10 Adnan El Yazigi: It is natural for the family choice, although my wife has a law degree. I think it is unquestionable that the medical field offers a wide range of good job opportunities. It also provides prestige and a stable financial situation. These have been their main incentives. I can proudly say that each one of my siblings has a child who is either studying or already graduated from a medical program. Two of my nephews are doctors. One of them is doing pediatrics in Ohio and the other o ne is doing surgery at the University of Pittsburg Hospital. Alhadi: Are your children maintaining any connection with Syria? are here. When we were in Saudi Arabia, we used to go to Syria. That helped to create a very close relationship with their grandfathers. The 2003. Let me go back to your question about the Jacksonville Arab community. In addition to the Syrian immigrants, there is also a large number of Palestinians who came here after the Nakba of 1948. They mainly came from the area of Ramallah. There are also many Lebanese. I c an sum up by saying that the Arab community is well established and they are doing very well scholastically, professionally and financially. Alhadi: How big is this community? Can you give a roughly estimated number? Adnan El Yazigi: Counting all tho se who are Arab or from an Arab descent, the number will be around 40,000 and may be more. Alhadi: This is truly big.

PAGE 11

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 11 Adnan El Yazigi: True. There is one thing that I should mention and I should be very specific about. I am a scientist and I love to label things based on their actual designations. This is related to the reasons behind the early waves of immigration. Those early immigrants came here because of the religious discrimination they suffered during the late Ottoman period. They are basica lly Christians. The Palestinians who came after the Nakba of 1948 from Ramallah were also mostly Christians. They came and established their communities and churches here. Now they have four churches. The new immigrations were not restricted to Christi ans. Many Arabs continued to come and settle here in Jacksonville. They go to school and earn higher degrees and some of them study medicine. I am particularly proud of the Syrian Muslim community and also the Palestinians and Lebanese. This is in addi tion to the early generations who, to some extent, lost their connection with everything Arabic. They still claim their Arabic ethnicity, but their commitment to the varied Arab social activities is very limited. Alhadi: It is very clear that America h as offered you a lot in terms of academic qualifications, settlement and experience. At the end of this interview let me ask you this last question. What do you think you personally have given back to America? Adnan El Yazigi: This is a very wonderful question. The truth is that I am doing a type of lab work that no other laboratories do. My work focuses on toxicology and pharmacology which no other lab does. I can proudly say that many government departments come and ask me to do work for them becau se they know that nobody else can do it in Jacksonville, and the only other option they have is to take it to Gainesville. They prefer to do it locally. This leads me to say that I offer services in the areas of toxics and drugs of abuse e before. I assume this is a good contribution. I also feel very loyal to

PAGE 12

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 12 this country. I am proud that I have been an American citizen for the past thirty years. I admit that this country has given me a lot, and I do my best to pay her back through my professional contributions and other social activities. Alhadi: We are very happy that we had this interview with you Dr. Adnan. We hope to meet with you later on. Adnan El Yazigi: Thank you very much and good luck with your project. [END OF INTERVIEW]



PAGE 1

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 1 Dr. Adnan El Yazigi December 3, 2011 Jacksonville, Florida Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Alhadi: Hello and Thank you Dr. Adnan El Yazigi. Adnan El Yazigi: He llo. Alhadi: We are very happy to have you with us today for this interview at the house of Mr. date is Saturday December 3, 2011, and it is now 2:30 PM. It is great to have yo u Dr. Adnan. Adnan El Yazigi: I am happy to be with you. Alhadi: Let us begin with your early stages of life before coming to America. Would you please tell us about that period including your place of birth and any other details about that period? Adn an El Yazigi: I was born in the town of Al Nabk in the Qalamoun region in Syria. My family was originally from a village in the suburbs of Hums named Zaidal. It is located five kilometers way from Hums. My family in Zaidal is big and most of its member s ended here in the USA. I had my high school education at the Qalamoun High School in Al Nabk, and then moved to Damascus where I had my B.A. in Pharmacy and C hemical Pharmacy My desire to continue my education and to obtain a Ph.D. in Pharmacy brought me to the USA, where some of my family members, including my sister and other relatives, had already established themselves. I came to Jacksonville and started my

