We are fortunate to have Lubna Saleh on our team supporting community outreach projects. Kristin and Rima spent some time with her and got to know her better.
What program and degree are you working to obtain at U-M?
I am working towards a Master of Public Health in Population and Health Sciences. I am interested in addressing health disparities among vulnerable populations with a specific focus in underdeveloped countries.
What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Gorilla trekking in Rwanda. There I met the Susa gorilla family at Volcanoes National Park. The Susa family has twenty-eight members in their family with three silverbacks. They are the hardest mountain gorilla group to trek since they are located in higher altitudes. We trekked with two rangers, one gorilla trekker, and a veterinary medical team. We trekked deep into the jungle entering the Democratic Republic of Congo. The gorilla trekker made gorilla-like sounds to communicate with the gorillas. I recall the silverback just three feet away from me. We observed the Susa gorilla family interacting with each other, eating celery, and playing. One of the mothers was tending to her three-month-old baby. They were so peaceful and reminded me of how closely connected the human species are to gorillas.
What is your guilty pleasure?
I love bubble tea. Bubble tea is milk tea with boba or tapioca pearls. The tea-based drink originated in Taiwan. My favorite flavor is black tea with coconut milk.
What did you want to be when you were a kid?
When I was a kid, my grandmother encouraged me to draw. I enjoyed creating and coloring pictures and gifting them to others. My grandmother always made me feel that my drawings were special.
What is your favorite or most desired vacation destination in the Middle East and/or North Africa?
I would love to see and learn more about the Egyptian pyramids. An added bonus would be relaxing by the seaside in Sharm el Sheik.
Tell us about your first job.
In high school, I landed a job at O’Hare International Airport with Lufthansa Airlines. My responsibilities included security checks on planes, making sure that there were life-vests under the seats, and boarding passengers.
In just a little under an hour, I witnessed cleaners, food service workers, and maintenance people service the aircraft. My favorite memory was entering the body of a Boeing 747 aircraft. I could not believe the amount of internal wiring. It looked like it could wrap the globe twice!
My first job taught me how to communicate effectively with non-English speaking passengers under stressful conditions like flight disruptions and how to dress and act professionally. Lastly, I made it a personal challenge and a priority to learn how to say thank you in multiple languages. It was a privilege to connect with so many diverse people from all parts of the world.
Who is your biggest hero/inspiration?
After I lost my beloved mother to cancer at the age of twenty, my family felt broken for a long time. I felt that I was missing a big piece of my heart and I needed a strong woman figure in my life. Thankfully, my step-mom entered my life a few years ago. My step-mom is a resilient person who values connectedness. She has taught me to be a stronger and more confident woman. I know that she has my best interest at heart and wants me to succeed. She is uplifting and has brought me the stability I needed in my life. Plus she makes all my favorite meals.
I believe that we can learn from everyone and I am most inspired by those that are resilient and give wholeheartedly despite life’s challenges. These heroes are authentic, honest, and make a difference in the lives of others.
What is your favorite hobby?
Swimming. I find the water therapeutic for both my mind and body. It is my getaway from the everyday hustle.