Christina Moawad: Combining problem-solving and compassion to improve the human condition

Two distinctive threads drive the trajectory of Christina Moawad’s life: her competence in problem-solving and her compassion for people. 

Growing up in Long Island, New York, Christina’s tight-knit family of seven marked her life with these hard-earned values. A daughter of Egyptian immigrants, her curious mind has produced an insatiable desire to solve current unknowns in health care, and her empathy has cultivated a passion for diversity and deep understanding of the human experience. Christina now applies these leading qualities as she seeks to challenge what is possible in medicine.

A problem-solving mentality

As an undergraduate student at the City College of New York, Christina applied her knack for problem-solving toward an array of accomplishments. A recipient of the prestigious Macaulay Honors Scholar Program, she chose to major in biomedical engineering to pursue her interest in health care, while also exercising her bend for curiosity.

Christina conducted research in a biomechanics lab which investigated how bone architecture can be an assessment for fracture risk. She also successfully co-founded two start-ups, both of which highlight her care for people and her engineering mindset. Her first start-up, Twin Smiles, facilitated the sending of personalized greeting cards to hospital patients, who were often without visits from family and friends. Her second start-up, Streetlabs, sought to address the pothole problem in New York City. By attaching a device to the back of service vehicles, they could automatically measure the breadth and depth of potholes around New York. This data would then populate the city’s service schedule, giving the city a better handle on their pothole repair needs. It won the grand prize in the Zahn Innovation Center competition.

Christina takes inspiration from her family. Her siblings are made up of two sets of twins 18 months a part, and her older brother who recently graduated from medical school.

Despite her impressive accomplishments before graduating from City College, Christina felt that something was missing. She decided to turn her eyes back toward a future in medicine. She received a grant through the Whitaker International Fellowship Program which enabled her to choose any lab in the world to conduct her research. Christina chose to do spine biomechanics research at a lab in Adelaide, Australia. Her time in the lab satisfied her knack for problem solving, but not her pressing underlying question, How does this work impact the patient?

“I didn’t want to limit myself to just creating, or just having human impact. I wanted to be able to be on both sides,” Christina says. Her love for people ultimately motivated her next move: applying to medical school.

A life lived by the Four C's

Problem-solving and compassion collide

While Christina was searching for the best way to combine her engineering mindset with her desire for patient impact, she discovered the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, a program that could merge her two passions. With an engineering-infused medical education, she could strengthen her problem-solving competency and cultivate her compassion for patients.

“My initial reaction to an engineering-based college of medicine was just shock,” Christina shares. “I couldn’t believe there was a school that had all the resources right there to take my dreams to a reality. It’s a dream come true for any engineer that wants to go into medicine.”

On March 14, 2018, Christina was at her grandmother’s bedside at a hospital in New York, shouldering the responsibility of dialoguing with doctors as they treated her family member. She received a phone call from Dr. King Li, dean of the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, announcing her official admittance to the inaugural class of the world’s first engineering-based medical school. Receiving this life-altering news amongst compassionate physicians who were treating her grandmother was a surreal experience. “This is the perfect opportunity for me to show compassion and create solutions,” she says.

“It’s a dream come true for any engineer that wants to go into medicine.”

Using compassion to drive improvement of the human condition

The interest in human connection that drove her to pursue medical school carries on as she pursues her medical degree. Because Christina’s upbringing taught her the value of diversity, she thrives on the different perspectives that can permeate – and improve – her work. “There is always something you can contribute to someone,” Christina shares. “A little four-year-old and an MD/PhD – you both have something the other person doesn’t know. There is always something you can share with each other.”

Practicing clinical skills with my classmates in the JUMP Simulation Center. Photo credit: Heather Coit
Christina practicing clinical skills with her classmates in the JUMP Simulation Center. Photo credit: Heather Coit

Christina particularly benefits from the diversity of perspectives and experiences within the inaugural class. As she seeks to challenge the status quo in medicine, Christina appreciates the perspectives around her which will propel her to not only deliver the level of quality patient care which originally motivated her pursuit of medical school, but push her beyond what she previously thought was possible in solving health challenges.

“One thing I love about our class is that all 32 of us are so diverse,” Christina shares. “Everyone brings something to the group that is completely unique. You can do some great things learning on your own, but being together, we’re going to be much better and much stronger than if we were on our own.”

“One thing I love about our class is that all 32 of us are so diverse… Being together, we’re going to be much better and much stronger than if we were on our own.”

The generosity of people like you made it possible for Christina and her classmates to attend Carle Illinois with scholarships.