PAGE 2

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 2 studies with an English language course because the second language we had in Syria was Fren ch. I spent four months in that English language course then moved to Gainesville where I had an intensive English language course at the University of Florida. I also attended the College of Pharmacy at UF for one quarter in 1972. Half way into that qua rter at UF, I received a research assistant fellowship from the University of Houston. Pharmacy there. It took me one year and four months to finish my studies in Houston, and after that I returned to Jacksonville to be with the rest of my family members. I began working as pharmacist, and in the meantime I continued making contacts and sending applications to different universities. Luckily, I got accepted into the University of Minneso ta College of Pharmacy program. I moved to Minnesota in August 1974 and remained there for four years until I obtained my Ph.D. in Pharmacokinetics. During my period there, I also worked as a teacher associate II. That was the highest level of teaching assistantship. The then dean of the Pharmacy college at the University of Minnesota was also serving as an advisor for the college of Pharmacy at Riyadh University in Saudi Arabia. He was helping them to develop their academic program and curriculum and also with staff recruitment from the USA. They were interested in individuals who have knowledge of Arabic. He suggested that I should meet with the dean and vice dean of the college of Pharmacy of Riyadh University which is now the University of King Sa ud. I met with them and learned that field. I applied and they offered me an assistant professor position at the college of Pharmacy at Riyadh University. I worked with them for three years.

PAGE 3

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 3 Alhadi: When did you go to Riyadh? Adnan El Yazigi: It was in 1978. In the summer of 1980, the Cancer Therapy Institute at the King Faisal Specialist Hospital was still under construction under the supervision of an American company called Hospital Corporation of America, and they were trying to recruit staff for that institute. I got in touch with them and they proposed to offer me a position with the institute. I went back to Jacksonville, Florida, and then returned to Riy adh in August 1981 to join the King Faisal Specialist Hospital. It is a fact to say that I and another seven or eight scientists were the people who actually brought the Cancer Therapy Institute in Riyadh into operation. We covered a variety of specialti es such as pharmacokinetics, radiation therapy, cyclotron operation and radionuclide production. the institute to function more efficiently and professionally. The Americans who established the institute also helped to develop its programs and continued to be the actual managers. After I joined the institute, we continued to recruit more scientists to work with us. Alhadi: How many years did you spend at the insti tute? Adnan El Yazigi: I was there for four years when it was still a therapy institute. After that, the hospital administration decided to make it into a research center to deal with the scientific problems that deal with cancer diseases and other case s with chronic diseases that the hospital was receiving from other hospitals. This shift resulted in a broadening of the research efforts it had been focused on for the first four years which was cancer therapy. I became the head of the pharmacokinetics department. We began to cooperate with other oncology specialists on some clinical trials. My role in these trials was to cover all

PAGE 4

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 4 that related to the field of pharmacokinetics. All the drugs that were used in cancer therapy were very strong and highly toxic. The role of pharmacokinetics is to reduce the toxicity and to increase the efficiency of these drugs. This is what I have been doing. My colleagues and I were able to produce many publications and papers on these research projects. I have 165 p ublications listed on my resume including 95 papers and many other short reports and abstracts, in addition to a number of conferences that I have attended. I have also been invited to many other conferences as guest speaker to talk about my field of rese arch and also about our experience from the King Faisal Hospital. Alhadi: This is very good. It is indeed a wealth of knowledge and rich experience. When did you finish working for the institute in Riyadh? Adnan El Yazigi: I returned back in 1998 afte r seventeen years of work for the institute, and another three years of work for the King Saud University. Alhadi: Is it fair to say that most of your professional experience came from your work in Riyadh? Adnan El Yazigi: This is true for the research p art of my professional experience. A fter coming back from Saudi Arabia in 1998 and until the beginning of the year 2000 I associated myself with a company named Southern Testing and Research Laboratories in Wilson, NC. I am the founding manager of the ph armacokinetics division in this company. I told them that I want to go back to Jacksonville where the rest of my family is. I should mention that during these years, all my family members and many of my relatives moved to Jacksonville. My father died in 1989, and two years later [1991] my mother came to settle in Jacksonville. I proposed to the company that they open a branch in Jacksonville and that I can be their partner. They accepted the idea, and accordingly at the beginning

