UAB nurse turned student again: Ashouri’s commitment to health care brings her back to UAB for third degree

With a passion for health care, Sarah Ashouri learned that two degrees were not enough to provide the patient care she genuinely deserved to give.

Inside AshouriPhotography: Ian LogueA 29-year-old, full-time nurse practitioner, Sarah Ashouri has dedicated years to her education and logged countless hours in the hospital environment.

Having both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Nursing, Ashouri is now back in undergrad, and is set to earn her bachelor’s degree in general studies with a concentration in biology and chemistry from the College of Arts and Sciences.

With Ashouri’s passion for helping people, this feat is merely another steppingstone toward her ultimate goal that has been cultivated by her time in the UAB family.

Blazing her own path

“As a teenager, I found this peace in volunteering, and I knew then I wanted to pursue a field that I could use to help people,” Ashouri said.

Ashouri enrolled at UAB to pursue nursing in 2013.

Graduating with her nursing degree in 2016, Ashouri began working at UAB Hospital as a registered nurse on the Trauma Burn Nursing Unit.

Forged in Fire

“He was stuck to his bed,” Ashouri said. “A fireman who had risked his life to save someone else was now suffering, and there was nothing I could do in that moment other than wait for the Burn Dressing Team because I didn’t have the training to properly help.”

This burn patient served as a catalyst for the remainder of Ashouri’s career.

Ashouri said, “I knew then I wanted to go further. I had found this lane that I felt was my calling, and I wanted to make sure I could properly care for this patient population.”

Making burn care her goal, Ashouri transitioned to working full time with the Burn Dressing Team, absorbing all the knowledge she could.

In 2017, Ashouri decided to go back to UAB to earn her master’s degree in nursing. In 2019, Ashouri graduated again, passed her board certifications and became a nurse practitioner.

RNFA is a program that allows nurses the opportunity to assist surgeons in the performing of surgical and related tasks.

Starting the Registered Nurse First Assistant program, Ashouri soon learned this avenue would not allow her the freedom to help patients in the capacity she desired. Ashouri decided to leave her RNFA program in pursuit of medical school.

“I decided to go back to UAB in spring 2021 to complete the prerequisites needed for medical school,” Ashouri said. “My dedication was tested as soon as I started because we were in the midst of the COVID.”

Working through the chaos of the pandemic, Ashouri found herself pulling 16-hour shifts while sleeping four to five hours some nights. This was a common fate to the many nurses nationwide who sacrificed for the greater purpose of health and safety.

“During this time, I found myself fighting with my family, who out of fear demanded I stop taking COVID patients and to leave the field,” Ashouri said. “I volunteered to work with COVID patients since many of my co-workers had kids who needed them more than my family needed me.”

Swapping her hijab for a scrub cap to avoid cross contamination, the pandemic tested her commitment to her goals and challenged her mental and physical well-being.

Ashouri said, “My grades slipped at times because the nursing field was in such high demand that I had to sacrifice in some cases to provide quality care.”

Read more about the UAB graduating class of 2024 here.

The ability to sacrifice is one Ashouri believes was instilled in her by the UAB School of Nursing.

“The School of Nursing really instilled the capability to view situations in health care from different viewpoints,” Ashouri said. “Many of the most influential moments from my educational career came out of that school, and they do such a great job at initiating the pride and standard of being a nurse.”

Overcoming the hardships of the pandemic and now with the support of her family, Ashouri will earn her third degree, in general studies with a concentration in biology and chemistry, at the end of this semester. Although she does not plan to attend the undergraduate commencement ceremony April 27, Ashouri is certain that UAB has prepared her for her next steps and is confident in the remainder of her health care career.

“UAB provides such a great support system from the people you meet, whether on the university or the medical side,” Ashouri said.

Ashouri plans to attend medical school in the near future in Memphis, Tennessee.