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Ryan Azarkhail

Having been a voice of the student body through various Student Government Association (SGA) roles that included the Barbados campus’ second-ever president, Dr. Azarkhail was always preparing for this moment throughout his time in medical school.

“I really want us as a class to appreciate and cherish the moment,” he said reflecting on the momentous occasion of being at their Commencement. “I want to shed light on our shared journey and again cherish and realize that we've come very far. I hope my speech is an opportunity to motivate people to keep the momentum of finishing school and preparing for residency going so we can go out into the world and continue to do great things.”

Never Stop Dreaming

Dr. Azarkhail was born and raised in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. His father immigrated to the United States during the Iranian Revolution with no money and only the clothes on his back. His work ethic as a migrant starting a new life in an unknown country is often one of Dr. Azarkhail’s greatest motivators. “Any given day of school or studying for board exams, I would always think back on him coming to a new country and not only enroll in school at Florida International University, but to also work around the clock as a pizza delivery driver, staying up all night translating his textbooks. If he was able to make it, I know I can and I have carried that with me.”

His mother, originally from Kansas, was one of Dr. Azarkhail’s introductions to a career in medicine; she is trained as a physician’s assistant and currently is a healthcare administrator. “Together, they instilled in me respect, quality hard work, and always encouraged me to never stop dreaming,” he said.

For undergrad, Dr. Azarkhail initially enrolled at the University of Central Florida (UCF) to study finance. However, two years into the program he found himself struggling with the long-term prospects that path could have produced. As Dr. Azarkhail approached the crossroads of deciding his future, his mother convinced him there was a path to merge the field she knew best with one of his greatest passions – sports and medicine. The lifelong basketball and Miami Heat fanatic in him suddenly found himself envisioning a career in physical therapy and sports health, and he changed his major to pre-med.

Although his passion was reignited, Dr. Azarkhail was not accepted to medical school the first time around. He instead found work in healthcare recruiting, staffing hospitals around the country. He was comfortable and happy with the role, but something inside him knew he was unfulfilled. “I knew at some point I was going to have to make a change. I wanted to go back to school,” he recalled.

A Champion for Ross Med

Dr. Azarkhail convinced himself that his window to apply to medical school had already closed with the first round of rejections three years prior. As fate would have it, though, one of his good friends from UCF, Richard Henriquez, MD ‘17, had just graduated from Ross Med and was getting ready for his residency when the old friends reconnected.

“Dr. Henriquez knew I was kind of in limbo trying to figure out what I wanted to do. He urged me to look into Ross Med and shared about how the school put him in a place to succeed and gave him all the resources he needed. He thought I would be excellent here, and that was a huge turning point because with that in mind, I was all in. I had nothing to lose, so I applied, gained acceptance, and I was just over the moon. My dream was still alive, I can still make it happen. And here we are today.”

At Ross Med, Dr. Azarkhail quickly became a champion and advocate for the student body, and serving the campus community was the heart of his medical school journey. Along with becoming the SGA President in 2019, he served multiple leadership roles, including Clinical SGA Honor Council Senator, and SGA Class Representative. He continued volunteering his time outside the classroom as a member of the Welcome Committee and International Medical Foundations Orientation for newly enrolled students, as well as serving as  a Student Ambassador.

“I attribute a lot of my success to the students and friends who helped uplift me and gave me that sense of camaraderie. I thought the best way for me to pay it forward to those who helped me was to pursue leadership in the way that I could represent their voice. My classmates did so much for me and us for each other, and I wanted to embody that spirit of passion, fortitude and determination for them and champion their voice to make sure that not only were they heard, but also that future generations of Rossies can experience the foundations we leave for them.”

Farewell, Ross Med

After graduating from Ross Med, Dr. Azarkhail will begin his internal medicine residency at Wellstar Kennestone in Marietta, Georgia. Thoughts of writing his first order as Dr. Azarkhail, putting on his white coat, and meeting his new team are already inducing chills thinking about the future. Though he has much to look forward to, the days leading up to his medical school graduation and writing his speech to his peers have brought about much needed reflection on the journey to this moment.

“I'm beyond grateful for this experience. Ross Med helped give me meaning. It has instilled a lot of confidence and pride in myself and brought me lifelong friends. These are things that I can never repay, but I'm going to continue to carry them with me. I hope every student at commencement does the same and every future student continues to carry these experiences forward and reminds themselves that anything is possible at Ross Med.”

In 2020, 91% of RUSM students passed the initial step of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) on the first attempt. And in 2022-2023, results show yet another strong year for RUSM with a 98% first-time residency attainment rate* thus far. Located on the island of Barbados and with a network of more than 15,000 alumni, RUSM is one of the largest providers of doctors for the U.S. healthcare system. RUSM graduates practice in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico.

*First time residency attainment rate is the percent of students attaining a 2023-24 residency position out of all graduates or expected graduates in 2022-23 who were active applicants in the 2023 NRMP match or who attained a residency position outside the NRMP match.