Marina Abdel Malak overcame an eating disorder that nearly killed her and published a book about her ordeal to inspire others. Then she became valedictorian for her nursing class this past June.
The Mississauga native, 22, was one of 466 students who graduated from the McMaster Mohawk Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program.
Abdel Malak's book, Recipe for Recovery, details her battle with anorexia. She said having it published last year is her biggest accomplishment.
"I wanted to use my experiences in battling an eating disorder to help others, to break the stigma associated with illness, and to inspire others to achieve their dreams," says Abdel Malak. The illness began when she was in Grade 9, and involved weeks spent in hospital when her organs began to fail from the self-starvation. She has been recovered for the past four years.
Abdel Malak says her mother, father and sister are her greatest inspirations. Her parents immigrated to Canada from Egypt and both had to retake their degrees here in order to work in their respective professions. At the same time they were paying off their student debts and raising their two girls. Abdel Malak says her parents raised them "to be grateful for the simplicities of life, to persevere despite obstacles and to remain true to ourselves."
Her older sister, Nansy, has also helped her during rough times.
"There are days when I feel like giving up, but Nansy's courage and passion remind me how rewarding it is to fight for my goals," says Abdel Malak.
While at McMaster, Abdel Malak received the Dr. Harry Lyman Hooker Scholarship, the Edwin Marvin Dalley Memorial Scholarship and the Yates Scholarship. She believes that giving back to McMaster is important.
"I have tremendous respect and appreciation for individuals who give back to the McMaster community in any way, and I would love to be able to do the same," said Abdel Malak.
She has now started the medical school program at the University of Toronto.