Aoun Named to Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40October 25, 2023
A pitch for a business competition at Georgia State University in 2016 was the impetus
behind the establishment of the Georgia First Generation Foundation, a nonprofit organization in Gwinnett County, which has helped more than 750 students
consider next steps after high school graduation.
The Georgia FirstGen brochure begins like a novel. “On a cold and rainy February morning,
Charbel Aoun, MS ’21 (PharmD ’25) and Francisco Martinez, MS, were in a college study
area when they entered the competition.
“Being the first in their families to graduate from high school and attend college,
Aoun and Martinez understood the real, yet not impossible barriers that students face
when working to achieve a college education.”
Though they did not win the competition, a wave of interest from the community spurred
the founders on to forming a nonprofit organization to support the growth and success
of first generation high school students and, just as importantly, to create a sense
of belonging and community for these students.
Aoun, a third year pharmacy student at PCOM Georgia, is the founding executive director. After earning a bachelor’s degree from Georgia
State University in physics and astronomy, Martinez, a Lanier High School graduate
from Sugar Hill, completed a master’s degree in physics from Georgia Tech and works
as a data analyst.
Georgia FirstGen has helped 750 high school students
To date, Georgia FirstGen has student chapters at seven Gwinnett County high schools
and has served 750 first generation students who have more than a 95% acceptance rate
into college, according to Aoun. In addition, Aoun has helped organize more than 45
educational meetings and conferences.
“These events have served as a platform for students from underrepresented backgrounds
to gain valuable insights into higher education and career opportunities,” he said.
“Witnessing the impact of these events on students’ lives has been incredibly gratifying.
It reaffirms my belief that education can transform lives and break down barriers.”
Aoun’s efforts have been noticed.
Last year, Aoun was named to the 35 Under 35 class by the Gwinnett Young Professionals,
which is sponsored by the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce. This year, Georgia Trend magazine recognized Aoun, 27, as a member of the 2023 class of 40 Under 40 and placed
his photo on the cover of the magazine as the youngest to receive this year’s recognition.
Aoun said, “Being named to Georgia Trend’s 40 Under 40 is a significant and humbling honor representing a pivotal moment in my career.”
He added, “The award reflects my dedication to equitable access to higher education
and the transformative power of mentorship.
“It motivates me to continue pushing the boundaries of what I can achieve in pharmacy,
advocating for healthcare improvement, and empowering future generations of leaders
‘It’s about how we can make the table larger for everyone to be a part of it’
“Being the youngest on this list gives me an opportunity to showcase why my perspective,
why my voice, why my intentionality to work is absolutely needed,” he said, “in an
age where young professionals and young healthcare advocates aren’t as well represented.”
He noted that the philosophy he lives by — “If not you, then who?” — ensures that
healthcare professionals, first generation advocates, and future leaders need to be
present in every part of the conversation.
He said, “It’s not about adding seats to the table. It’s about how we can make the
table larger for everyone to be a part of it.”
Aoun grew up in Gwinnett County and is a product of Gwinnett County Public Schools,
graduating from Mountain View High School in Lawrenceville. The first of five children,
he was born in the early ‘90s shortly after his parents met and were married following
their immigration to the United States in hopes of pursuing a fresh start — his father
from Lebanon and his mother from Syria.
Gwinnett’s small community at the time attracted them, where Aoun said, “they felt
that they could raise a family and connect with a sense of diversity.” In addition,
Gwinnett’s school system was a deciding factor in their move to Gwinnett.
Aoun earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Georgia State University, before
matriculating into PCOM Georgia in Suwanee in 2018 where he earned a master's degree
in organizational development and leadership. He then enrolled in the Doctor of Pharmacy program.
Dedicated to a pharmacy career
Aoun’s dedication to the pharmacy field extends beyond the classroom and pharmacy
counter. He serves as vice chair of the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists
Student Forum Executive Committee and is actively involved in the Georgia Pharmacy
In the community, he is a member of the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce and its Gwinnett
Young Professionals board.
His plans including merging his passion for pharmacy with his commitment to leadership
“I aspire to continue my journey as a pharmacist, leveraging my diverse educational
background and clinical experiences to provide exemplary patient care,” he said.
He also envisions a future beyond clinical practice.
“I see myself taking on roles that allow me to contribute to advancing pharmacy practice
as a whole.”
Future endeavors could include teaching and mentoring student pharmacists as part
of an academic faculty, or healthcare administration positions that enable him to
influence policy, drive quality improvement initiatives and optimize patient outcomes.
“Ultimately, my overarching goal is to leave a lasting legacy in pharmacy and health
care. I am also deeply passionate about mentorship and inspiring future generations
to pursue their dreams and aspirations in the healthcare sector.”
He said that if he had a do-over, he would not change his healthcare profession.
“Pharmacy gives me the space to be a future educator who can guide patients and professionals
while advancing the healthcare community.”
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About PCOM Georgia
Established in 2005, PCOM Georgia is a private, not-for-profit, accredited institute of higher education dedicated
to the healthcare professions. The Suwanee, Georgia, campus is affiliated with Philadelphia
College of Osteopathic Medicine, a premier osteopathic medical school with a storied
history. PCOM Georgia offers doctoral degrees in osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, and
physical therapy and graduate degrees in biomedical sciences, medical laboratory science,
and physician assistant studies. Emphasizing "a whole person approach to care," PCOM
Georgia focuses on educational excellence, interprofessional education and service
to the wider community. For more information, visit pcom.edu/georgia or call 678-225-7500. The campus is also home to the Georgia Osteopathic Care Center,
an osteopathic manipulative medicine clinic, which is open to the public by appointment.
For more information, visit pcomgeorgiahealth.org.
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