Interview of Nader Ali Transcript, December 2, 2012

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Interview of Nader Ali Transcript, December 2, 2012
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Nader Ali interview
Revealing Florida’s Arab Immigrants Phase II: The Arab Business Community
Barbara Jardee
Nader Ali
Jardee Transcription
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Arab Immigration Oral History Digital Collection

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University of Florida
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Nadir Ali Sunday, December 2, 2012 Marks Street Community Ce nter in Orlando, Florida Esam Alhadi, Interviewer and Translator for the University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries Edited by Jardee Transcription Also present, Richard Saltzburg Alhadi: Thank you, Mr. Nadir Ali. We are happy to have you with us here in Orlando, Florida. My name is Esam Alhadi. I am a lecturer at the University of Florida in Gainesville. Today is Sunday December 2, 2012. It is now 2:52 PM. We are happy to be with you today. Ali: Likewise. Alhadi: We are here in the Marks Street Conven tion Center in the city of Orlando. Let us begin by asking you to tell us a little bit about the early phase of your life before coming to America, including your place of birth and education. Ali: I was born in Lebanon and studied and grew up there. After finishing my university education there, I left for Russia. I did a nother college degree there as well. I moved to the [Persian] Gulf countries and then to Am erica. I got another degree here and I currently work in a hospital laboratory. This is a brief history of my life journey. Alhadi: Let us talk in some detail, and firs t I want to have your name in full on tape. Ali:My name is Nadir Ali. Alhadi: You mentioned that one of your academic experiences has been in Russia. Would you please shed some light on this experience ? Where did you study, and where did you stay, and how long did you live in Russia? Ali: I was in a city called Kursk for four years. I obtained a degree in medi cine there. I studied in the English program. I returned to Lebanon and work ed as a specialist with a


pharmaceutical company for two years in Beirut. I was a pharmaceutical account manager. Alhadi: That means your job was not specif ically in the curative medicinal field? Ali: No. I studied medicine, but I did not work in the curative field. I joined the pharmaceutical field because I found a very good job opportunity. In addition to pharmacists, pharmaceutical industries in Lebanon and th e Gulf offer work opportunities to people with medical degrees because they will have a very easy access to physicians. Alhadi: Does that mean you didnÂ’ t practice medicine in Lebanon? Ali: No. I practiced medicine in Russia for one year at Kursk State Medical University. Alhadi: How far is this city from Moscow? Ali: It is a nine-hour trip by train. Alhadi: I should admit that I am ignorant of Ru ssiaÂ’s geography. What direction is this city from Moscow? Ali: I am not sure. I just take the tr ain and get there. It is a small town. Alhadi: Why did you specifi cally pick this city? Ali: It was the only place in Russia at the time th at had a program in English. This would work with my background as a biology B.A. holder fr om the American University in Lebanon. I also wasnÂ’t really interested in learning a new language. Alhadi: That means when you went there, you already had a B.A. Ali: I had a B.A. in biology and went to Russia to do an M.D. Alhadi: You lived in Russia for five years including the one year internship? Ali: Correct. Alhadi: Did you learn Russian?


Ali: Yes. Although lectures were in English, I ha d to deal with the people and patients and that is why I learned Russian. Alhadi: Did you become a fluent Russian speaker? Ali: It was good enough. Alhadi: Did you ever need to use yo ur Russian language here in Orlando? Ali: Only one time. I met a Russian man in a store in St. Pete. He was using his Russian language and was trying to make the people in the store understand what he was trying to say. I stepped in and saved the situation. Ru ssian is not one of the famous languages in Florida. Alhadi: You mentioned that you went to work in some Arab countries before coming to America. Ali: I was in Oman. Alhadi: Would you tell us a litt le bit about this experience? Ali: These were among the most beautiful days in my life. I lived there for two years. I lived in Lebanon for two years after coming from Russi a, and then moved to Oman and lived there for two years. I worked in the pharmaceutical field in Om an. It is a very clean and beautiful country and the people are nice. I was in Muscat. Alhadi: Did you go to any other Arab country? Ali: I went to the UAE several times. I used to go there by car for the purpose of visiting. Alhadi: Did you go to Syria when you were still in Lebanon? Ali: Sure, I did. That is the closest country to Lebanon that we can easily visit without needing a visa. I also visited Jordan and Egypt. The pharmaceutical business gave me a lot of travel opportunities.


Alhadi: Does that mean all of these trips were business related? Ali: My trips to Syria were for tourism purposes. One of my trips to Jordan was also for tourism purposes but my trip to Egypt was wo rk related. I also visited Spain. Alhadi: Can you tell us the exact nature of your work in the pharmaceutical field in Lebanon? What work were you doing exactly? Did you work in pharmacies? Ali: I was doing pharmaceutical sales. Our job was to promote the medicines by making visits to physiciansÂ’ offices or by calling them. We used to explain to them about the medicines and the side effects that might co me with them. We were also involved in studies and research projects by international companies. We also took part in meetings that we used to organize w ith doctors and hospitals. It was a very sweet job. My previous experience in the medical practice ar ea taught me that doctors have to be up-todate with all new medicines. Pharmaceutical companies play a big role in this process. They approach doctors and explain to th em about new medicines. Pharmaceutical companies compete with each other to offer their services to doctors. Alhadi: It is very clear that you benefited from your previo us experience as a physician in communicating with doctors. Ali: Sure. Some doctors see themselves in a higher position when approached by a pharmaceutical agent who has only a B.A. degree. They try to prove that they understand more than the agent. In my case, I always approached doctors by s howing them that their level and mine are the same. I talked to them about things that are mo re clinical-related. It helped me a lot in Lebanon. It was a great job. Alhadi: Great. Now let us talk about your move from the Arab countries to America.


