Interview with Michelle Mourad
A Conversation with Michelle Mourad, Associate Clinical Professor
Welcome back from vacation. Where did you travel? Was there an area with which you felt a particular connection?
We traveled to Turkey. My husband and I like to take vacations that are not in the guidebooks. We don’t go to the spots that everyone expects; we didn’t go to Ephesus or Cappadocia. We love small villages where there is good food, great water, and beaches; we went to experience the country and not the sites. We found little fishing villages along the Turquoise Coast and our highlight was kayaking to a small restaurant in the middle of a cove where they served us a full grilled fish with eggplant and yogurt. On the return trip, we paddled by some temples carved into the rock and just sat in our kayak looking up at them. We like a relaxed style of vacationing rather than loading up on activities that take a lot of time, energy, or equipment.
You showed no trepidation at the idea of this interview. If this was a game of truth or dare, what might be the extent of your bravery?
I am pretty bold and not shy about sharing my stories, although I wasn’t always that way. I think I might stop at the point of a dare.
Who is a hero or heroine upon whom you’ve based a philosophy or outlook?
That is easy. My grandmother is an amazing, amazing woman. She is 97, came to this country with three kids, and taught herself English. She already spoke French, Russian, Italian, Spanish, and Arabic because, in her youth, Cairo was a cosmopolitan city. She never got to finish school. She cried for a week when they told her she had to stop because she was needed at home, but she still kept learning. That’s been such an inspiration to me. She faces life with so much courage. She wakes up every day, gardens, gets on the treadmill, and walks two miles. She meets life with the most optimism and love of life, and she is on the Internet!
You are an athlete, a runner, are you not? Is your running style representative of the way you approach life?
My athleticism is more about how I approach life. The times when I run and when I play team sports are very different. Running is my own time, to be in my own head, to process thoughts, emotions, and all the stuff that I don’t have time for during a busy day. Running brings out the introspectiveness in me, yet I’m a people person and prefer to play on teams: volleyball, basketball, soccer, softball, and, in college, ultimate Frisbee. Now, I play squash once a week with my husband. It’s a great workout.
What trivial pursuit would you not want to admit to wholeheartedly enjoying?
And here I’m about to admit to it? There are so many but I think it would probably be having a soft spot for certain reality TV shows and doing Pilates while watching them. It’s my biggest de-stressor.
You are, I believe, a newlywed. How much fun was your celebration and how did you meld your personalities and backgrounds?
Tom and I are very different. Akin to “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” we both come from very different but such loving families that it made the mesh easy. Our celebration was small and quiet and very “us.” We were married beneath a huppah and did some of the traditional parts of the Jewish ceremony like breaking the glass and drinking from the Kiddush cup.
Your surname, Mourad, is both an Arabic and Jewish variant of a personal name meaning “will, purpose, or wish.” Can you tell me anything more?
Mourad is not actually our family name. It is interesting because I like my last name and really identify with my heritage, which I feel very close to, but it was an adopted name. My father’s grandfather was concerned about having a Jewish last name, Murdoch, and changed it when my father was young to better assimilate in Egypt.
Can you tell me little of your family’s history?
My sister and I have recorded some of my grandmother’s stories. She doesn’t know how our family came to be in
Egypt; we had been there for eight generations as far as we can trace. She jokes, “Not all the Jews were slaves and left Egypt with Moses, some of us were doing just fine and stuck around.” In reality, we can probably trace our family back to Russia or Turkey. My grandmother’s original name was also the name of a famous Communist spy who was on the Black List so, before they could immigrate in the early 60s, she had to officially change her name. My dad has written a book about their journey from Egypt and his family’s struggles. They were allowed to leave with only a thousand dollars they left everything else behind. These family stories are ingrained in me and are like my own.
Why are television medical shows so fascinating? Do you have any favorites? Do you feel any particular empathy with the young physicians as portrayed?
I’m not allowed to watch “House” because I start yelling at the TV. The medical show most like medical training is “Scrubs.” It shows the hilarity, not knowing your place, trying to fit it in, and the fumbling. It is definitely my favorite of the medical shows. There are times in the hospital when I think, “Oh, that’s such a Scrubs moment!” It is definitely underutilized as a teaching tool.
Name three never-fail cravings that always put a smile on your face.
For a foodie, narrowing it to only three is hard. My favorite highbrow food is short ribs, which my husband and I learned to make at home so we could try other items on a menu. My middle-of-the-road favorite is anything with chocolate and hazelnuts, like Nutella—it’s like food of the gods. My lowbrow food that I just can’t stay away from is nachos—even cheap ballpark nachos!
How do you express your creativity?
I paint in watercolor. I stopped painting around the middle of residency and now it’s hard to find the time and clarity of mind to paint. Someone told me that my creativity shows in my PowerPoint slides and, as sad as that is, I think they’re right. Now I express my creativity as part of my job. I still dream of painting and the feeling of painting, that there is nothing else that I need to be doing, nothing else that I’d rather be doing. It is the ultimate leisure time.
Thank you, Michelle.