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Graduate overcomes barriers for community

Portrait of ASU grad Ruwaida Abshir.
December 12, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

While in high school, Ruwaida Jaylani Abshir took dual enrollment classes and earned an associate degree through South Mountain Community College. Through her science classes, Abshir became interested in medicine, which was noticed by her family, who had immigrated to the U.S. from Somalia.

“Many of my parent’s family members who were older did not know how to fully understand English,” Abshir noted. “Anytime they would have an ailment or needed a trip to the doctor, they would call me and ask me for help. I saw that there is a barrier between elderly people in my community and their doctors that I want to bridge."

While volunteering in hospitals during high school, Abshir visited the hospital’s pharmacy most often, which led to her interest in medicinal biochemistry. Now, she is graduating with a degree in the field from Arizona State University's School of Molecular Sciences.

“I would constantly talk with the pharmacist there and look at all the medications,” she recalled. “I then wanted to go to pharmacy school and become a pharmacist to have a clinic of my own and be able to understand any medication a patient showed me. Thinking of my grandparents, I wanted them to be able to have more people in the medical field that looked like them and they could automatically trust would understand them. That’s why a degree in biochemistry was an automatic choice for me.” 

Abshir’s freshman year began normally; she could usually be found studying at Noble Library or in the basement of Hayden Library. After courses went online, it was difficult for her to be involved in ASU activities. However, she used Handshake to connect with a local pharmacist who gave her the opportunity to administer COVID-19 vaccinations for the elderly. This year, Abshir joined three clubs, which helped her make more connections at ASU. After graduation, she plans on connecting with more pharmacists and working in a clinic while studying for the PCAT.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I did not want to stray far from home, and my associate (degree) only applied to universities in Arizona, so I chose to go to ASU. My older brother also went to ASU, so it felt like a safe choice. Thankfully, ASU also offered a full ride. I was granted the Dean's Award, obtained a Federal Pell grant, the Obama Scholarship and a university grant upon entering ASU.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: One piece of advice I have would be to take advantage of the internships and research labs ASU offers, and participate in ASU events hosted by clubs that interest you.

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