Celebrating Black Excellence: How one Shad Alum plans to pursue medicine as a means of giving back to his community
As a young child, Hamid Ali accompanied his Mom to doctor’s appointments as she sought treatment for a work injury she had suffered. The experience had a lasting impact. From physiotherapists to specialists, he was fascinated by the breadth of knowledge and technical equipment available to practitioners to help treat people with medical ailments large and small.
“I remember sitting in wonder at all the different technology and methods used at different clinics. It was so exciting to watch different practitioners use different methods to treat the injury, and it made me want to learn more, to understand why they used the machines they did and how they worked.”
His passion for science and technology only grew as Hamid progressed through school and engaged with more advanced STEAM classes. So when Hamid came across the Shad program when searching for summer opportunities, he knew it was something he wanted to explore.
“As soon as I read about the Shad program, I was like ‘yes, that is it, that’s for me!’ I knew I wanted to apply because it would give me the opportunity to spend a whole month learning about the things that interest me and would give me the chance to really grow my knowledge.”
Hamid’s parents had always instilled in him a love of learning and a strong belief in the importance of education. They had come to Canada as refugees from Somalia, hoping to provide better opportunities for their children and had always taught them to dream big and pursue their goals.
“My parents have always taught me to work hard and better myself through learning and setting goals. They have really been an inspiration for my own goals because they have shown me the value of hard work and the importance of always doing your best.”
When Hamid arrived at the Shad campus at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick last summer, he was thrilled to be surrounded by other passionate students eager to learn and share their experiences. He was excited to see what kinds of workshops they would be participating in, as well as exploring parts of Canada he had not yet explored as a resident of Alberta.
“I’m not overstating it when I say the summer was completely life changing. Being around such intelligent people and amazing staff at a university on your own, it was incredible. It was the first time I was travelling just me and getting some independence and meeting lifelong friends while getting a university experience before university. It was such a worthwhile experience.”
Hamid has been excited to take what he learned last summer back home to Edmonton. He feels many youth in his community lack mentors in STEAM and often don’t see themselves pursuing that path, missing out on opportunities that are open to them. Hamid feels it is important for him to show others that these pathways exist for them.
“Many youth in the Somali community and elsewhere don’t pursue science and technology and feel like they aren’t cut out for it. They think they have to follow a trade or some other skilled work, without realizing that they can pursue other paths and have different academic options open to them if they want.”
Hamid tries to counter this by acting as a role model at school and in his wider community. He helps to run workshops at the Alberta Immigrant Women and Children Centre to connect with newcomers and help them as they adjust to their new life in Canada and has started the Youth for Humanity Club at his school to connect with other students who value giving back and positively impacting their community.
“I always try to reach out to kids that are new to the school to help them feel welcome and answer any questions they might have. It’s important to have mentors that can offer advice and guidance to kids just settling in, who can share with them what they’re doing and show them what opportunities are available.”
Though Hamid hasn’t decided which university he wants to attend, he is pretty sure he wants to complete a degree in Health Sciences before going on to medical school. Medicine is a valued profession in his culture, and he sees it as a way he can give back to his community at home and abroad. Whatever profession he chooses, he hopes to use it in ways that will help him give back to the community he loves so much.
“I hope to become a doctor and one day be able to travel back to Somalia and help them with some of the challenges they face. So many people lack access to proper medicine, children and adults, which makes it difficult for them to live healthy lives and reach their own goals.”
Whatever he decides, he is grateful to be on a path that affords him the ability to explore his options and embrace opportunities for growth and learning. He hopes to help others be inspired by STEAM, just as he was as a young boy, so that they too can find a path that might speak to their authentic selves.
“Many in my community don’t know how to start, they don’t know how to pursue STEAM. I love to be a person they can go to and ask questions and provide them with information so that they don’t risk missing out. I want to show them that it’s a viable option, that anything they want to do is an option, if they take the right steps and go for what they want.”