Student profile: Rudy Dagher
Rudy Dagher has an eye for detail and devotion for success. Dagher believes difficulties test the courage, patience, perseverance and true character of a human being.
Dagher is currently a 19-year-old undergraduate student in his junior year at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He is double majoring in biological sciences pre-professional concentration and psychology with a minor in physics.
“I have a story to tell. I exemplify what the American dream is about. I know what it’s like to start from somewhere and rise up to the top of your class and your peers and society as a whole. Adversity and hardships make a person strong and ready to face the challenges of life with equanimity.”
Dagher plans on going to medical school. “I plan on going somewhere in the East coast, a well known respected institution. After that I plan on going to a prestigious residency program and practicing cardio thoracic surgery. Later on, I hope to practice for 20 years and do research on cardiac cells and regeneration of these cells in a mitotic environment.” Dagher’s ultimate goal is to take that research and apply it to those who are unable to get on the transplant list due to incapability of paying for a new heart, while doing some pro bono work.
“Around age 55, I plan on running for senator in the United States government. I think that role will allow me to make a change on a much wider perspective, not just in the United States but across the world.”
Dagher was a medical volunteer for two years where he shadowed physicians in the cardiovascular care unit and was a patient transport caregiver. During that time, Dagher also assisted with ongoing weekly physical therapy classes at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.
“I had the privilege of meeting Muhammed Ali as an intern at the Lou Ruvo Cleveland Clinic where he was doing physical therapy for his Parkinson’s. He definitely taught me a lot. I did more research about him as I got to know him and he’s a very humble and caring guy with lots of thoughts. In regards to mentors or people that I look up to I would say Muhammed Ali was an individual who took challenges and didn’t think of how hard they were. He just approached them day by day until he climbed to the top.”
Another mentor Dagher looks up to is his academic adviser Joseph Nika. “He is a very strong and honest guy and he says it like it is. When I have something I’m not sure about I definitely go to him first.”
A third key mentor who deeply influences Dagher’s views is his father, Elie Dagher. “My father has a story behind him. How he got to where he is was definitely inspiring and I’m thankful for him. He always tells me I’m doing great and gives me that motivation and support that I need in order to continue on with my dreams and goals.”
Dagher was born in Beirut, Lebanon and moved to Las Vegas at the age of 4. He returned to Lebanon for a year in 2005 and left right after the assassination of the prime minister. “I got to see a lot of things that you would not see in the states. It was very different for me because it made me appreciate what I have now. In places like that, you see a lot more people in poverty than you do in the states. You see people dying because of carcinogenic aspects and different medical related issues.”
“Seeing that was actually one of the things that got me into medicine. It gave me the drive to change the status quo in places like that around the world. Unlike other young children, I was very serious during my childhood academic years. I was put in a school where I had to learn algebra II in second grade. It was really rough going through such challenges, but I think it created the person that I am today so I am grateful for that.”
His most memorable trip was in December 2015 when he went to Europe. “I experienced a different culture that I was not expecting. I went to various places such as Sweden, Italy, France, Belgium, London and Netherlands. I got to experience different foods, how people think, different governments and how they operate compared to what I live in now.”
Dagher has been to a variety of places ranging from Syria to Canada. “I’m very thankful to have seen various parts of the world. I think wherever you go, the best place that one could live in is the United States. Many places around the world don’t have what we have here. It teaches you to be thankful for what you have and to appreciate the resources we utilize for health care and our treatment as human beings with daily necessities.”
Dagher was the senator of the UNLV College of Sciences in 2015. He is currently on the UNLV Deans Honors List, involved in Alpha Epsilon Delta as well as in the National Society of Collegiate Scholars. Dagher is bilingual in English and Arabic and speaks moderate French and Spanish.
His certifications include an advanced honors diploma from Northwest Career Technical Academy with an emphasis in medical professions, telemetry certified by the College of Southern Nevada and CPR/AED certified by the American Heart Association. Dagher has had experience in being an undergraduate teacher’s assistant for introductory biology courses where he assisted with labs and provided students with lessons.
Elena Angelkova, UNLV psychology major, says, “I think Rudy will make an impact in the world. He has the drive and ambition to succeed in every obstacle he faces. He has shown a variety of leadership skills throughout his undergraduate educational time at UNLV.”
A defining moment in Dagher’s life was when he began middle school. “I attended an academy here in Las Vegas, Jim Bridger Magnet School for science and mathematics. I walked into my seventh grade anatomy class and the first thing I learned was about the heart. That was a really big moment for me because it was at that moment when I realized what I wanted to do with my life and how I wanted to make a difference in this world.”
In his spare time, Dagher enjoys listening to classical music such as Beethoven and Vivaldi, playing the violin, and playing the piano. Dagher enjoys playing sports. “I love to work out and go to the gym. It relieves my stress.”
Dagher is the only undergrad researcher at the Desert Research Institute Division of Earth and Ecosystem Sciences. His experiences include analyzing data concerning climate change in moss genera, running multiple experiments to cultivate Desulforudis audaxviator and working to obtain a genus library of an undiscovered phyla. “Around eight months ago, I got a nomination from one of my professors to go into this research facility which is a high profile research facility that gives whatever they accomplish to the government. That is the method they use to send it out to the public. It’s a lot of work but a very interesting experience.”
One of the projects Dagher recently worked on was looking at a bacteria that lives 2.2 kilometers beneath the earth in Africa. “We often times ponder the question of ‘is God real’ and a lot of people question themselves on whether that’s true or not. This is one of the projects that can answer that. We believe that this microorganism is one of the first very origins of life that was on this planet. Doing research on this microbe and utilizing its biochemistry and how this organism interacts in the environment as well as trying to see what conditions were here in the beginning of time brings us one step closer to answering many of these questions. It’s definitely a rewarding experience to be apart of that.” There are many scientists involved in this project from New York to Chicago to Las Vegas to California. Many of them are trying to answer this question regarding this microorganism.
Joe Dagher, Rudy’s brother, says, “I am proud of Rudy. I am proud to call him my brother. He works really hard for what he wants and never gives up. The fact that he is the only undergrad researcher at the Desert Research Institute while exceeding in a double major in biological sciences and psychology with a minor in physics is superior. Rudy is a motivated and unique individual.”
Dagher’s advice to someone embarking on a similar journey is to never give up. “I see a lot of people in my class that get discouraged after they get one bad grade. I’ve been in their shoes and I know how it feels to want to give up, to leave all that they dreamed about behind. I don’t believe in that, I don’t believe in people who give up on themselves. You’re either in it to win it or you’re not. A lot of people get discouraged because they see other people doing well and I don’t like that. I know some people who do better than me and I don’t let that affect me but rather use that as an incentive to do better and work harder.”
Dagher says the quality that best describes him is that he is thoughtful. “I’m always thinking about things and about what could go wrong or what could go right. I think about where I should proceed with things and where I should not. I feel like that’s a good quality to have.”
Dagher says his favorite quote is from Will Smith’s character in the movie “The Pursuit of Happiness.” The quote said, “Don’t ever let someone tell you that you can’t do something. Not even me. You got a dream, you gotta protect it. When people can’t do something themselves, they’re going to tell you that you can’t do it. You want something. Go get it, period.”
Dagher proceeds to mention, “You can become whatever you want. You want to become a doctor, go do it. You want to become a lawyer, go do it. You want to become an actor, become one. You want to become the president of the United States, achieve it.”
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