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The Catalyst

Sacrifices taken for an American education

By Caroline Assey
Public Relations

Osman Abdi, R.N., grew up in the city of Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia. There he experienced the hardships of an ethnic-based civil war under a military dictator. His family hails from the self-declared sovereign state of Somaliland.

“I saw people dead on the streets, bodies everywhere, and it was unbelievably dangerous. Between the chaos and destruction, I decided I had to leave,” Abdi said.

Osman Abdi received his Bachelor of Science degree in nursing on May 17. Abdi was a student in the accelerated nursing program at MUSC.
Osman Abdi received his Bachelor of Science degree in nursing on May 17. Abdi was a student in the accelerated nursing program at MUSC.

In hopes of earning an education and a better life for his family, he applied for a green card to come to the United States. While waiting for his acceptance, he lived in Belgium and learned French as a second language.

Abdi was accepted into the country through a program that allows 55,000 permanent resident visas annually for countries that have low rates of immigrants living in the United States.

While living and working in the states, he spent time taking free English classes in order to better understand the American accent. Though Abdi found it difficult to leave his wife in Somalia, he believed that an American education was important in providing a better life for his family.

Abdi graduated from Ohio State University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in medical laboratory technology. He was hired to work in a lab at the college for two years on scholarship but ended up staying there for five years.Eventually he was able to support his family and bring his brother and sister from Somalia to the United States.

In 2010, he decided do something more with his education. Originally planning to pursue a career as a physician, Abdi discovered the accelerated baccalaureate nursing program at MUSC. He also was awarded a scholarship through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

“I was accepted into the program, and my thinking of nursing changed. This wasn’t just for females anymore. Sometimes you will care for a male patient, and they might prefer a male nurse. You could do so many different specialties and departments within the nursing field. It’s such a great program, and I am very thankful,” Abdi said.

He will graduate from the accelerated nursing program with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing on May 17.

Brian Conner, Ph.D., R.N., served as both his professor for pathophysiology in the spring of 2012 and his mentor through the Robert Wood Johnson Scholars program.

“The determination to reach his goals with English as a third language is tremendous. He has a big heart, big smile, and he wants to take care of people. One important goal Osman has mentioned is that eventually he hopes to take what he has learned and go back to his homeland to help those in need,” Conner said.

Abdi joined the Men in Nursing Group in the College of Nursing, a support group that connects male nursing students with male nurses throughout MUSC. Because of this group and interaction with professors like Conner, Abdi felt encouraged to never give up.

“One of the main reasons we started this group was to offer support to our male nursing students. Men in nursing are in the minority and, historically, attrition rates of male nursing students greatly exceed that of women,” said Conner. “Currently, male nurses only make up less than 10 percent of all nurses in the United States.”

This past summer Abdi was able to bring both his wife and 20-month-old child from Somalia to join him in South Carolina. He sacrificed seeing the birth of his first-born child in order to achieve an American education.

Abdi and his wife are expecting their second child.

“I am dreaming of opening a clinic in Somaliland in the future. When you go there, you can see and feel nothingness. The public health problems and lack of American clinicians are clear,” said Abdi. “My plan is to open a clinic and help the woman and children, the most vulnerable people in this area. I hope to connect the MUSC medical mission program to this clinic.”

May 16, 2013

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