“Mind-bending Influence of Malcolm X: How a Somali-American Biology Grad Became Driven to Enter Medical School!”

On a seemingly mundane Thursday in May of 2023, Ramadhan Ahmed was accepted to 17 elite medical schools and named the Outstanding Senior of 2023. The news of Ahmed’s acceptance to top-ranked institutions such as Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and UC San Francisco left many in a state of utter perplexity. And to add to the burstiness of it all, Ahmed had never once utilized the one page of handwritten notes allowed during quizzes in Nilay Patel’s “Cellular and Molecular Biology” course at Cal State Fullerton.

Patel, an associate professor of biological science, was thoroughly impressed with Ahmed’s unwavering integrity and drive to succeed. Ahmed’s commitment to his career and passion for medicine had undoubtedly paid off. This young biological science major, who scored in the 97th percentile on the MCAT, was the first in his family to earn both high school and college degrees, graduating summa cum laude with a 3.91 GPA.

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However, Ahmed’s journey to this point was anything but ordinary. Born in the rural village of Wajir, Kenya, Ahmed had to overcome numerous obstacles to even be considered for the prestigious medical school programs to which he was accepted. His family, consisting of refugees and farmers, sold goats for a living. But Ahmed’s father, seeking a better life for his family, immigrated to California and worked as a gas station clerk to save up enough money to bring Ahmed and his mother to the United States.

In America, Ahmed navigated the “concrete jungles” of California with the help of his mother, who taught him English by reading “Magic School Bus” books to him every night. And despite the challenges he faced, Ahmed never wavered in his commitment to his community and his studies. He participated in CSUF’s GEAR UP program, mentored two community college students through Project RAISE, and volunteered for StandUp for Kids Orange Country.

Ahmed’s belief in the power and beauty of medicine was cultivated through his personal experiences, the teachings of his aunt and uncle, and reading the autobiography of Malcolm X. He initially harbored doubts about his abilities, but Patel saw his potential and helped him plan his class schedules, invited him to office hours, and invited him to his lab with open arms.

Today, Ahmed is ready to take on medical school at The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in August with a full-ride scholarship that includes tuition and living expenses. The possibilities for his future are endless, but one thing is certain – he will carry with him the values and teachings that have brought him this far.

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