“I would say that success does not come to you – it’s something you have to work for, and work hard to achieve.”
Those are the words of Antoine Skaff, a dentist and former engineer who has dedicated his life to helping the people within his community in West Virginia and beyond.
In today’s interview with Antoine Skaff, we’re highlighting the perfect immigrant success story, though it’s not one without struggle. To get where he is today, Skaff has had to face many challenges and work a variety of jobs to make ends meet.
We asked Skaff to share his story with us – one that started in 1977 in Ottawa, Canada. That’s where Skaff first attended school to study Civil Engineering at the University of Ottawa.
To get to Ottawa, Antoine Skaff fled a civil war by boat with only $200 to his name.
It was at the University of Ottawa that Skaff started to change his circumstances, and completed two and a half years of study in basic science and engineering classes.
Unfortunately, while attending university, Skaff’s health took a sudden turn for the worst and he was hospitalized with a medical condition. For that reason, he wasn’t able to attend classes for a few weeks and couldn’t finish his third year of university.
Luckly, Skaff’s situation quickly changed when one of his cousins from Charleston, West Virginia had come to visit him to aid with his recovery. She told him about one of the top engineering schools in West Virginia.
“So, rather than repeating my third year in Ottawa, I applied and was accepted at West Virginia Institute of Technology in Montgomery, West Virginia,” says Skaff.
Antoine Skaff continued his engineering education for some time, and received his Masters in Civil Engineering. Then, as a graduate, Skaff got a job within the structural engineering department at The Department of Highways.
He recalls sitting at his desk while at work: “I looked up and called the dental school in Morgantown, and I inquired about their dental program. There was no cell phone back then, and no internet or computers.”
Skaff filled out the applications and was later accepted into the school, graduated and passed the dental board. It was shortly after that he received several job offers and his future changed for the better.
Eventually he went on to find his own practice, taking a $55,000 loan from Huntington Bank.
“I took the loan and bought a building. I was only seeing one patient, or if I was lucky, two or three in a single day,” recalls Skaff.
Antoine Skaff says every penny he made, he put back into the practice and fixing the building, and soon his practice began to take off.
“Things started to pick up and I started to save for a better place and a better location.”
Skaff then bought his second location.
When we asked Antoine Skaff how he wants to be remembered, he said, “I want to be remembered as that compassionate, fair and good dentist that went out of his way to help others.”
“I’ve run into many patients that told me I was good to them and treated them promptly and fairly. I was a good dentist and always tended to their problems and emergencies immediately,” says Skaff.
Antoine Skaff’s story is the perfect example of immigrant success in the US, and he hopes to inspire others to work towards their dreams.
“I’m an engineer, I’m a developer, I’m a teacher – I am a survivor.”
To learn more about Antoine Skaff, you can visit his LinkedIn.