Growing up in rural Sudan, Mohamed Elsunni lost members of his own family to malaria, and the memory sticks. “It is something that can be prevented with very minimal measures, but you don’t have the tools. People are poor, and authorities continue to neglect public health issues.”
Elsunni is studying epidemiology at Michigan so that, one day, he can go back to Sudan and help ease the burdens of poverty and disease that afflict his people—“if this government changes,” he says. He means the authoritarian regime of President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, whose police force detained and tortured Elsunni more than once during his days as an undergraduate at the University of Khartoum in the late 1990s.
“I was one of the lucky ones, believe me,” he says today. Some of his fellow students—political activists, like Elsunni—did not survive.
Fearing for his safety, Elsunni left Sudan in 1999 as a United Nations refugee and found his way to the United States. Unable to secure transcripts from Khartoum and thus further his education, he spent two years driving a semi-trailer across the U.S. “It wasn’t bad,” he reflects. “I had some kind of peace of mind.”
Thanks to efforts back in Sudan, Elsunni’s transcripts eventually made it to the States. He’s since completed a master’s degree in microbiology from Central Michigan University and begun his M.P.H. at Michigan. He hopes to enroll in medical school next year and has his sights set on a Ph.D. in epidemiology.
An SPH scholarship ensures that the former refugee—now a U.S. citizen—can continue his education, a long-deferred dream.
“I’m re-establishing my life, I am starting over,” says Elsunni, who lives in Ann Arbor with his wife, Sally, and their eight-month-old daughter, Sema. “Ten years ago I could not have imagined this.”
Photo by Peter Smith.
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A $1.5 million gift to SPH will establish two scholarship funds and a collegiate professorship in the Department of Health Management and Policy.
The gift will be apportioned as follows: $950,000 will establish an endowment for a new HMP Scholarship Fund, and $50,000 has been set aside as a challenge to raise additional scholarship funds from HMP graduates. The donors, who wish to remain anonymous, want to support students who are top performers academically, but who may not otherwise be able to attend UM SPH without financial assistance.
The remaining $500,000 creates the S.J. Axelrod Collegiate Professorship in Health Management and Policy. A beloved teacher and pragmatic activist, Sy Axelrod devoted his career to developing programs that would improve delivery of medical care.
A scholarship can make or break a student’s decision to attend UM SPH. Help us close the gap between the dream of graduate school and the high cost of a public health degree by participating in the President’s Donor Challenge, which will add one matching dollar to every two dollars you contribute, up to $1 million, to support graduate and professional students at SPH.