Medical School Development Gifts Fund
When Mehamed Abdi immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in 2015, most of what he knew about speaking English came from the James Bond movies his family had watched on Friday nights back home. He knew how to make a suave introduction — “Abdi, Mehamed Abdi” — but not much else that would help a teenager interested in becoming a doctor to get ahead in America.
“I struggled with even applying to colleges because the high school counselor expected us to know what colleges are available, to know how to talk to people, to know how to write essays for colleges, to know about scholarships,” Abdi said. “As someone who just moved here, I thought, ‘How are we expected to know these things?’”
Abdi, who recently finished his first year at the MU School of Medicine, kept asking questions and seizing opportunities until he cleared the barriers between him and his goals. To smooth the path for others in his situation, he and Brian Barlay, one of his undergraduate classmates at Saint Louis University, co-founded a nonprofit organization called Missouri Young African Professionals in 2018. The group connects first-generation immigrant and refugee students in the St. Louis area with mentors who can help them navigate the path from high school to college or the professional world.
“One of the persons we helped didn’t know how to apply for scholarships, and he applied for a scholarship but was missing some documents that I helped him fill out,” Abdi said. “He reached out to me and said, ‘I saved $8,000 because of that scholarship.’ Helping them understand that is a very big relief for them and very rewarding for me.”
Abdi knows the importance of financial aid to give eager students a chance to realize their dreams, because he is one of those students who needed a little help. A scholarship from the Medical School Development Gifts Fund has aided him on his path to becoming a doctor. He isn’t set on a specialty but is leaning toward a primary care field with the intent of helping patients in underserved areas.
“Not only has this scholarship reduced the total amount of student loans that I will be taking out,” Abdi said, “but it also has motivated me to do my best and shows that there are generous people out there willing to help and inspire students.”