Dr. Nadine Kobty-Hogg was born in Lebanon but had to flee with her parents because of Lebanon’s devastating civil war. Until then, Beirut was known as “the Paris of the Middle East” and Nadine notes that only war would have forced her family to leave.
They found a new home more than 1,500 miles away in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Nadine says that her “parents had a really basic start there. We had electricity but no air conditioning. Everything was around the beach and it was known for fishing, oysters and pearls.” They also had long drives through empty deserts.
UAE’s modest structures and mud huts gave way to tremendous change when Nadine was about 10 years old. With the discovery of oil, the UAE catapulted from poverty to unimaginable wealth. Today it has the world’s tallest building (163 stories); the world’s largest shopping mall; an iconic group of artificial islands shaped like palm trees; and the Burj Al Arab hotel shaped like the sail of a boat.
“Everytime we go back there is something new to explore. The global community. The financial district. It’s become so international,” she says.
Nadine and her family became part of the large “expat” (or expatriate) community in the UAE. Because less than 10 percent of UAE’s population are citizens, the international community helped shape the UAE in some surprising ways.
“It’s a melting pot. It’s welcoming… And because it’s a pretty important U.S. ally, they’re trying to include more western influences and ideas,” Nadine says.
Education was very important, including fluency in at least two languages, Nadine notes of the British-style school system where she was educated.
Something else that Nadine says was very important was respect. Nadine and her family are Greek Orthodox but never felt excluded despite living in a largely Muslim society. She remembers the two communities existing comfortably side-by-side with churches located alongside mosques.
“You respected rules and traditions. For instance, during Ramadan, Christian kids might sit apart in the cafeteria because Muslim kids were fasting and you respectfully didn’t want to eat or drink in front of them. Or you could wear bathing suits to the beach but you wouldn’t wear something inappropriate going to the market.”
Nadine came to the U.S. in 1995 to study dentistry, graduating from University of Michigan School of Dentistry and was then selected to be part of an advanced post-graduate program at the University of Florida where she was the recipient of the prestigious J. Frank Collins Award for excellence in dentistry.
She went on to receive a Master of Science in Aesthetic Dentistry from King’s College of London in the UK where she remains on faculty as a postgraduate tutor.
While the world has always been Nadine’s oyster, she and her husband Kyle, also an accomplished dentist, made Cadillac their home in 2005. She says it’s a good place to raise a family and be engaged in productive and necessary work.
Is it a challenge to be a global citizen in a small community? Nadine admits that she has to work at it. She loves to cook and to connect and share stories with others. Recently she was thrilled to welcome another international family to Cadillac.
She and her husband also use their dental expertise to build bridges around the globe, teaching and training in their specialized dentistry fields. And, of course, she travels back to the UAE frequently to visit family and to appreciate the new things happening in that part of her world.
Listen here to Dr. Nadine Kobty-Hogg’s interview with IPR’s Kendra Carr.