ST. CHARLES – Ermina Hassan aspires to be a doctor and believes she knows the essential quality needed to be a medical professional.
“A good doctor is one who shows compassion,” Hassan said. “That’s what differentiates the doctor and makes that lasting impact on patients.”
The 17-year-old high school student from Crystal Lake has demonstrated considerable compassion for her fellow human beings by working with patients at area hospitals, as well as organizing toy and food drives in her community and distributing oral hygiene kits to children in need.
Hassan was honored for her efforts Friday afternoon with the presentation of the Congressional Award Silver Medal by U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood, D-Naperville.
The gleaming silver medal was suspended from a red, white and blue ribbon that Underwood placed around Hassan’s neck during a ceremony in the ornate Carnegie Room of the St. Charles Public Library.
“The Congressional Silver Medal is awarded to truly exceptional young people,” Underwood said, requiring hundreds of hours of volunteer work, personal development and physical fitness activities.
“These people are our future leaders,” Underwood said.
Hassan would appear to be a leader already.
A senior at Prairie Ridge High School in Crystal Lake, Hassan established a medical club at her school, bringing in physicians and other medical professionals to speak to students.
She is the co-captain of the school speech team, member of the National Honor Society, sings in the a cappella choir and is about to earn a black belt in taekwondo.
At Northwest Community Hospital in Arlington Heights, Hassan worked in patient-doctor communications, assisting people who often had no medical insurance get the help they needed.
“I was the in-between person,” Hassan said.
While there, Hassan organized a project in which she assembled oral hygiene kits for young children in need.
Each kit contained a tube of toothpaste, a toothbrush and dental floss. Hassan distributed the kits to kindergartners through fifth-grade students.
“It’s really gratifying to see how I made a difference in their lives,” Hassan said.
At Northwestern Medicine McHenry Hospital in McHenry, Hassan worked with the administration to help organize activities at the front desk, handle telephone calls, greet patients and visitors and lead people to the right place in the building.
Hassan also gained the opportunity to shadow an orthopedic doctor.
“I met a lot of elderly people and learned about the problems that go with bone degeneration,” Hassan said.
Hassan’s parents, both doctors, immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan.
Born in Naperville, Hassan and her parents lived in Ohio, Connecticut and New York before settling in Crystal Lake when the girl was in sixth grade.
Hassan’s father, Syed Hassan, is a family physician and her mother, Afsheen Ommar, is a dentist.
Ermina Hassan thinks she might want to be a cardiologist or a dermatologist. But first, she is weighing her options for college, including Loyola University and the University of Illinois-Chicago.
For the moment, Hassan was able to contemplate her silver medal and the honor conferred by Underwood.
“I feel like a lot of hard work and determination has finally paid off for me,” Hassan said.
Hassan is inspired by Underwood’s story, a registered nurse making her way to the halls of Congress.
“When I grow up I want to be someone like her,” Hassan said. “She is my role model. I’m such a fan.”