Ahmed Mohamed received a pair of degrees at the University of South Florida’s recent commencement ceremonies, graduating in just three years with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
And he's not stopping with a Bachelor of Science in Biomedical Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science. He’ll soon be pursuing a medical degree from the USF Morsani College of Medicine and a law degree from Stetson University College of Law simultaneously, the first student at USF to do so.
“Yeah, trailblazer or guinea pig, however you want to look at it,” Mohamed said, laughing.
While these accomplishments are impressive enough on their own, you might want to consider this: Mohamed is the youngest graduate in this year’s class at just 18 years old.
Mohamed was born in Egypt and traveled for years between there, Saudi Arabia, and the United States before his family finally settled in Tampa. He’s since returned to his native country several times, and saw things that inspired him to pursue his law degree.
“Being Egyptian and later seeing the Arab Spring and the Egyptian revolution and seeing a people unite for democracy and against corruption, those events got me thinking,” he said.
But it was a far more personal reason that pushed him towards medicine as well. His mother, Hanan Ahmed, had a serious heart condition that resulted in surgery in 2008.
“It was a very stressful time for him to feel he will lose me,” Hanan said.
“Seeing disease so up close really reprioritizes you, it really helps you reshape your priorities," Mohamed added. "You see that among all of the things you have in this world, health is one of the most valuable things that you have.”
Hanan Ahmed has since recovered - she ended up having to drive Mohamed to USF the first few months he started attending school at age 15. While she and Mohamad’s father, a transplant surgeon, were worried about him pursuing a double major, they’re certainly proud of their son.
“So happy for him and every second I spend it, I know he will have a bright future, and I’m so, so proud of him," she said.
But it’s not just his parents who sing Mohamed’s praises.
“Many people for a while didn’t know how young he is," said Dr. Charles Adams, the Dean of the USF Honors College. "It doesn’t show immediately; he is very self-possessed, very mature and the remarkable moment comes when you realize or someone tells you that he’s as young as he is.”
“He’s definitely at the top of the class," said classmate and friend Corbin Rodier. "Again, always disciplined, always on his A-game. When I look for an example of hard-working success, I think of Ahmed.”
Mohamed isn’t all about academics. He’s a swimmer, triathlete and an Eagle Scout.
Plus he plays piano – and, no surprise, he’s really good.
Good enough, in fact, to placed third in an international youth piano competition last year, leading to a concert appearance at Carnegie Hall.
“Carnegie Hall is the American Dream for music,” Mohamed said.
But Mohamed is so humble about his accomplishments, Dean Adams didn’t even know about the honor until Mohamed mentioned it as a casual aside during a conversation.
“He’s that type of student," Adams said. "He doesn’t boast, he doesn’t strut, but he has a lot to boast about, so it’s delightful, really, to find someone of that type of accomplishment who is that humble.”
“Really my core values drive me," Mohamed said. "My core values are altruism, compassion and excellence. I’m always striving to first of all help others and hopefully in the long run alleviate suffering around the world.”
As for a career, Mohamed has a lot of options.
“I could see myself working in legal practice or in medical practice, or for hospital administration, maybe on a bioethics review board or for a federal agency," Mohamed said. "So you have the Centers for Disease Control, and the Food and Drug Administration, they deal with common public health issues or maybe even internationally with the World Health Organization, dealing with global health issues.”
But no matter what he ends up doing, he has one definitive accomplishment in mind:
"I want people to think I changed the world, that’s the ultimate goal, and that I made it a better place.”