Ali: It was very hard for me in the beginning. It was a new country for me and the number of Arab people that I dealt with was small. It wasnÂ’t easy to find Arabs and to meet with them. Alhadi: When did you come here? Ali: I came here in 2006. Not having family memb ers or friends here made it hard for me at the beginning. I starte d from scratch. Alhadi: Did you find the English used here diffe rent from the one that you got used to in Russia? Ali: It was a little bit different I am still struggling with the accent that I came with. I did my school and college education in Lebanon in Engl ish as well as my studies in Russia. The accent is still there and sometimes I find it hard to figure out some words. This may have to do with the fact that I studied following the British system. Language wasnÂ’t a serious problem for me except when losing the chance fo r a job. Some employers prefer to have someone who doesnÂ’t have an accent. At th e beginning, I couldnÂ’t find a job in my area of specialty. Alhadi: Did you come to Florida directly? Ali: Yes, I came to Florida directly in 2006 and ne ver moved to any other state. I came here to join some relatives who were residing in St. Pete. They went back to Lebanon and I continued to live here. Alhadi: Tell us a little bit a bout your experience in America and the field of work you are doing. Ali: I spent the first three months trying to join a pharmaceutical company, but had no luck. I thought that my well-rounded e xperiences would help me to find a job in this field but obviously it wasnÂ’t of any help. I havenÂ’t been invited for ev en a single interview. I


joined a retail department store for one year. Finally, I was offered a hospital laboratory job. This work gave me the idea to study for another two years in order to obtain a certificate in medical laboratories. The B.A. I had before helped me in this regard. Alhadi: Where did you study? Ali: It wasn’t a university study. It was a program offered through a blood bank company. I joined the program because I was working for them. I got the degree which entitled me to a license as a medical technologist in a blood bank. Alhadi: That means you started your career as a physician, then you joined the pharmaceutical business then the medical technology field. What else is left in the medical field that you intend to try? I beli eve this is everything. Ali: Maybe I should try the nursing field. Yes, it is a broad experience but it all revolves around medical practice. Alhadi: It is undoubtedly a big experience for a man who is as young as you. It is an honor for us to listen to this story of success and hard work. I pray to God to grant you more health and strength. Ali: Thank you. Alhadi: Tell us about the na ture of work you are doing. Ali: We have different functions within the blood bank. We test blood that is donated to make sure that it is safe and the donor is healthy. This process is called “donor testing.” When the testing comes positive, the blood gets packed and sent to hospitals. Our company is the biggest in Florida, and it c overs all the hospitals but main ly the big and main hospitals in Florida. Every hospital has its own blood bank. My role as a technologist kicks in when a patient comes in and he is in need of blood. I help with a series of tests. We


don’t give the patient the blood he needs right away. We have to test the patient first after receiving a specimen of his blood and to figure out what group his blood belongs to. We do more testing to make sure that hi s body will not react agai nst the blood he will receive. We do what we call “cross matching” to make sure that we give the right blood to the right person. It is a very complicated process. People think that if a patient is classified to have A+ group of blood, then we should give A+ blood right away. It is not just like that. Alhadi: How long have been doing this work? Ali: I have been doing this for a total of four y ears. I did it for two years as a technician and another two years as a technol ogist after I got certified. Alhadi: Are you planning to continue in this field or do you have any other plans? Ali: This field is good and has a promising future It makes me feel like I am saving patients’ lives and making a difference. Giving blood to a patient who is in serious condition makes me feel like I have cont ributed to saving that person’s life. I am currently doing an M.A. in this field. Alhadi: What hospital are you working for? Ali: I work for Lakeland Regional Medical Center. Alhadi: Do you work only in th is hospital or do you have your ow n work outside the hospital? Ali: I work only in the hospital. The small hos pitals in the county send us some specimens for testing and we do it for them. We do much of the work for most of the medical units in the county. Alhadi: It is known that medical work is around the clock. Is th is the same with your work in the lab?


Ali: We work in shifts. I do the evening shift from 2:00 PM up to midnight. Sometimes we come back and work late night dependi ng on the situation. I usually work during holidays such as Christmas and Thanksgiving. Alhadi: May God grant health and strength to you. This is undoubtedly a very big experience for a man who is as young as you. Let me now ask if you usually travel to Lebanon? Ali: I go there every year. Alhadi: When did you go there last time? Ali: Five months ago. Alhadi: Is your family there? Ali: They are still in Lebanon. Alhadi: Are you married? Ali: Not yet, but I am looking. Alhadi: This is a big life experience for a young man like you. You lived in Russia, Lebanon, Oman, and America. Have you been to any other country? Ali: I visited Spain and Egypt. Alhadi: Was it for your own entertainment? Ali: It was for training. Alhadi: Are you aware of any other Arabs here who are doing work similar to yours? Ali: I know one person, but he work s in another hospital in Tampa. Alhadi: Thank you for sharing this experience with us. You have the right to be proud and to keep your head up. Ali: Thank you, but I still feel I am not to where I wanted to be. My intention was to continue as a doctor, but it wasnÂ’t easy to do it here in America. There is too much testing to do. I


picked a field that is close to my original ar ea of specialty and which will still give me the opportunity to grow. Alhadi: I believe you mentioned earlier that you are doing an M.A. What plans do you have to continue in this field? Ali: There are some programs that relate to my wo rk. One of these is a field called transfusion medicine which prepares special ists in blood banking. It he lps one to accumulate more information and knowledge and to eventually become an expert in the field of blood banking. It will help me to get promoted and to become a supervisor of a hospital blood bank. Alhadi: I wish you all the best. Thank you very much Mr. Nadir for giving us this interview. Ali: Thank you. [END OF INTERVIEW]