Grandmother’s battle with cancer inspired grad to pursue medical school
Now that Roha Abbas is finished with high school, she has her sights set on starting college this fall at Tulane University in New Orleans.
“I’m going to major in public health and after college go to medical school,” Abbas, a 2021 graduate of Destrehan High School, said. “I’m open to looking at everything in medicine before I decide what I want to do.”
Abbas said it was her own grandmother’s battle with cancer that inspired her to become a doctor.
“It showed me the real importance of a doctor,” she said. “The hope that the doctor would give us was so important to my entire family.”
Abbas packed her time at DHS with extracurricular activities. She served as a Wildcat Mentor and was a member of the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, Executive Board, Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society, Interact Club, Beta Club, National English Honor Society, Newsletter Club and Debate Club.
Her time of the Superintendent’s Advisory Council, Abbas said, was among her favorite.
“You got to tell him about your concerns and tell him how you think things could be improved,” Abbas said of Superintendent Dr. Ken Oertling.
Abbas said during one meeting several students, including herself, told Oertling how each time the cafeteria served pizza it was nearly still frozen.
“The next day it was so hot that we burnt our tongues,” she recalled laughing. “We were like, ‘It works!’”
During her high school years Abbas served on the Jefferson Parish Youth Council and volunteered at the St. Charles Parish Public Library, Ormond Methodist Church Food Pantry, Alligator Festival and St. Rose Elementary School.
Her awards in high school include an Ochsner Academic Honor, honor roll, Patrick F. Taylor Scholar Award, LSU Mathematics Contest Meritorious Achievement Award, ROARS Award and Sewing Achievement Award.
Abbas said the distinction of being chose for the Ochsner STAR program – which provides qualified high school students an opportunity to explore the world of healthcare through a rigorous, hands-on summer course focusing on science, technology, academics and research – was an amazing opportunity.
“Only 15 people out of the state of Louisiana get it, and that’s out of 500 or 600 applicants,” she said. “I jumped so high when I found out I got selected … it was amazing, and I didn’t expect to get it.”
Her hard work and effort in high school earned her a LIVE UNITED Scholarship, as well as a scholarship from the St. Charles Rotary Scholarship Foundation.
Abbas, who can communicate in three languages, moved to St. Charles Parish and started public school locally when she was in 5th grade. The changes from Jefferson Parish public schools were immense, she said, adding she struggled at first to adapt to the more rigorous pace.
But the hard work, she said, was worth it.
“The opportunities my siblings and I have here in St. Charles Parish just weren’t possible in Jefferson Parish,” she said.