Alumni Profile: Ashkon Mahmoudi

Alumni Profile: Ashkon Mahmoudi

Ashkon Mahmoudi, WAB graduate from the class of 2007, stopped in for a visit before heading off to prepare for the MCAT exams this month. Ashkon is resolute in his decision to become a doctor but his path to this point has been anything but usual.

Coming to WAB from a school whose entire enrollment was forty students was quite a change for Ashkon, it was a welcome change. "It is not a common thing that the students here get, students and teachers from all corners of the world. I used to play basketball with the teachers after school. We had twelve players from ten countries." At WAB, Ashkon developed an early awareness of the environment and community service. In recalling his school days he remembers being very aware of the environment around him because of the state of the air, the water, and the rapid construction. He also remembers his involvement with China and with the local community throughout his years at WAB. Even this academically high achiever admits, "IB is a ton of work. But the experience you have with the teachers... The school is based around the students. We were spoiled."

Following his high school graduation, Ashkon elected to do a volunteer year in service at the Baha'i World Center, the administrative and spiritual center of his faith, in North Israel. Ashkon worked as a security guard at the Baha'i International Archives building and also studied and did stone restoration work – mortaring, analyzing stone, predicting damage, and construction work- at the Shrine of the Bab. "It was an amazing experience. Being in Security and being on your own was challenging. So much personal growth happened. I met pilgrims from all over the world."

After completing his year in service, Ashkon enrolled in the University of California –Davis (UC Davis). Though he considered majors in engineering and biomedical engineering, he decided both were too technical, "too micro"; while interested in science, he knew himself well enough to know that he prefers working with others in a person-to-person profession. He attributes this self-understanding to his year of service. "When you are by yourself for seven hours a day, you see if you are a people person." UC Davis has a very strong program in environmental toxicology; after taking just one class in the subject, Ashkon had found his major. Environmental toxicology is both a science and a people profession.

Ashkon has also continued his deep commitment to the Baha'i faith. As part of a Baha'i community of 30-40 others at UC Davis, he has been particularly active in the Baha'i youth groups: he works with the Junior Youth Groups (ages 13-14) empowering them to make a difference in their communities, and with the Children's Groups (ages 6-10) he teaches a class every Friday that uses the arts, games, stories, and prayer to teach the concepts of love, unity, truthfulness and strengthening community bonds. "My faith has three principles that are central in life: 1. the equal rights of men and women, 2. treating every person as a brother or a sister, and 3. being of service." These Baha'i principles, espousing academic, material, and spiritual cohesion, are congruous with the profession of doctor, luckily for Ashkon.

Though he loved his major, Ashkon has decided not to continue on to a Ph.D. in the field of environmental toxicology following his graduation from UC Davis. Again, applying tremendous forethought and self-knowledge to his future, he has decided to apply to medical school. "I realized that I could finish my M.D. earlier than a Ph.D. and earn enough to travel and to support a family." Now in his fourth year at UC Davis, Ashkon will be taking the MCATs, the required medical school entrance exam, this month.

As we concluded our conversation, I had to ask Ashkon a bit more about his level of self-awareness at such a young age. Recognizing that his decision-making and thought processes in regards to his life and future is acute, he told me, being introspective once again, that he feels that it developed from a combination of experiences: conversations with his parents at every step of the way, the Baha'i religion, his year of service in Israel, his education at WAB. "WAB was amazing. It was a perfect transition into freedom and responsibility."

There is only one thing I can say for certain about Ashkon's future: at every turn, he will be reevaluating and examining what is right for him and in harmony with his personal principles, and he will make his choices accordingly.