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Updated 2:15 PM December 9, 2008




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U-M dual MD/PhD student named Rhodes Scholar

Watch Abdul El-Sayed's 2007 commencement address >

A medical and doctoral student who plans to become a neurosurgeon so he may "mend with my hands some of the defects I cannot avert through my research" has been named a Rhodes Scholar.
Abdul El-Sayed, a medical and doctoral student who plans to become a neurosurgeon, has been named a Rhodes Scholar. (Photo by Scott Galvin, U-M Photo Services)

Abdul El-Sayed currently is pursuing a degree from the Medical School and a doctoral degree in epidemiology from the School of Public Health (SPH) as a student in the prestigious dual degree Medical Scientist Training Program.

El-Sayed, who earned his bachelor's degree in biology and political science in 2007, will enter the Rhodes Scholars program next fall. He is one of 32 scholars named nationwide. Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of study at the University of Oxford in England.

"The University is very pleased that Abdul El- Sayed has been chosen to be a Rhodes Scholar," Provost Provost Teresa Sullivan says. "His intellectual curiosity and dedication to solving human problems is impressive. He is also a warm and thoughtful individual. The University is proud to claim him as both an alumnus and a current student."

El-Sayed's current research interests include the social determinants of health, Arab-American health, the social determinants of neurological disorders and the etiology of neural tube defects in Guatemala.

During his U-M commencement address in the spring of 2007, El-Sayed, a first-generation Egyptian-American from Bloomfield Hills, told the crowd he "realized I loved Michigan because the person who leaves here today is better than the one who came."

His words inspired praise from the main commencement speaker, Former President Bill Clinton, who was named a Rhodes Scholar in 1968.

"I don't want to embarrass your senior speaker, but I wish every person in the world who believes that we are fated to have a clash of civilizations and cannot reach across the religious divides could have heard you speak today," Clinton said of El-Sayed. "I wish every person in the world could have heard you speak today."

El-Sayed was announced as a Rhodes Scholar just days after being offered a Marshall Scholarship, which finances young Americans of high ability to study for a degree in the United Kingdom.

As an undergraduate, El-Sayed played on Michigan Men's Lacrosse team and was an active member of the Muslim Students' Association. Already during his first two years of medical school, he has co-founded a student organization that has raised more than $4,500 and coordinated in excess of 500 hours of community service for a local non-profit clinic, founded a student Neurosurgery Interest Group and led a medical mission to Peru.

"Abdul is the epitome of the engaged intellect — smart and thoughtful, always curious and, above all, dedicated to using his talents and skills to benefit his fellow humans," says Ken Warner, dean of SPH.

His academic adviser, Dr. Sandro Galea, adds, "Abdul has an exciting intellect and an uncommon dedication to improving the health of populations."

"Abdul is one of the most accomplished, mature and goal-directed students at Michigan," says Ronald Koenig, director of the Medical School Medical Scientist Training Program. "His personal warmth and caring nature, combined with his already substantial skills in medical epidemiology, indicate that he is ideally suited to the demands of a career as a physician scientist."

The Rhodes Scholarships were established after the death of Cecil Rhodes, who hoped to bring students from around the world to Oxford to aid in the promotion of international understanding and peace.

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