Life After LEAD: Ahmed Owda, ’17

We catch up with one of our former LEAD Scholars.
By Ahmed Owda, ’17

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I REMEMBER BEING 4 YEARS OLD and fascinated at just how much water there was in the ocean on my long flight across the Atlantic. My dad had the chance to train and practice as a nephrologist in Flint, Michigan, so our family was granted visas to the United States. We left the U.K. for Saudi Arabia, and now we were leaving Saudi Arabia for America.

My parents, originally from Sudan, had to leave their native land after they wed in the late 1980s, due to the tumultuous civil war. This began a long journey that ultimately led them to Michigan. As a child, I naturally found myself rooting for the Wolverines over the Spartans, drawn in by the Maize and Blue colors. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to attend U-M.

My parents deserve a tremendous amount of credit for navigating the struggles of raising children in a different culture. One thing, however, remained the same: they emphasized hard work and discipline, just as their parents had bestowed on them. Those values paid off when U-M accepted me in December 2012 and later awarded me the LEAD scholarship. I could now make my dreams a reality and follow in the footsteps of my older sisters, Rieham, ’12, and Dalia, ’15, who is also a LEAD alumna.

The scholarship not only eased the financial burden that comes along with attending any university but provided me with a community for my four years at the University and beyond. Through my LEAD community and mentors, I felt empowered to pursue my dream of becoming a physician. Inspired by people like my father, I hoped to get involved in global health and play a role in Sudan’s health care system. Finding an interest in the brain and cognition, I decided to major in neuroscience. When I graduated, I followed my sisters yet again and applied to medical school. In the fall of 2017, I entered the College of Physicians & Surgeons at Columbia University in New York City.

Medical school has been an incredible challenge that I am grateful for and enjoy. From all-nighters to spending weeks in the basement of the library for my national board exams, I have come to meet many incredible colleagues and close friends. The experiences Columbia has afforded me have been unparalleled. During my clinical month in pediatrics, I witnessed a heart transplant. Having a front-row view always leaves me in awe of how much can be accomplished through medicine.

During these uncertain times of COVID-19, I have gained an interest in public health and policy. After graduating, I hope to train in ophthalmology. Alongside my practice, I want to put my degree to use in Sudan working on health policy. The country is now working through a remarkable transition period, with a brutal regime overthrown for a more democratic one. As I continue to follow news both here and abroad, I am driven to make an impact. Thanks to LEAD, I have been able to find great opportunities and feel supported as my goals come to fruition.


The LEAD Scholars program provides scholarships to Black, Latino, and Native American students who have been accepted into U-M. Visit alumni.umich.edu/LEAD to learn how you can support the program and, thus, help create a more diverse campus.

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