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Veteran, brother, survivor: Mohammad’s story

An incredible journey from a war zone in Afghanistan to working as a biomedical engineer at Kaiser Permanente. Pictured, Mohammad Yousafzai, in his office workshop at Kaiser Permanente Oakland Medical Center.

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.

Mohammad Yousafzai

“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.”



This Post Has 25 Comments

  1. Mohammad’s story should be made into a movie. He continues to show courage and humility and is an inspiration to all. I would love to read more inspirational stories of our amazing staff!

  2. OMG! What a story! I am so happy he and his family have made it here. He didn’t say but I am assuming his little brother was released? He sounds like he is a wonderful person. All the best! I am sure you are very happy to see your wife this month. Happy Holidays!

  3. Thank you for your service and sacrifice. You worked hard for your family, community, and yourself. I am happy to know that your family is here safe with you and your wife will soon be with you. Many blessings to you and your family. Alicia

  4. Mohammad, thank you for sharing your incredible story. I’m in awe and inspired by your courage, and grateful for your sacrifice and service. So proud of you!

  5. Truly an amazing person, such strength with so many hardships to overcome. Thank you for your service to our country — wishing you all the best!

  6. Such an incredible story. Thank you, Mohammad, for your sacrifice and dedication. We are luck to have you here at Kaiser.

  7. Hello Mohammed = I’m usually so busy here at work (I know you can relate!) that I am unable to take the time to read emails other than those related to work issues. But something made me stop and read your story, and I’m so glad I did! Thank you for serving, your courage, and willingness to put your life on the line for both of your countries. Many in the U.S. could learn much from your life path…All the best in Life to you and your family, Michael

  8. What an honor to work with you. My condolences on the loss of your father. I am so happy for you to be able to reunite with your wife. Thank you for sharing your story.

  9. What an inspirational story. I am grateful that Kaiser gave Mohammad an opportunity to work for them. Diversity helps organizations thrive. Thank You, KP.

  10. I am so very proud to have Mohammad as part of the Clin Tech and ESS families! What an inspiration and motivation for all of us! Thank you for all your sacrifices, Mohammad and for all the great work you do on behalf of KP and our members!

  11. I am so sorry about the loss of your father. You are an incredible example of Honor, Courage & Commitment. Please continue to inspire others through your work Devil Dog. Semper Fi.

  12. What an amazing story, thank you for your service. A true testament of survival and inclusion. Thank you, KP, for sharing this story.

  13. Mohammad Yousafzai should be commended for his work in Afghanistan. The country and the people of Afghanistan have been through so much trauma. The country is war torn and in need of more people like Mohammad. We never know what people have been through; always practice kindness.

  14. Thank you for sharing your story! Wow! Brought me to tears. The freedom we have in this country is very much taken for granted. Thank you for all you have done, and all that you do! Blessings to you and your family! Prayers for a sweet reunion with your wife, and that she can grow to love it here!

  15. Wow. Such an inspiring story. It is with deep admiration that I read through Mohammad Yousafzai’s story. I’m so grateful for his contribution to our military and proud that he is part of the Kaiser family. Thank you, Mohammad.

  16. I really enjoyed reading your story, Mohammad! As an Afghan refugee as well, I can relate to the challenges and struggles of leaving home to start life over. I’ve been honored to be here at KP for quite some time now and am very glad you made your way here as well.

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