To a great teacher of mine

By Hani Hamdan, Engage Minnesota

In my mind, Dr. Kifah Barrishi is not just a teacher. She practically taught me most of what I know about endodontics (root canal therapy). Every time I perform a root canal, I’m remembering quotes that she had said in her lectures as I’m working. She is my “mother” in endodontics.
Dr. Barrishi graduated first on her class from the Faculty of Dentistry at Jordan University of Science and Technology (JUST) in Irbid, Jordan. She then came to the United States to specialize in endodontics at the University of Iowa, quickly becoming the youngest American Board certified endodontist to that date.
She then returned to Jordan to teach at JUST, which is where I went for my dental degree. I will never forget her dedicated efforts to make sure that I and all my classmates were proficient in performing root canals and operative dentistry. She was not one to give up on any of us. She was there to teach, and she did it very, very well. Her heart warming smile, great positivity, and sunny sense of humor made our learning experience more than complete.
We looked up to her. Her vast knowledge and exceptional skills were unmatched by most endodontic specialists in the Middle East. When she learned that I was coming to the University of Minnesota, she told me to say hello to Dr. Donna Mattscheck, one of her classmates from the University of Iowa who was teaching at the U of Minnesota at the time.
Dr. Mattscheck was delighted to see one of “Kifah’s students”. She took me back to her office and on the way we came across other faculty members. She introduced me to them saying: “This is Hani. He was taught by Kifah Barrishi!”. They all knew who Dr. Mattscheck was talking about. I felt honored and fortunate to have had Dr. Barrishi as a teacher.
Dr. Mattscheck let me see a few of the photos that Dr. Barrishi and her classmates at the U of Iowa took together. The first photo was a “normal” one with everyone smiling at the camera. The second was a hilarious and heartwarming “solidarity” shoot. I’ll let the photo speak for itself:

Needless to say, Dr. Barrishi is trying to hold herself from cracking up.
Yesterday I received the sad news that Dr. Barrishi passed away two days ago after a battle with illness. All of her students were terribly shocked – she was very young. I went on-line and tried to Google her name using different spellings but nothing came up. I felt bad that such a prominent endodontist and great teacher is leaving unsung. So, to my very special teacher I say: May Allaah grant you the highest dwellings in Paradise for your dedication to good teaching, your pursuit of knowledge, and your wonderful person.
Rest in peace, Dr. Kifah. You will never be forgotten.

27 thoughts on “To a great teacher of mine”

  1. I was honored to be one of Dr Kifah Albarrishi students, she was undoubtly one of the best teachers i have ever teached by, she was calm, confident and highly trained professional.

    I was shocked of the sad news, I never knew about her illness and I am so sad that I did not visit her although I have been to Jordan before 3 weeks.

    I still remember when I was in the fourth year and completed a root canal treatment and forgot to put the sealer and she very kindly gave me a score of zero and said “you will never forget it again by this mark”, and i never did.

    I am so sad and I am remembering her most of the time, I hope that she is in a better place now.

    Hani, thank you for this effort.

    Anybody, pray for her…

  2. Dr.kifah was my teacher as well; she taught me endodontics for three years. she was so dedicated to teaching, i could never be more proficient in endodontics without her great effort and generosity in delivering knowledge. Dr. kifah was so intelligent, sharp, dedicated, kind, friendly, beloved and alot more. i`m so proud and ohnered that i was one of her students. may her soul rest in peace

  3. I cannot believe they send me a msg from jordan about her.. Alla yer7amha yarab,, I saw her before one year at conference in riyadh and I was so happy.. Alla ysaber ahla w 3aileta

  4. Dr. Kifah May Allaah grant you the highest dwellings in Paradise for your dedication to good teaching, your pursuit of knowledge, and your wonderful person.

    Rest in peace, Dr. Kifah. You will never be forgotten.

