The Syrian American Medical Society conducts missions in Lebanon. There are no teenagers among the ranks of medical professionals and volunteers. Rami Ghanem '21 was the 18-year-old exception

With surprising strength, they hoisted him onto their little shoulders and whisked him toward the bus while shouting his name. "Rami! Rami!" The children in the Lebanese refugee camps needed doctors. Ghanem wasn't sure a high schooler would make much of an impact at all... until he was given a hero's send-off.

Ghanem has always wanted to be a doctor because of the care they provide in people's darkest hours. One doctor, in particular, cared for Ghanem during his darkest hour. Ghanem's mom was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. She was the one who was sick, but naturally, the whole family was hurting. To Ghanem's surprise, the doctor treated the entire family's pain. The doctor's genuine compassion and empathy made a lasting impact (his treatment for the patient also scored high marks - Ghanem's mom is in remission and doing great!).

Ghanem's experience with his mother's doctor reinforced his own calling. A license to practice medicine will come in time, but Ghanem put himself on a fast-track to healing years ago. Ghanem's parents are both immigrants - his dad is Palestinian and his mom is Syrian. Throughout high school, Ghanem volunteered for the Syrian American Medical Society and would attend local conventions and meetings in his home state of California. Ghamen met leaders in charge of international medical missions, and because Ghanem had his EMT certification, and spoke Arabic, he was selected for a mission to Lebanon along the Syrian border. 

Ghanem was the youngest person on the mission, by about a decade. He would triage patients in the refugee camps before they saw a doctor, and he would also translate Arabic for the physicians. Ghanem's own experiences reminded him to enrich the soul - not just treat the condition. He organized soccer matches for the children and divided them into Team Messi or Team Ronaldo, depending on their favorite player. The kids happily forgot their troubles on the soccer field (it was never an actual field), and perhaps that's why they carried Ghanem away like he had just won them the World Cup.  

"What I enjoyed most about the mission to Lebanon was spending time with the children. I think just seeing how energetic and happy they were with the conditions they were in… whenever I’m down, I remember their perspective while living in poverty in a war zone. They always saw the bright side in everything. That solidified what I want to do with the rest of my life."

Rami Ghanem '21

Ghanem grew up in Huntington Beach, California, but he was attracted to Siena for its Albany Medical College program. He didn't mind traveling a few thousand miles for college, but he had really wanted to participate in an EMS club in college (because of the EMT certification he earned in high school). Unfortunately, Siena didn't offer an EMS club. No problem. Ghanem started one. 

He began working with Student Life his freshman year, and says the administration was incredibly helpful and supportive. Siena College EMS (SCEMS) was officially founded by the end of his sophomore year - Ghanem is currently the president. 

Objectives of SCEMS

  • Provide Siena students an opportunity to gain the necessary clinical experience for acceptance in graduate school and to become proficient medical providers
  • Staff EMTs for on-campus sporting events
  • Provide free EMT course in the spring with Colonie EMS
  • Streamline the opportunity to volunteer with Colonie EMS to gain clinical experience 


This semester, SCEMS members are assisting with health screenings for returning students and campus visitors