Shaunda Shaw & Shineil Taylor
Brianna Ebony Simpson
When the Shah of Iran was deposed and the government taken over by Islamic fundamentalists, Georgia Perimeter College dental hygiene program alumnus Elaheh Aghaebrahimi sent her only son to live with his father in the United States. Atabak was only 9 years old.
“I had to do it; I knew he would have a better future in America,” Aghaebrahimi says. “It was the hardest thing I have ever done, the biggest sacrifice a mother could make. But I was sure that I would be reunited with him soon.”
Little did Aghaebrahimi know that it would be years before she laid eyes on her son again. The government of Iran refused Aghaebrahimi’s numerous visa applications on the premise that the mother would never return to her home country once she hit American soil.
In the meantime, Aghaebrahimi spent 25 years as a dentist in Iran, running a private practice through times of peace and through massive governmental upheaval.
When Atabak turned 21 years old in 2005, he applied for a visa so he could see his mother again. Finally, the Iranian government relented and let Aghaebrahimi leave the country. She would finally be reunited with Atabak, who is completing a medical residency in radiology in New York City.
She knew that she could not practice dentistry in the United States, but Aghaebrahimi was motivated by her son’s success in medical school to enroll in a dental hygiene program.
“I love dentistry and wanted more than anything to help people again,” she says. “Oral health is the pathway to better overall health and I want more people to reach their goals of living a more vigorous life.”
Aghaebrahimi found the GPC program to be one of the most difficult endeavors of her life. “I studied dentistry in Iran for six years and ran a private practice for 25 years. Yet, the GPC program was more intense and required so much more studying than I had ever encountered. But I was determined to make it through,” she says.
Aghaebrahimi said she is grateful for the opportunities afforded her in the United States. “This country has given me a second chance,” Aghaebrahimi said. “I can’t wait to start giving back as a dental hygienist.”