  5. May Dr. Barrishi’s soul rest in peace. I didn’t meet the doctor before, but I was very touched by what you have described. She touched so many people around her, and the positive impressions that she made on others will keep her memory alive for years to come.

  6. God bless her soul, Dr Kifah was an amazing person, i cannot believe i am using ‘past tense’ referring to our great teacher..
    Dr Kifah was calm yet vibrant with energy. Strict yet giving, and above all the way she passed on her knowledge was immaculate and she made endodontics just flow..

    I am speechless, for our loss is immense, may her family find comfort in this great loss.

    Thank you Hani for writing this page

  7. Thanks Hani for the marvelous shoot. Kefah was my class mate, and as you rightly put it, she was always a motherly figure. A class mate of us refered to her as ‘mother nature”. She was always jolly and enjoyed her courses and befriended all of us.

  8. I only knew about the shocking news last night!! Dr.Kefah was so young and it happened all of a sudden!!.. All what i can think of right now is her warm smile and her friendly personality welcoming people into her office at the faculty of dentisrty in Kuwait. She was very much loved by her colleagues for her kind heart and outspoken personality. May God rest her soul in peace. “Inna lellah wa inna elayhi raje’oun”

  9. Kefah was my colleague in the Fcaulty of Dentistry, Kuwait University for 7 years. We were good friends and always had interesting discussions.She was an excellent teacher, greatly loved and admired by our students. She will be missed by all of us and I am sure that Almight will bless her and give strength to her family.

  10. What a great loss of a great lady! Our hearts are truley broken with the extremely shocking news. May Allah reward her with paradise, her soul with mercy and her family and numerous friends with patience. She will never be forgotten.

  11. Thank hani for keeping the memory of such wonderful person life among us,definitely her death was a shock and great loss for her family,students and every one knew this honest, smart and down to earth person. As a teacher she had a great impact on each of her students and that time spend with her will always be remember deep in my heart,may god surround her with his mercy

  12. I am deeply saddened by Dr Kefah’s untimely death, and feel that I have lost a great colleague and a true friend.

    I have spent my career in endodontic teaching in the University of Minnesota and the University of Melbourne. I first met Kefah on a visit to Jordan, and I was immediately impressed by her enthusiasm for teaching and her warm personality. We maintained contact at endodontic conferences and through my regular visits to the University of Kuwait. Kefah was always willing to lend me cases of vital pulp therapy, an area in which she was a leading expert. Her papers in this area will remain as a tribute to her knowledge and her professional skill.

    Kefah became a good friend, even though we came from such different backgrounds and met at most once per year in professional settings. Her warm, ready smile always had a big impact. She shared pictures of her family, and I was aware of how much love and effort she devoted to her children.

    She will be sadly missed, and it is a privilege to have known her.

  13. May ALlah Bless you dr. Kifah, by Alla mean she was the most caring and loved teacher we ever had.

    I will always keep her in my prayer and please all of you do.

    Thanks Hani


  14. Although I have never been an endodontist, I frankly say that I just loved this tough field because of the way it was conveyed to us by Dr. Kefah Barrieshi. I practise root canal therapy these days remembering Dr.Barrieshi in every step. I and a group of our classmates including Karim Agha, Samah Mirshid, Bilal Almasoud, Manal Maslamani, Ahmad Khrais and many others, were honoured to have been the very first batch taught by Dr. Kefah. She was very young at that time (26 yrs) and the youngest assistant professor in JUST.

    I remember a case in the 5th year of my BDS(in 1998) where I found three roots in a maxillary 2nd premolar. Dr Kefah supported me and said “you will be able to do it, and I will consider as a maxillary molar case” because a molar was a requirement while a premolar was not. From that time, I started to feel that endodontics is a challenge that I need to explore. I did a huge amount of RCTs while I was a Clinical Dental Officer and I truly say that at some stage I wanted to be an endodontist because I loved it.

