From lecture halls to lab coats

Sami Al Sufi Mohammed talks about his research and his journey to graduation with a MSc in rehabilitation science.

3 June 2024

Sami Al Sufi Mohammed will graduate this June. As his convocation approaches, he reflects on the journey that brought him here — one that began in India, brought him through Saudi Arabia and finished at the University of Alberta.

Originally from India, Mohammed moved to Saudi Arabia where he became a university lecturer, teaching thousands of health-care professionals. A trained physiotherapist specializing in cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and emergency care, Mohammed was committed to both education and health-care. Still, he was ambitious for more — pursuing graduate studies and research with a prestigious institution had long been an aspiration.

This led him to the Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine’s graduate program in rehabilitation science.

“Ever since I was an undergraduate student, I’ve been passionate about the intersection of health care, education and research,” says Mohammed. “I was drawn to this program for its unique, comprehensive curriculum, expert faculty members, emphasis on interdisciplinary research, mentorship opportunities and strong alumni network.”

Under the supervision of Mary Roduta Roberts, associate professor and associate dean of graduate studies, Mohammed’s research looks to balance academic achievements in admissions processes with other important traits such as empathy and resilience.

“I wanted to support a shift away from GPA-dominant admissions decisions,” Mohammed explains. “Holistic admissions is gaining momentum across health profession education. It’s about recognizing the value of non-cognitive attributes and soft skills that are critical for being a successful healthcare professional.”

Mohammed’s work has the potential to reshape the admissions landscape, making it more inclusive and reflective of diverse populations. Esther Kim, chair of the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, plans to use Mohammed’s findings to make changes in MSc in speech-language pathology program admissions, showing the real-world impact of his research.

Mohammed also studied the facilitators and barriers influencing the decisions of underrepresented students in pursuing health sciences.

“My background as a first-generation student from a low-income rural Indian background motivated me to explore these challenges,” says Mohammed. “I wanted to give back by sharing insights and advocating for a more inclusive admissions process.”

Despite personal challenges, including a significant family illness, Mohammed maintained a GPA of 3.9 and received accolades such as the Green & Gold Student Leadership Scholarship. His dedication also saw him presenting his research at highly competitive international and national conferences, such as the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association and the Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists conference.

“My family was my biggest support system,” Mohammed shares. “My wife’s unwavering belief in me and the love and support from my daughters were instrumental in helping me stay motivated.”

His immediate plans involve leveraging his experience as an educator and his newly acquired skills to pursue a clinical career as an instructor for persons with disabilities. Long term, he aims to mentor new graduates and lead by example in the field of rehabilitation.

“Self-reflection has been a powerful tool for me,” Mohammed concludes. “By actively listening to feedback and reflecting on my experiences, I’ve learned to grow both personally and professionally. I plan to continue this practice as I move forward in my career.”

With convocation drawing closer, Mohammed looks forward to the next chapter with optimism and a sense of accomplishment.

What advice would he give to students thinking of pursuing graduate studies in rehabilitation science?

“Start planning early and find a mentor who can provide valuable guidance. Focus on developing transferable skills alongside your studies. The program offers extensive learning opportunities in rehabilitation science, but don't hesitate to explore its intersections with other fields at the University of Alberta. It's a wonderful chance to broaden your perspective and connect with diverse disciplines.”


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