PAGE 5

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 5 of the year 2000, the Southern Testing and Research Laboratories, Jacksonville, was established and became a separate entity not associated with the lab in Wilson, North Carolina. I was the manager and partner and recruited many employees to help me run th e company. Alhadi: Wh en did this company start? Adnan El Yazigi: It started in 1998, and I am in this position since that date. Alhadi: This is very impressive. Adnan El Yazigi: Thank you. I should also mention that during this time I became an adjunct faculty with the May o Clinic in Jacksonville. I joined their P sycho Pharmacy department and continued working with them for three or four years. When my work at the company became too overwhelming, I decided to reduce my work with the Mayo Clinic. Alhadi: It is a great hon or to know about such an impressive professional history. Adnan El Yazigi: Thank you very much. Alhadi: It has become very clear that you have a very long experience with a wide range of educational systems. You began your university education at the Un iversity of Damascus and then you moved to the University of Florida and then to the University of Houston followed by your period of study at the University of Minnesota, and finally your teaching and work experience in Riyadh. I am going to ask you to d raw a comparison between the Arabic educational system on one hand and the American system on the other, in your field of specialty. Adnan El Yazigi: There are no grounds for comparison at all. I feel proud that I am a graduate of the University of Damas cus. It is undoubtedly one of the Arab universities that have established academic traditions. However, there were no research activities at all. They

PAGE 6

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 6 focused mainly on teaching basic science subjects such as chemistry, physics, and all fields of biolog ical sciences. Research in these fields was absent. This is certainly a big drawback. I was hoping to cooperate with them, but due to a lack of material and equipment facilities, it was not possible to realize the many hopes and ideas I had. It is also a fact that faculty members at the University of Damascus are burdened with a very heavy teaching load. This makes it even harder for those who wish to undertake any research to do so. Again, I reiterate what I said earlier about basic science fields th ere. These helped me immensely to carry on my graduate studies here with no problem at all. The problem appears when it comes to the field of applied sciences. Most of the instructors there were graduates from France. Those of them who taught topics su ch as pharmacochemistry, for instance, had no opportunity to develop their knowledge in this the opportunity to follow up and communicate with other science research in stitutions to get further professional development. To me, this was undoubtedly an academic deficiency. I am talking about my days thirty or forty years ago in the college of Pharmacy I hope it is getting better now. I heard that they are now offering M.A. and Ph.D. degrees. Alhadi: How was it at the Riyadh University? Adnan El Yazigi: The case of Riyadh University was completely different. As I mentioned earlier, I went to Riyadh University following a recommendation by the dean of the Pharmacy co llege at the University of Minnesota, who was also acting as an advisor for the Pharmacy program at Riyadh University, and was also helping them with their curriculum to match that of the American universities. He suggested that I should go and

PAGE 7

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 7 start the pharmacokinetics program there. In Riyadh University, there was a huge emphasis on research. Faculty promotion is tied to the number of published research papers. This is similar to the system in any American university that I have been to. The impact of the American university system on the Riyadh University which later became King Saud University percentage of professors and instructors at King Saud University got their degrees from American universities. Alhadi: I think it is notable that not only the King Saud University but also most of the Saudi universities have almost literally adopted the American University system. I think when it comes to education, it is a good policy to start from where the others have reached, rather than starting from the beginning. Adnan El Yazigi: That is wonderful. However, I may disagree on one point that not all the Saudi universities are like that. They have varied systems. It is true that the influence of the American university system could be felt on all of them, but to different degrees. The King Fahd University in Dammam, for instance, is almost 100% American. Everything there follows the American system. For this reason, its graduates are highly qualified. Riyadh University may rank second after King Fahd University. I recently heard that the Riyadh University is ranked #106 worldwide. Alhadi: Another example may be the new University of King Abdalla. Adnan El Yazigi: This is a 100% research there recently, but from my readings and follow up, I can assume that this university will soon be one of the magnific ent universities in the Arab world.

PAGE 8

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 8 Alhadi: Let us move to another topic. Unfortunately, we are running out of time because we have only thirty minutes for this interview. Would you, as a member of the Arabic community here in Jacksonville, tel l us about this community? What activities does it undertake and to what degree is it interacting with the surrounding American society? Adnan El Yazigi: Arabs in Jacksonville are deeply rooted. I believe the first Arab immigration to Jacksonville took place in 1880. I am proud to state the fact that my relatives were among those early immigrants. Those were the uncles of my father and mother who came to Jacksonville from Hums and Al Nabk 1880. At that time, those who had Arabic ethnic background suf fered discrimination. Consequently, they hid their original names such as the Yazigi name. In addition to the fact that these Arabic names were hard to pronounce, they were also indicative of being an alien. Changing names is one step the Arab community members had taken to get immersed in the bigger American society. Taking a new name happened by making a slight change in the original name. One of my grandchildren ch anged their last name to be Joseph. Today, the Josephs make one big family here in Jacksonville. Another early immigrant was called Abdulateef. His children took the name of Albert. All of those were actually off springs of the bigger Yazigi family. A nother group who descended from another uncle of my father changed their original Arabic name El Yazigi to Elian. The only group that kept the Yazigi name is the one that came in the early 1950s. This is the time when the situation became different and t hey felt no need to hide their ethnicity any more. Today, there are no less than forty or fifty families who are Yazigis, in addition to the other groups of the Josephs, the Elians, and the Alberts.