    May Dr. Barrieshi’s soul rest in peace. She will ever be unforgettable

  15. Guys, please visit Dr. Barrieshi’s webpage on Facebook “R.I.P Kefah Barrieshi” and add your comments, memories and condolences.

  16. this is Suhail, i am the eldest brother of Kefah. i wanted to pass my great thanks to Hani and to all the others who wrote such great things about my sister.

    your writing made me very proud and i felt that she is still with us.

    Thank you all very very much.


  17. Kefah was my sister-in-law and a very dear friend. She was always caring, loving, trustworthy and willing to go the extra step for those she loved. Her positive attitude in life was really contageous and i always learned from her…she was a great sister to me and i can still hear her voice and see her smile…May allah sub7anahou wa ta3la rest her soul in peace and reward her aljannah..ameen

  18. Thank you so much for posting this Hani. It is a great tribute to see all of Kefah’s students and friends comenting on the positive impact she had made on this world. I also was shocked and saddened of Kefah’s passing. I am one of those Iowa Endodontic residents in the picture above. Kefah was the most intelligent, but also the kindest person that I have ever met. I can’t think of a time that I have seen Kefah without her warm smile and possitive encouraging attitude. She will be greatly missed, but more importantly, forever remembered for making the world a better place. Thank you Kefah!
    Dave Holtzmann
    Denver, Colorado

  19. Kefah was my friend. We met five years ago in Overland Park, Kansas where she had come seeking treatment for her son who has Cerebral Palsy. My son also has CP and we quickly became friends. I so looked forward to her visits and we shared many happy days together with our children learning about each others lives and cultures. She was a fearless mother lion seeking the very best treatment and opportunity for her son bringing him several times each year half way around the world. Always with a smile and such grace. I am honored to have been able to call her friend. She was an unexpected gift in my life and I will miss her always. Goodbye “My Friend From Far Away”. I love you!

  20. To a great friend/sister of mine:
    I heard about Kefah’s passing this week, during a visit to the Univ. Iowa. Kefah and I were great friends. We were neighbors and took several classes in endodontics together. We had lunch and dinner with each other frequently, confided in each other, learned from each other. I helped each other during hard personal times. She was one of my bride’s maid in 1996.
    I talked to her by phone in 2010 when she brought her son to the US and she was considering the idea to teach in the US. I imagine that her illness happened just after that. I have so many pictures of us together, and have told my 7 year old daughter of the great heart of my sister Kefah. For the pain I feel now, I know how important she was in my life, and will continue to be.
    Love and blessings to you, Kefah. I know you are an angel now.
    Joseli Alves-Dunkerson

  21. Dear friends of Kefah:
    This month is the second anniversary of Kefah’s passing (Aug 30 or Sept 1 – I am not sure yet). I learned about it recently, and it has been a long journey through grieving and healing to me. Maybe because it happened too fast and I learned about it too late. Most likely it was because she was a special person in my life.
    So a temporary Facebook page was created to remember her (). I would like to ask all and each of you to send this message to all people you know who met Kefah. If you know her family’s email in Jordan or Kwait, please let them know about it. If you have photos you would like to download, please try to do so, or send it to me ( and I will download it for you.
    The main purpose of this simple effort is to create a space where anyone who has met Kefah can share their thoughts about her. A secondary purpose is to let her family in Jordan and Kwait, especially her parents and children, know how much Kefah was loved during her time with us. It was an irreparable loss.
    Please help share this message.
    With sincere thanks,
    Joseli Alves-Dunkerson

  22. Kefah passed away in first week of Ramadan two years ago. Our loss was great, yet, when I attended her funeral I realized how much love and kindness she has left behind. So many people came together that day. Now and at each Ramadan I remember her in my prayers. She always tried to mask her gentle sole and kindness with a mask of firmness. It appears that mask fooled no one! She touched everyone of use who were fortunate enough to know her, with endless devotion , sincerity, and genuine compassion. So long, amiga!!!

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