For Corsica doctor, life filled with new beginnings
March 2, 1982
New surroundings, new beginnings are not “new” to Dr. Mohammed Said (Sigh-eed) who had to flee to the West Bank of Jordan (Palestine) when the state of Israel was formed in 1947. Again in 1967 he and his family had to leave and went to the East Bank of Jordan. Dr. Said was born in Haifa, Palestine, and still has an aunt and a sister living 30 miles north of Jerusalem.
Basically, he came to South Dakota in November, 1981, because the clinic in Corsica needed a doctor when Dr. Taggert left to go into practice in New York state.
Said taught elementary school in Amman, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia before his studies in medicine in Granada, Spain. “I chose to study in Spain because it still has the Moorish- Arabic culture. The Spanish conquered Granada from the Moors in 1492, the same year Columbus discovered America,” Said said.
After completing graduate school in Granada, he earned his Ph.D. in preventive medicine and specialized in internal medicine at Madrid University. In 1972, Said went to Ottawa, Canada, where his brother who was an electrical engineer was living. In 1974, Said came to the united States in order to write FLEX (Federal Licensed Examination). He chose North 1)akota because it was one of the tew states who accepted foreign students for medical exams without visa or a citizenship document.
He passed his examinations and is now a Diplomate of two boards: Internal Medicine and Family Practice. He feels comfortable about this, since he does not have to worry about certification in the future. He practiced 1 and 1/2 years in Carrington, N.D, 2 years in the Veteran’s Administration Center in Fargo; 4½ years in private practice in Hankinson, N.D., before coming to Corsica.
While on a North Dakota trade mission to Jordan in 1976, Said visited his wife’s family, distant relatives of his. She had just graduated from high school and he asked for her hand in marriage; her family consented and within three days they were married. The government of Jordan gave a big farewell party for the North Dakota delegation and Dr. Said presented his new wife to his friends who were amazed that he could get engaged, and married within a matter of’ three days.
Said’s wife, Nadia, was born in Burin, Palestine, a small town 40 miles north of Jerusalem. They have three children; Yasser (whom they call “Jimmy” after Jimmy Carter), 5; Noor Falesteen (which means light of Palestine), 3; and Hashem,4 months. Nadia likes to do hand- craft, is interested in music, is a very good cook, likes to dance the native dance, but her main job is to be just a normal housewife and take care of the children.
The climate of Palestine compares to that of California. The western influence has been seen in the dress of the people there, although older women in the villages and small towns still wear long dresses and cover their heads with scarves according to Islamic religion. Lots of bread is eaten and olive oil is used for cooking, in salads and many other things.
“The Palestinians are very hard working people, most are generous and nice, and are the most educated people in the Middle East,” according to Said. Former Senator James Abourezek is one of the most well-known American persons in the Arab countries. Through him the Arabs hear a lot about South Dakota. Said feels through Sen. Abourezek more friendly relations can be established between the United States and the Arab countries. Senator Jim Abdnor also has a Lebanese background.
There are more than one million Arab Americans in this country. Said feels that the Arab image has been stereotyped in the United States. ‘ For instance, in the Arab Scam, please, why didn’t they say Jewish Scam, Scottish Scam, or Irish Scam or some other scam?” he asked.
He feels the real war in Lebanon is not a religious war, but if fomented and agitated by the Israeli State. In order to establish dominance in the area the Israeli state tries to help one faction against the other. About 20 percent of the Palestinian people are Christians; they and the Moslems are fighting for their national identity to establish their own state in the West Bank and Gaza occupied by Israel. “As far as the Lebanese war it is a war between the privileged and the underprivileged. The poor have been deprived from their rights for so long. There is also international intervention from other countries, mainly Israel. Religion is not a powerful issue; most people don’t care about religion. The presence of Palestinians in Lebanon is a contributing factor, but there is no place where the Palestinians can go.
If they were allowed to go back to their homeland in Palestine, the tension in the area would be over. It is a complex problem,” observed Said.
Dr. Said is very interested in religion and culture. He founded with others the Islamic Medical Association of the United States and Europe; was president of the Islamic Student Association in Spain and now is president of the International Islamic Medical Relief Organization. The main function of this group is to help provide medical care in the poor, stricken areas in Africa and Asia. Said hopes to get into a practice where he can take a leave of absence for a few months every year to go overseas, particularly Africa, in such countries as Somalia, Uganda and Sudan to do volunteer medical work. “I would pay all expenses for my trips, etc.; I will not be paid one penny,” he said. Down the road, he will try to get funds from oil rich countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, to build clinics and recruit doctors and get supplies.
“These organizations are like a hobby to me. Some people think all doctors have a lot of money to spend on golf courses, big houses, big cars. I like the simple life, want a simple car, a simple house. I want to dedicate part of my time to help others,” the dedicated doctor said. Much of his spare time now is spent in correspondence and he uses the telephone a lot.
“I tried to diffuse the hostage situation when the Shah was in the U.S. As Secretary General of the Islamic Medical Association of U.S.A., I talked with some of the Shah’s doctors who were attending him at a New York Hospital asking them to let me and some other doctors examine the Shah and verify that be was really sick and not in this country for political reasons. Unfortunately, they refused my demand. I then contacted Sen. McGovern’s office and a senator from North Dakota. When no reply came from the State Department, I flew on my own to Iran, talked with the students and leaders there and suggested ideas to lower the tension. I suggested that the press coverage be limited and expel the news media. me news media was contributing to the high tension and the hostage situation was harming their image in the rest of the world; their revolution and their leaders. After two weeks, I could do no more, so I came back,” Said reported.
In June, 1981, Said went back to Iran to aid the earthquake victims. He was invited by the Red Crescent, which is equivalent to the Red Cross. When be arrived he was able to talk to some of the leaders, but got caught in the middle of their civil war. Everything was in chaos, with nobody in charge. It was a major risk to stay; they were suspicious of any body coming in from the outside. One could get caught and .put in prison and no one would care. He was able to get out safely and then spent two months in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, West Bank and Spain.
“After 20 years of leaving Palestine, I went back last summer with my family. I could not go before; the irony of being born in Haifa, I was considered a foreigner in my own land and it is difficult to go back with my old identity. I obtained an American passport and I was able to cross the Jordan River and go back as an American tourist. It was fascinating to show my children where I was born and to visit my aunt, step-mother, sister, and cousin,” Said said. Dr. Said is also a journalist, at one time holding a journalist’s card as a correspondent. He writes fiction, about social life, psychology, and medicine. “My biggest story will be a saga of a Palestinian family who left Palestine, scattered all over the world; this will be about my family, tragic events, hopes, the true story of my family — like ‘Roots.’ I hope to have it published in a year or two,” he said.
When asked about medical facilities in the U.S., he rated the U.S. as the best country as far as medical treatment and health delivery system. “The U.S. has the most advanced technology in the world. However, there is some difference. It is more defensive medicine; doctors must be very careful or they might be sued. This never happens in the poor countries; doctors are appreciated and respected and people feel doctors can never do anything wrong. People in poor countries do not go to the doctor unless they are terminally ill. Many are starving from malnutrition. In the U.S.. people have very high expectations of the doctor,” Said observed.
Dr. Said and his family reside in Armour because the Douglas County Hospital is located here and travel time is cut considerably, but he will soon be leaving for a temporary assignment in Wyoming and hopefully will be back by summer.
Said is dedicated to his practice, the organizations he has helped found and his desires to help his fellow man, but he finds time to enjoy activities with his family.