Most people who meet Mohammad Yousafzai, a biomedical engineer for the Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Facility, know his warmth and professionalism, but what they don’t know is his astonishing bravery.
His story is one of love, tragedy, and perseverance.
‘They kidnapped my 3-year-old brother. It was like someone took my hands from me.’
Born and raised in Afghanistan, Yousafzai is the oldest of 7 siblings. His entrepreneurial spirit led him to be a business owner and contractor for the U.S., Canadian, and British militaries.
But Yousafzai wanted to do more for his country that was grappling with the infiltration of terrorist organizations. He joined the United States Marine Corps in 2008 as a translator and cultural advisor — a dangerous job. He worked in war zones, led radio station communications, and worked to educate Afghans about the American’s mission.
After almost a year without being able to talk to his family, Yousafzai made a phone call home that he will never forget. A terrorist group had killed his father because of Yousafza’s involvement with the military.
“I was in shock. I couldn’t speak,” he said. “This was just the beginning of my sacrifices.”
His mission to make life better for all Afghans was stronger than the fear of terrorism. “I am not giving up,” he said. “I stepped into this. I will finish it.”
His work for the U.S. continued, and his family went into hiding. But a few years later came another phone call.
“They kidnapped my 3-year-old brother,” Yousafzai said about a terrorist organization. “It was like someone took my hands from me.”
To get his brother back, Yousafzai was forced to resign as a translator, retire his businesses, and pay a $35,000 ransom. His brother was returned and a new path was ahead for Yousafzai.
The American military helped him come to the U.S. in 2014. He landed an engineering job with Black Diamond Video working on Kaiser Permanente medical devices across the West Coast. Meeting Kaiser Permanente employees and learning about the organization’s mission, Yousafzai knew it was where he wanted to be.
“I really liked the diversity of people, and the culture felt like you were part of a big family,” he said.
Yousafzai has been a biomedical engineer in Oakland for 2 years repairing and maintaining life-saving equipment. He loves it and takes pride in being part of a company founded on helping others.
William Rojek, a clinical technology manager for Kaiser Permanente San Francisco and Yousafzai’s former supervisor, considers Yousafzai a friend and exceptional employee.
“His professionalism is unmatched,” said Rojek, who is also a veteran.
When Rojek heard about Yousafzai’s family, he was speechless.
“He doesn’t use his past as a crutch,” he said. “It’s a life-defining experience that drives him to be a better version of himself.”
Outside of Yousafzai’s day job, he works with nonprofits dedicated to improving the U.S. immigration process for international translators. Recently, Yousafzai himself became an American citizen after many years.
Today, Yousafzai lives with parents and siblings in Morgan Hill. In December, he’ll be reunited with his wife after 5 years apart.
“Afghanistan is my heart, but this is my home now,” he said. “I am beginning a new and better life. Not just for myself, but for my family.”