International Programs is honored to present awards for International Parents of the Year to Ebtesam Fouad Yanny Gerges and Shehata Fouad Georgy Nakhla. Mrs. Gerges and Mr. Nakhla were nominated by their son, David Shehata Fouad Georgy Nakhla, a PhD candidate in the UI College of Pharmacy from Cairo, Egypt, for serving their community in Egypt as physicians and supporting David’s educational journey.
According to David, for over 30 years, his dad had always served the community he lived in and nearby neighborhoods providing the best medical care and advice 24-7. His goal was to help those in need of medical care, and he provided medical care and advice for free for those who couldn't afford it. He treated people as human beings and not as a patient or case number, and showed compassion and love to everyone. Patients from all over Cairo and Egypt would visit him on a regular basis. Additionally, he donated money to charities and people in their community who were low-wage workers or those without work.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Nakhla refused to stop going to work even though he had an autoimmune disease which required taking a lot of medications that weakened his immune system. In March 2021, he caught COVID-19 from one of his patients and passed away on April 3. “He lived a life of service to others and never sought his own comfort but the comfort of those around him,” said David.
Since David graduated from high school, Mr. Nakhla financially supported every phase of his education, including attending a private international university and participating in an exchange program in the U.S. while he was a master’s student enrolled in an Egyptian institution. “He sent me $1,500 every month to cover my rent and expenses for the whole six months I was there,” recalled David. “This was the bravest thing ever especially since he was working from Egypt and the currency exchange rate was high.”
“After that, he supported my decision to join the University of Iowa in 2017 for my PhD program. Even though I have a graduate assistantship here and it is fully funded, he would still send me money every once in a while, as a bonus. He would call me whenever he was staying up late to make sure I was doing ok and that I didn't need anything. Whenever I traveled to Egypt for a visit, he would cover all my trip expenses.”
Since his dad’s passing, David’s mom, a retired physician, is currently visiting David in the U.S. to support him as he is in the final stretch of his PhD studies. “I am glad that she is here with me now and that she is able to support me through my education and I am also able to support her after my dad's passing. I am also glad that she will be able to attend my commencement ceremony and see me graduate with my PhD,” added David. “My mom’s goal was to be the best wife for my dad and the best parent for me and my brother Samuel. She is very selfless and always thinks about how to make our lives better. She volunteered a lot in mobile clinics to provide medical care for free. She also volunteered at church to provide leadership for the youth group for over 20 years.”
David wishes his dad could be here to witness his upcoming PhD graduation and receive the International Parents of the Year award from the UI as a recognition of all the sacrifices he made for his family and community. “This award means a lot to me and my mom, especially after my dad's passing last year. It will surely lift her up a lot and put a smile on her face when she sees both her and my dad's names on it as a recognition to all the sacrifices they have made for me and my brother,” said David.
Honorable mention for the 2022 International Parents of the Year award goes to Romana Pokorna and Petr Pokorny, the parents of Barbora Pokorna from Ostrava, Czechia. Barbora is an undergraduate student-athlete on the Iowa women’s tennis team. In Barbora’s words, “My parents have always been supportive of my decision to go study in the U.S. They loved the idea of playing tennis and getting a great education at the same time. They paid for a company that helped me with the process of becoming a student-athlete and looking for the right university. They also paid for math tutoring for me to get a good SAT score. They were asking me questions when I was talking to coaches from different universities, and they always made sure that I made the right decision. They were very happy when I decided to commit to Iowa because the coaches are amazing and they knew I was going to a great environment.”
International Programs (IP) at the University of Iowa (UI) is committed to enriching the global experience of UI students, faculty, staff, and the general public by leading efforts to promote internationally oriented teaching, research, creative work, and community engagement. IP provides support for international students and scholars, administers scholarships and assistance for students who study, intern, or do research abroad, and provides funding opportunities and grant-writing assistance for faculty engaged in international research. IP shares their stories through various media, and by hosting multiple public engagement activities each year.