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A Ticket to a New Life

Diploma in hand, Somali refugee on way to medical school at Johns Hopkins University

Mohamud Qadi. Photos by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

When Mohamud Qadi crossed the stage Saturday to receive his diploma from UC San Diego, it represented a milestone moment in an arduous journey that started in Somalia two decades earlier. This fall, Qadi will enter medical school at Johns Hopkins University.

Hats off to the Class of 2012

Thousands of students celebrated graduation at UC San Diego's commencement ceremonies over the weekend. A total of 8,182 undergraduate and graduate students received their diplomas during the campus's 11 different ceremonies.

View the Slideshow

One of eleven children, Qadi and his family were forced to flee Somalia for Kenya when he was only 2 years old. They lived in a refugee camp there for three years before successfully immigrating to the United States.

Qadi’s graduation celebration kicked off Friday when he attended the All Campus Graduation Celebration. The all-campus event featured a dinner, fireworks show and keynote speech from university alumna Sandi Logan, vice president of casting for ABC Entertainment. The majority of UC San Diego’s 11 commencement ceremonies took place over the weekend on RIMAC field. A total of 8,182 undergraduate and graduate students received their diplomas at the various ceremonies.

On Saturday, Qadi and his family were together to celebrate his graduation from UC San Diego.

“It an amazing feeling to be here with my family, who have done so much for me to get here,” Qadi said. “Although my years at UC San Diego were not easy, they were so rewarding. I have had some amazing experiences, and all the work that I put in was worth it.”

Qadi and his family

Qadi’s journey from Somalia to high school and college has been nothing short of extraordinary. After settling in San Ysidro, Calif., Qadi took several jobs while he was in high school to help support his family. Through his various jobs, Qadi worked 35 hours a week, including at Little Caesars Pizza and at a market research firm.

“These years of balancing my responsibilities for school, work and family, helped me develop a strong work ethic and a sense of gratitude that allowed me to succeed,” Qadi said.

Although no one in his family had attended college, Qadi, who was an Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) student, was determined that he would be a role model and be the first to go to college.

“Coming into UC San Diego for the first time, I felt underequipped,” he said. “However, I had a dream and nothing to lose. I had to set an example for my ten surviving siblings, having become the first one in my family to be accepted into a university. I had to prove to them that they were as good as anybody, and that they could go on to great universities as well.”

At UC San Diego, Qadi thrived as a biochemistry and cell biology major at Revelle College.

“I dedicated myself and through my struggles, I learned that any academic obstacle can be overcome through discipline and optimism,” he said.

Qadi was very active in several student organizations that helped connect him to his cultural heritage, his passion for medicine and his dedication to giving back.

“Having the ability to make a difference and positively impact the lives of others is why I want to pursue an education in medicine,” he said.

Qadi was a tutor at the Safri Market, which assists first-generation Somalis to remain connected with their homeland while progressing economically in the United States.

Qadi also was director of campus relations for the UC San Diego Foundation for International Medical Relief for Children (FIMRC). FIMRC is a non-profit organization that is dedicated to improving pediatric and maternal health in the developing world.

“I began volunteering with FIMRC because their vision of a world in which all children have an equal opportunity to benefit from modern medicine spoke highly to me,” said Qadi. “From volunteering with FIMRC, I saw the multiple levels at which physicians could make a difference. We worked with ‘grassroots’ doctors who directly provide healthcare in developing countries, and I saw how their implementation of health education, water sanitation, and basic level of health-care made a significant difference in the lives of the underserved.”

Among his other accomplishments, Qadi served as co-chair of the HOPE program, which assists underrepresented minority, first-generation, or financially disadvantaged students on their path to higher education. It also supports students who are dedicated to providing health-care for the underserved.

In addition, Qadi was a scholar with the UJIMA network, an alliance of black staff, faculty, students, alumni, and community at UC San Diego.

Qadi worked as an instructional assistant for Mary Boyle, a UC San Diego professor of cognitive science. He was also a researcher in the lab of Antonio De Maio, a professor in the UC San Diego School of Medicine, as part of the Initiative to Maximize Student Diversity (IMSD) program on campus.

“This experience of working in the lab helped me more deeply appreciate scientific findings in their capacity to save lives and increase the quality of life for individuals,” Qadi said.

He added that he’s thrilled to start medical school at John Hopkins University in the fall. “From there, I hope to become a physician and help right the health disparities present both locally and globally,” he said.

Related Links:

Graduation 2012 Slideshow