Release Date: 
Friday, May 14, 2021

National award-winning scholar says her HFC experience will forever influence her future work

Yasmeen Berry’s time at HFC and the Henry Ford Early College (HFEC) have given her the foundation for academic and professional success.

“The advisors and faculty have a genuine dedication to student success. The advice that I have received from my mentors here will forever impact the way I approach future endeavors,” said Berry, of Dearborn.

HFEC is a partnership among HFC, Dearborn Public Schools, and the Henry Ford Health System in coordination with Wayne County Regional Educational Service Agency and the State Board of Education. It is a five-year program that combines high school and college for students aspiring to a career in the healthcare field.

Testimonials of HFEC alumni sparked Berry’s interest in enrolling. Berry’s younger brothers, Hassan and Ali, are also attending HFEC.

“I believe that joining this program was the best investment that I could have made for my career journey,” said Berry. “I attribute much of my early success to the guidance and support provided by HFEC principal Majed Fadlallah and the HFEC faculty. I highly recommend HFEC and HFC to anyone who is looking to achieve the most value from their education.”

Making the most of her time at HFEC

As the current president of the HFC chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa (PTK) Honor Society and a member of the Henry Ford II Honors Program, Berry will graduate this spring, earning her associate degree in biology.

“In just the past few semesters that I have been involved in PTK, I have had the opportunity to embark on initiatives I had never previously imagined possible,” said Berry. “For instance, as chapter president, I have had the opportunity to lead campus activities such as our first and second virtual induction, our current Honors In Action Initiative that included installation of two campus hydration stations, and the creation of a Virtual Community Resource Bank for students during the coronavirus pandemic.”

First HFC student to earn prestigious national Goldwater Scholarship

This fall, Berry will attend the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In fact, she was recently accepted into the U-M College of Literature, Science, and the Arts Honors Program. At U-M, she will major in neurology and biological anthropology. Her ultimate goal is to attend medical school and become a physician and researcher.

Berry recently won three prestigious scholarships to help with offset tuition and expenses at U-M:

“The Goldwater Scholarship emphasizes that its recipients prioritize research, and my ultimate career goal is to pursue a research career as a physician-scientist,” she said. “An M.D./Ph.D. program is a collaboration between the medical and graduate school of an institution.”

Berry is the first HFC student to ever win the Goldwater Scholarship, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious scholarships in natural sciences, engineering, and mathematics in the United States. The award amount is $15,000.

“As part of the HFC Honors program, I had the opportunity to recognize the value of research at the undergraduate level early on, especially with the development of my directed study with Dr. Gregory Karapetian of the HFC biology faculty,” she said. “I am sincerely appreciative that, as a student with a limited research background, I was able to find support available every step of the way.”

Berry continued: “In an effort to support more community college students becoming Goldwater Scholars, I have joined the Goldwater Diversity and Inclusion Mentorship program. Through this program, I will work with community college students to prepare them for future Goldwater Scholarship competitions and successful STEM research careers. Being a 2021 Goldwater Scholar, I want to help others in our community create their own opportunities for academic success.”

One of 20 to win All-USA Academic Team Scholarship

Berry is one of only 20 community college students nationwide to win the All-USA Academic Team Scholarship, which includes an award of $5,000. Berry earned this scholarship through PTK.

“I am grateful for the ways PTK facilitates student leadership, scholarship, fellowship, and service. With the help of my chapter at HFC, I have been able to recognize and appreciate how PTK membership can help establish the foundation for making an impact on college campuses, communities, and society,” she said.

Only student in Michigan to earn New Century Transfer Pathway Scholarship

Berry also won the New Century Transfer Pathway Scholarship. This is a $2,250 scholarship sponsored by PTK, the Coca-Cola Foundation, the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation, and the American Association of Community Colleges. Only one New Century Transfer Pathway Scholar is selected from each state for their academic accomplishments, leadership, community involvement, and extending their intellectual abilities beyond the classroom.

“Yasmeen is an extraordinary student and leader, is insatiably curious, and has both the mindset and work ethic to excel in whatever field she chooses. As an Honors program member, as a chemistry student, and as an officer of PTK, she has set a high standard of excellence for those who follow her. It was thrilling to see both the All-USA and the Goldwater scholarship evaluators recognize that excellence!” said HFC chemistry professor and assistant director of the Honors program, Dr. Laura Yeakel.

