Having seen the suffering individuals can face due to social barriers firsthand, Heba Hamood is passionate about fighting injustice and increasing accessibility. Her fury, mixed with optimism for a better future, helped her find the path to a career in social work – where she can challenge barriers and work towards greater change.
Fighting for social justice
Following the overturn of Roe v Wade, Heba felt called to action. In 2022, she had begun working as a medical assistant at a women's health clinic so she knew well the violence, poverty and racism her patients already faced. She also understood an abortion ban would only worsen their physical and mental health. Aware that she had the ability to advocate for herself and others, something not everyone is afforded due to time and resources, Heba collected petitions to put Proposal 3 on Michigan’s ballot for the November 2022 election. It was more challenging than she ever anticipated, and she endured threats, name-calling and harassment. But she never gave up, and the proposal to enshrine reproductive rights into the state constitution passed with nearly 57% of the vote. Heba was so impassioned in her efforts, she ended up being featured by NowThis News, as well as newspapers in France and Denmark, who came to visit the clinic.
“Together we protected the women of Michigan and ensured they maintain their innate rights to reproductive healthcare,” Heba says. “The potential for change that every human is capable of is something I will always keep in mind when enduring hardships in my fights for social justice. My voice matters. Your voice matters.”
Heba spent four years on the path toward becoming a physician assistant. When preparing to enter the field, however, she found the social disparities among individuals more severe than she had previously anticipated. Her passion for fighting injustice and breaking down social barriers led her to switch to a career in social work.
“Both my past decision to become a PA and my current decision to be a social worker stem from an interconnectedness and desire to help humans lead fulfilling lives and one of the first steps to that is challenging barriers to maximize social accessibilities,” she says.
Heba credits her mentor, UM-Dearborn Professor of Psychology Susana Peciña, with giving her the final push she needed to let go of her former career plan and seek the best version of herself as she took this new path forward. Professor Peciña’s helpful nature and passion for social work and her students was an inspiration to Heba. She says that helped her see the difference that she could make as a social worker, putting things into perspective.
"My previous career path of four years was essentially molded into my identity, so it was very difficult to let go,” she recalls. “I felt pointed in the direction to make the shift, but I needed that final push. Professor Peciña was that final push, and she continues to drive me to seek the best version of myself and overcome challenges headed my way.”
Path to success and final notes
When asked what she is most proud of, Heba will tell you it was her decision to take charge of her mental health–something she willingly discusses because she believes openly sharing about seeking mental health support can contribute to reducing the current stigma around this issue.
“I struggled a lot both mentally and academically my first few years of college,” Heba shares. “I was the high achiever in high school but suddenly I was on the verge of dropping out. I realized that I was trapped in the same mental health stigma that I had been speaking up against for years.”
The support and encouragement of friends and family, her professors at UM-Dearborn and her mental health providers allowed Heba to push past any stigma and seek treatment. She says:
“It was very gradual, and it's a work in progress, but I am so very proud of myself for making it to where I am now.