Hodan Abdi, a third-year University of Minnesota Medical School student, had her sights set on being a doctor while growing up in East Africa. 

“I witnessed poor health outcomes due to a weakly developed surgical system,” she said. “As a result, since beginning medical school, I have taken an interest in global surgery and wanted to focus on global health and giving back to the community.”

Now, with the support of an ElevateMeD scholarship, she’s planning to do just that. The ElevateMeD Scholars Program provides funding to develop physician leaders from underrepresented backgrounds with the goal of closing the gap in healthcare disparities. Hodan applied to do a research year through the Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowship at Harvard Medical School but was worried about the expenses associated with moving across the country to live in Boston.

“When I was accepted into the fellowship, I was excited,” she recalled. “It’s self-funded though, which was one of the barriers I faced, because you have to show you can support yourself that year.”

The ElevateMeD scholarship will ease some of this burden and allow Hodan to focus on her true calling – improving global health outcomes. 

“During the fellowship, I will work on a team dedicated to one or two low and middle-income countries,” Hodan said. “This research fellowship will provide an incredible opportunity to become a global surgery leader in my homeland and contribute to making surgical care accessible to all those in need. It will be an excellent opportunity to strengthen my research focus and gain essential leadership skills that will be crucial for my long-term career aspirations.”

The fellowship trains leaders to promote universal access to surgical care through research, policy development and advocacy. 

“The fellowship will help me gain new skill sets by conducting research and becoming a global leader,” she said. “I think this research will help me see the bigger picture and advocate for people in my home country, along with all the people lacking access to surgery locally and globally.”

She was nominated for the scholarship by Mary Tate, director of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity at the U of M Medical School. 

“Hodan has a heart for service, mentoring, tutoring and helping to enhance the quality of life for the people with whom she works,” Tate said. “She is a positive role model, and her community is very proud of her accomplishments.”

Hodan also mentors pre-med students through the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) and hopes to give back to future generations of underrepresented groups in medicine.

“I always say that when I become a doctor, I want to fund research and scholarships for students who are from low-income backgrounds,” she said. “Research is so important in medicine, but it’s expensive.”

While Hodan is making plans to begin the fellowship in July, she’ll return to complete her final year at the Medical School, and is looking toward specializing in surgery.

“This award shows that there are so many people who believe in you, and you have to keep pushing,” she said. “I was really excited to receive it.”