PAGE 9

Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 9 Alhadi: This indicates very clearly that a big number of your family migrated to Jacksonville. To what extent are you still maintaining connections with Syria? Adnan El Yazigi: The older generations have no connections at all because all of their relatives are here. The new immigrant generations are still m aintaining very close connections. I and my brothers, for instance, are married to Syrian ladies, and all our in laws are in Syria. For that reason, we go to Syria every few years to see our relatives and to refresh our relations. Alhadi: When did you g o to Syria last time? Adnan El Yazigi: It was in 2007. I took my wife and my mother to see her brother who is still alive. Alhadi: Do you have children? Adnan El Yazigi: I have a son and a daughter. My son is thirty one years old and he is a doctor. H e works for the Shands Hospital in Jacksonville. His name is Edward Jack Yazigi and he is an internal medicine specialist. He is also board certified. My daughter is named Suzanna Maria Yazigi and she is a chiropractic physician. She recently graduated from Palmer School of Chiropractic in Port Orange in Florida, and she is now practicing chiropractic medicine here in Jacksonville. Alhadi: Is their decision to go into the health and medical field a choice of their own or were they influenced by you? Ad choice, although my wife has a law degree. I think it is unquestionable that the medical field offers a wide range of good job opportunities. It also provide s prestige and a stable financial situation. These have been their main incentives. I can proudly say that each

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Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 10 one of my siblings has a child who is either studying or already graduated from a medical program. Two of my nephews are doctors. One of the m is doing pediatrics in Ohio and the other one is doing surgery at the University of Pittsburg Hospital. Alhadi: Are your children maintaining any connection with Syria? y of their go to Syria. That helped to create a very close relationship with their grandfathers. The last time my son went to visit Syria was in 1997, and my daughter 2003. Let me go back to your question about the Jacksonville Arab community. In addition to the Syrian immigrants, there is also a large number of Palestinians who came here after the Nakba of 1948. They mainly came from the area of Ramallah. There are also many Lebanese. I can sum up by saying that the Arab community is well established and they are doing very well scholastically, professionally and financially. Alhadi: How big is this community? Can you give a roughly estimate d number? Adnan El Yazigi: Counting all those who are Arab or from an Arab descent, the number will be around 40,000 and may be more. Alhadi: This is truly big. Adnan El Yazigi: True. There is one thing that I should mention and I should be very spe cific about. I am a scientist and I love to label things based on their actual designations. This is related to the reasons behind the early waves of immigration. Those early immigrants came here because of the religious discrimination they suffered dur ing the late Ottoman period. They are basically Christians. The Palestinians who came after the Nakba of

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Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 11 1948 from Ramallah were also mostly Christians. They came and established their communities and churches here. Now they have four churches. The ne w immigrations were not restricted to Christians. Many Arabs continued to come and settle here in Jacksonville. They go to school and earn higher degrees and some of them study medicine. I am particularly proud of the Syrian Muslim community and also th e Palestinians and Lebanese. This is in addition to the early generations who, to some extent, lost their connection with everything Arabic. They still claim their Arabic ethnicity, but their commitment to the varied Arab social activities is very limite d. Alhadi: It is very clear that America has offered you a lot in terms of academic qualifications, settlement and experience. At the end of this interview let me ask you this last question. What do you think you personally have given back to America? Adnan El Yazigi: This is a very wonderful question. The truth is that I am doing a type of lab work that no other laboratories do. My work focuses on toxicology and Pharmacy which no other lab does. I can proudly say that many government departments come and ask me to do work for them because they know that nobody else can do it in Jacksonville, and the only other option they have is to take it to Gainesville. They prefer to do it locally. This leads me to say that I offer services in the areas of t oxics and drugs of abuse that country. I am proud that I have been an American citizen for the past thirty years. I admit that this country has given me a lot, an d I do my best to pay her back through my professional contributions and other social activities. Alhadi: We are very happy that we had this interview with you Dr. Adnan. We hope to meet with you later on.

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Adnan El Yazigi Syria, Draft 2, Page 12 Adnan El Yazigi: Thank you very much and good l uck with your project. [END OF INTERVIEW]