From Refugee to M.D.: Ahmed Mohamed’s Road to Mayo Clinic

When Ahmed Mohamed, M.D., and his family first immigrated to Rochester from Somalia in 1996, he only knew three words of English. Today, he’s living out his life’s dream as a first-year resident physician in Mayo Clinic’s Department of Internal Medicine.

When Ahmed Mohamed's family came to Rochester in 1996 seeking refuge from the civil war in Somalia, the 6-year-old knew only three words in English. But by the time he'd reached fourth grade, Ahmed had mastered English so well that he was able to graduate from Rochester Public Schools' "English for Speakers of Other Languages" program. "I was very good student and I never disrupted class," Ahmed recently told the Rochester Post-Bulletin. "I was quiet in class up until I got into med school."

By that time in Ahmed's life, he had already reached something of a celebrity status among his peers in Rochester's growing Somali-American community. "They began to call him doctor," reporter Matthew Stolle writes, "despite his protestations at the time that he had yet to earn his degree."

Dr. Mohamed can stop protesting now. He earned the title and is now a first-year resident physician in internal medicine at Mayo Clinic, an accomplishment that doesn't surprise those who know him. "He was very focused," Eddie Mairura, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon in Dallas, Texas, tells Stolle. Dr. Mairura served as a mentor to the then-undergraduate student at the University of Minnesota. "I've mentored a lot of people, but I think he's the only one that makes me look good," he says. "I laid out a road map for him and then stepped out of the way or (risked getting) run over."

Dr. Mohamed tells Stolle that much of what's fueled him to achieve such a high level of success can be traced back to the influence of his parents. They "preached education's power to achieve one's dreams," he says. His interest in becoming a physician began in his teen years, when he'd accompany his grandmother to see her doctor. "Blessed with a sharp memory, he was able to recall and relay everything the doctor said about his grandmother's care to his mom," Stolle writes. It was "seeing the care that doctors provided and the clear benefits his grandmother received" that would ultimately convince Dr. Mohamed to dedicate his life to doing the same for others.

As a resident at Mayo Clinic, he's well on his way to doing just that. He currently divides his time "between seeing patients as a primary care physician at the Baldwin Building and rotating through sub-specialties, such as cardiology and neurology," according to the Post Bulletin. And along the way, Dr. Mohamed is staying "cognizant" of his responsibilities as a physician and as a role model for the Somali-American community. "It does motivate me, because I want to see younger kids in the community achieve success, whether it's in medicine or something else," Dr. Mohamed tells Stolle. He says he's often approached by community members who ask him to speak to their children. "And the advice that I give younger kids in the community is, do something you enjoy doing."

You can read the rest of Stolle's feature story about Dr. Mohamed here. Then, do something we'll enjoy by sharing your comments below and sharing this story with others via the social media tools.