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Lily Herbert ‘16 (Ph.D. ‘23) and Ahmed Mashal, husband and wife, and are set to achieve significant milestones on the same day — Herbert with a Ph.D. in geography and Mashal from medical school, both at UNC-Chapel Hill. Herbert and Mashal both consider the Triangle to be their home, and they welcomed a daughter at the start of Mashal’s first clinical rotation.

A man and a woman post for a photo in front of a sunset.
Ahmed Mashal and Lily Herbert

During Herbert’s time at Carolina, she received funding from The Graduate School’s Summer Research Fellowship program, a dissertation completion fellowship, and the Irene Dillard Elliott Fellowship. She has also received an Evelyn L. Pruitt National Fellowship for Dissertation Research from the Society of Woman Geographers. 

Mashal has been inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha and the Eugene S. Mayer Honor Society for Community Service, and received the Medical Alumni Loyalty Fund Scholarship twice, as well as the John D. Idol Memorial Scholarship.

Where did you attend undergraduate and/or graduate school prior to arriving at Carolina?

Herbert: “I completed my undergraduate studies at UNC-Chapel Hill!” 

Mashal: “I did a year at the American University of Beirut before transferring to finish my bachelor’s at North Carolina State University. I then completed a post-baccalaureate fellowship at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) before starting medical school at UNC-Chapel Hill.” 

What are your respective areas of study?

Herbert: I’m based in the Department of Geography, and my work focuses on a mix of quantitative spatial analysis and critical theory. 

Mashal: I am specializing in emergency medicine, and I also completed the School of Medicine’s Nutrition Scholarly Concentration Program. 

How did you feel when you were both accepted to UNC?

Herbert: “When I was accepted to my program at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was delighted to hear I would have the chance to study with the excellent faculty who had taught me during my undergraduate work. I then spent about a year and a half in my program before Ahmed heard he had been accepted to the UNC School of Medicine, and I was elated he would be based at the same institution for medical school.” 

Mashal: “I was thrilled to hear about my acceptance to the UNC School of Medicine, both because it was my top choice for medical school, and because it meant I would be close to Lily and our family.” 

What have you enjoyed about the graduate/professional student experience at UNC-Chapel Hill?

Herbert: “I love how much I have been able to work with faculty and staff as colleagues, and get to know them in a different capacity than during my undergraduate work. I worked at the Center for European Studies, in the Davis Library Research Hub, with digital communications in geography, and on a couple projects in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health and really appreciated the diversity of skills I picked up and teams on which I was able to contribute.” 

Mashal: “I have really enjoyed engaging in DEI work alongside students, faculty, and staff in the School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. One of the experiences I am most grateful for is having been a co-president for the Islamic Medical Association (IMA) during its first year and growing the organization and working on different initiatives. I valued having Beat Steiner (the then-senior associate dean for medical student education) as our group advisor — he was a great support for us and a role model for me in the way he addressed concerns, advocated for marginalized communities, and continuously worked to improve our educational experience and beyond. He made UNC-Chapel Hill, in many ways, feel like home for me and countless other students. Additionally, during my first year of medical school, I had the privilege of co-leading IMA’s first Ramadan Food Basket Project to support refugee families during the pandemic and have been pleased to see this project continue to take place annually since then.” 

How will you manage day-of graduation logistics — whose ceremony is first?

Herbert: “My ceremony is first up! Administrators at both The Graduate School and the School of Medicine have been very kind in helping to arrange for me to complete my walk on the early side, and have our family arrive to Ahmed’s ceremony right after.” 

What’s ahead for you both?

Herbert: “I’ll be doing consulting on quantitative spatial work spanning subject areas including public health and racial justice.” 

Mashal: “In June, I’ll be starting my residency program in Emergency Medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte, NC.” 

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