St. Olaf graduate named a 2020 Bush Fellow for his medical research
Mayo Clinic researcher Essa Mohamed ’09 has been named a 2020 Bush Fellow for his work on liver disease disparity.
The Bush Foundation awards grants to individuals and organizations making a difference in their communities through problem-solving ideas and projects, supporting those living in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, and the 23 Native nations of the same geography. The Bush Fellowship, a grant of up to $100,000, is awarded each year to a group of leaders to help them develop leadership skills. The grant can be used for leadership training, education, workshops, and networking opportunities.
A postdoctoral fellow and adjunct instructor at Mayo Clinic, Mohamed is a pioneer in the research of liver diseases and its disparate effects on African and Asian communities. Motivated by the loss of several of his own family members to liver disease complications from hepatitis, he wants to pursue a career not only as a scientist but as an advocate for overcoming the disparity in liver disease cases.
“When I started my Ph.D. at Mayo, I decided to do something a bit different than many of my peers were doing,” Mohamed says. “Although I did have basic science-based studies, I wanted to go out to the community and conduct screening for hepatitis B and hepatitis C infections. Through a community screening program, I was able to build rapport and trust with the immigrant African and Asian communities in Rochester, Mankato, Faribault, and the Greater Twin Cities area to ensure this study was a success.”
By studying the prevalence of liver disease in African and Asian people for his Ph.D., Mohamed learned about the overall lack of population diversity in medical research. His research, under the mentorship of Dr. Lewis Roberts, a gastroenterologist and hepatologist and the director of the Neoplasia Clinic, helped contribute to the World Health Organization’s decision to prioritize hepatitis at a global level and helped Mayo Clinic change its patient screening practices for viral hepatitis.
“My research goal is to build a system in which the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials and medical device development is increased,” Mohamed says. “In order to address the health disparities we see today, we need to start a systemic change in how we collect data that is representative of the patients we are treating and ensuring that treatment modalities are highly effective.”
My research goal is to build a system in which the participation of women and racial and ethnic minorities in clinical trials and medical device development is increased.Essa Mohamed ’09
With the Bush Fellowship, Mohamed will further his goal of reducing disparities in medical research and healthcare. With the grant and resources from the fellowship, he will study market evaluation and strategic decision making to better understand how to make changes within the healthcare system, as well as develop a network of medical industry mentors to support him in his work.
Mohamed’s time at St. Olaf helped him define his career path, and he credits Professor of Biology Anne Walter and Professor of Chemistry Douglas Beussman for igniting his passion for biomedical sciences. As part of the McNair Scholars Program, a graduate school preparatory program funded by the U.S. Department of Education and sponsored by St. Olaf, Mohamed was able to conduct research in Beussman’s analytical chemistry laboratory. He notes that the support he received from the McNair Scholars Program, under the leadership of Janis Johnson and Melissa Hinderscheit, continued even after he graduated — and culminated with the two of them attending his Ph.D. defense. “I was humbled by their presence and support!”
The research Mohamed pursued at St. Olaf as a McNair Scholar helped him discern the type of work he wanted to do in the biomedical field.
During the summer of my junior year, I was able to see how the scientific process was established and ways we could continue to apply the skills we were taught in our biology and chemistry courses. This was an instrumental experience that led to my first manuscript publication.Essa Mohamed ’09
“During the summer of my junior year, I was able to see how the scientific process was established and ways we could continue to apply the skills we were taught in our biology and chemistry courses. This was an instrumental experience that led to my first manuscript publication,” Mohamed says. He also benefited from St. Olaf’s rigorous academics. “Those experiences in difficult classes enabled me to adapt to a fast-paced environment and, regardless of the situation, continue to strive!”