Research with SURF and UROP

This summer, Berry will be conducting full-time research at U-M’s Molecular and Integrative Physiology Summer Research Fellowship (SURF) Program. When the 2021-22 academic year begins, she will be a researcher for U-M’s Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Due to her involvement with SURF and UROP, Berry will collaborate with the Truttmann Laboratory in the Department of Molecular and Integrative Physiology as an undergraduate at the U-M Medical School.

“Throughout my journey of discovering my career aspiration, my fundamental goal has stayed the same: To contribute to a field that finds breakthrough solutions to common problems. Specifically, I desire to devote my time and effort to a problem rooted in our gaps in knowledge regarding our neurological health,” explained Berry. “My research goals are to investigate the mechanisms behind neurodegenerative disease treatment. The results of this research would be directly applicable to patient care. Hence, the combination of research experience and medical education is not just beneficial, but necessary.”

Seeking an M.D./Ph.D. track

After being involved with research over the past year, Berry’s career goals have become more focused on becoming a physician-scientist.

“As I aspire to achieve an M.D./Ph.D. in neuroscience, the combination of my bench knowledge and patient care means that I would be able to bridge the gap between research and application in a rapidly evolving field,” she said. “Through conducting neurodegenerative disease research utilizing the context of a clinical treatment lens, my research would directly impact patient treatment through an integration of novel discovery. Ultimately, I hope to become a principal investigator at the forefront of neurodegenerative disease treatment within a clinical research hospital.”

Berry hopes to attend a medical school with a particular M.D./Ph.D. joint curriculum, known as the Medical Scientist Training Program. This is a program funded by the National Institutes of Health for physician-scientists that would allow her to integrate her clinical experiences into her graduate coursework.

Her decision to become a physician was sparked during her time at the HFEC. In her first two years, she gained field experience at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. As a student intern, she shadowed professionals in several health careers, including:

  • Respiratory Therapy
  • Surgical Technology
  • Physical Therapy
  • Biotechnology
  • Orthopedic Surgery

“This experience influenced my decision to begin volunteering for a free health clinic for the uninsured in January 2019,” said Berry. “At this clinic, I discovered the broader implications of the work that I and other healthcare volunteers do by helping to fill the gaps of systemic faults brought on by private healthcare in Detroit. As I continue to volunteer for this clinic today, I am a part of a community that is constantly working to uplift the underserved. It is because of these experiences that I aspire to become a voice for others and be a part of the conversation for society’s greater good.”

Grandmother's Alzheimer's battle sets her course in life

Berry’s desire to go into neurology was prompted by her grandmother, who suffers from Alzheimer’s disease.

“My frequent discussions with her have evolved from listening to her intricately woven stories of childhood to struggling to jog her memory by repeating those stories back to her,” said Berry. “She has forgotten conversations and even family names. As with many other Alzheimer’s patients, my grandmother can forget how to eat and drink. My personal familial afflictions and experiences as a volunteer at a free mental health and wellness clinic have fueled my passion to pursue both anthropology and neuroscience. I want to better understand societal culture and subjectivity as I also study the specificity and objectivity involved in the natural sciences.”

She continued: “I hope that one day, I will be able to use the knowledge that I acquire along my career journey to establish a nonprofit organization with a free neuroscience healthcare clinic for the uninsured and underserved. As an individual, I hope to contribute to an environment that promotes diversity and compassion, a place where patients will be seen first as people. I hope to be a part of the physician-scientist community. I am disappointed by society’s approach to systemic health-related problems, and I refuse to take a backseat to human suffering.”

Karapetian is proud of Berry and her accomplishments.

“Yasmeen is among the most ambitious students I have worked with at HFC. During her time with me in the Honors program, she showed great initiative and creativity. Now as a Goldwater scholar, her recognition stands at the national level – wonderful job!” said Karapetian. “Yasmeen’s interests will continue in the sciences. I am confident her intellectual ability and good-mannered nature will lead her to be a success, no matter what field she ultimately decides to enter. She is certainly going places in life.”