Meet Hend Al-Kaylani

Date: Wednesday, July 27, 2022

Hend Al-Kaylani with her brothersHometown: Iowa City, Iowa 

Hend Al-Kaylani isn’t the only member of her family experiencing a big milestone this fall. A triplet born at University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics, Al-Kaylani is achieving her dreams alongside her brothers, who are studying law and business analytics. Her father was a neurology resident at Iowa when he and her mother found out they were expecting triplets, and Al-Kaylani says those roots influenced her decision to apply to the Carver College of Medicine. 

“Iowa has taken care of me in a lot of ways,” Al-Kaylani says. “We were very well supported in the NICU here. And for months afterward, my parents received casseroles, hands to hold us from their coworkers, and support from the community in general. For me, the opportunity to learn in the same hospital that made having triplets easier for my parents is an honor.” 

Al-Kaylani grew up living in Dubai and Grand Rapids, Michigan, before moving back to Iowa City with her brothers to earn their undergraduate degrees. She earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical sciences with a minor in rhetoric and persuasion, an experience that she thinks will shape her future patient interactions. 

“I learned to actively monitor conversations with individuals who may have different perspectives,” she says. “Being a first-generation American made me critically analyze my own identity. Living in Dubai in high school gave me the opportunity to expand my worldview and identify both the beautiful things about American culture and the assumptions we have. I hope to bring all that to medical school, especially as our populations in Iowa are getting more diverse.” 

A spirit of collaboration 

Both of Al-Kaylani's parents are physicians, and she grew up hearing stories of their daily experiences. In high school, she began shadowing physicians, and she says that’s when she “really got hooked.” 

“They had this triple threat of skills: a scientist, a mentor to their colleagues and students, and a confidant to patients,” she says. “They were a vessel of medical knowledge and science, but also could present it to patients to help them make an informed decision." 

An undergraduate professor encouraged her to apply to a research position with Peggy Nopoulos, MD, and Ellen van der Plas, PhD, both in the Department of Psychiatry. She maintained this position through the rest of her undergraduate years. 

“It became one of my most meaningful undergraduate experiences,” Al-Kaylani says. “I was able to participate in longitudinal human subject research, and this past year, I led a project about quality of life in young breast cancer survivors. I never imagined myself learning to code or run a research project, and I was able to do those things because [Nopoulos and van der Plas] believed in me.” 

Al-Kaylani says she was “blown away by the community at Iowa” and is looking forward to joining that community as a medical student. 

“Even among students here, there’s a spirit of collaboration,” she says. “I want to be in an environment where peers cheer each other on. I’ve already met some of them, and it’s amazing the different backgrounds they have. I’m excited to learn from them.”