The youngest son of 18 siblings in Darfur, Bashir Idris didn’t start school until he was 9 years old. His mother had to take on extra work—tending a second farm— to save the money for his education. “It was not an easy decision for my mother because farming under the African sun was just too hard,” he remembers. “From that I learned how people make sacrifices to help others.”
Idris has been sacrificing to help others ever since. He decided to become a doctor to help care for mothers and children in Darfur, a state that had only two physicians in a population of four million. (Idris himself saw a doctor for the first time at his pre-admission physical for medical school.) He took classes during the day and worked in a bakery at night. When he graduated in 2003, the genocide in Darfur had reached its peak. Idris joined Doctors Without Borders at a displaced persons camp where he worked around the clock under the constant threat of military, outbreaks, armed robberies, carjackings, and aid workers being taken hostages. “We saved the lives of thousands of people suffering from cholera, dysentery, hepatitis E, measles, meningitis and malnutrition,” he says, “and we treated hundreds of rape and tortures survivors.”
When he went on to another camp as a health manager for Save the Children, Idris led the initiative to convince the Ministry of Health in West Darfur to accept HIV as a legitimate health problem and to put in place HIV/AIDS prevention projects. “When I saw the terrific rates of HIV infection in African countries, I said, ‘there is a giant killer in the neighborhood and I should do something to stop it,’” he says.
Idris has come to the Bloomberg School to learn how to research effective treatment for HIV infection and malaria. By combining these new skills with his experience treating refugees and displaced populations, he hopes to do his part to reduce the suffering in his homeland. “There is always hope if you have the passion.”
PharmD Student, University of Maryland School of Pharmacy