In 1949, my maternal grandparents left everything and everyone they knew — a happy family, a comfortable home, a thriving medical practice — to travel further across the Earth than any of their family ever had before, to come through Ellis Island, and to trek to the Mayo Clinic so my grandfather could become a pioneering anesthesiologist.
Twenty-one of my aunts, uncles, and cousins have since followed in their footsteps and practice today as doctors in the United States. My sister and I, too, became physicians.
In 1960, my father flew to New York with $20 in his pocket and a burning desire to pursue the American Dream. He learned English, studied biochemistry at Ohio State University and nuclear physics at Washington University, and then went on to become one of the first venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, funding transformational technology and health care companies and creating thousands of jobs in the United States over a 40-year career.
All these people came from Iran.
Or more accurately, they were magnetically drawn to America as a paragon of scientific, technological, and medical excellence. They were inspired by American global and moral leadership. They viewed this nation as a force for good and wanted to contribute.
Just as America inspired my grandparents, parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins to pursue great dreams at great cost, their example has inspired me to contribute to the great American experiment, too. I became a doctor, and now the co-founder and CEO of a health care technology company focused on solving the doctor and nurse shortage crisis in the United States.
But thanks to the Trump administration’s tragically misguided executive order banning immigration from Iran and six other Middle Eastern nations, my family’s multi-generational story of immigrant doctors and entrepreneurs is no longer possible.
My family of Iranian immigrants have all adopted their new American home with vigor and pride and have directly and positively impacted the lives of thousands of patients and employees — all Americans. But despite their sincere pride and their years of important contributions, the president’s new policy threatens many of them and the people who depend on them. I am legitimately worried that some of my family who are here (legally!) on visas may be deported back to Iran in the coming months.
As an intensely proud American-born citizen myself, it pains me to think that our nation is turning its back on the very people who made, and continue to make, America great. Let us hope that Mr. Trump realizes that if he actually wants to “make America great”, he should rescind his ill-advised order and in fact do everything in his power to promote responsible immigration policy and welcome to this nation those brilliant and determined souls who wish to risk everything for a chance to be Americans.
Alexi Gharib Nazem is co-founder and CEO, Nomad Health.
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