Abdi Hussein wants to protect his community. Cuyamaca College is helping him reach his goal.
Determined to pursue a career improving preventative health care in the Somali community, Hussein, 21, graduates this spring with an associate degree in university studies, behavioral and social sciences. He is waiting to hear from back from several Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) before deciding where to pursue a bachelor’s degree in public health.
Meanwhile, he’s busy seeking every opportunity to learn more about his calling.
In January, Hussein attended the 4th Annual Making Medical Equal Conference at the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine and a UCSD Medical Education for Diverse Students symposium aimed at expanding pathways to healthcare careers for students from underrepresented populations.
And before he transfers next fall, Hussein hopes to land an internship with the Summer Health Professions Education Program (SHPEP), an initiative funded through the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that offers hands-on experience in health care settings, classes on career development, seminars covering health policy, and more.
“All of these experiences are giving me the tools and a stronger understanding to succeed in my healthcare goals so I can take all that I have learned and pour it back into my community – both ethnically, my neighborhood, and Greater San Diego,” Hussein said.
An ethnic Somali born in Yemen, Hussein moved with his family to the United States when he was 4 years old. After stops in Maine and Tennessee, the family settled in 2011 in Lemon Grove. At Helix Charter High School, Hussein ran track, was elected senior class president, graduated in 2016 and enrolled at San Diego State University to study kinesiology.
One year later, Hussein decided it was time to take a step back.
“It was too big,” he said of SDSU. “Classrooms had, like, several hundred people. It was disorienting.”
Hussein said he felt lost beyond the classroom until he arrived at Cuyamaca College in the fall of 2018 determined to follow a pathway to a career focusing on preventative health. He also resolved to resurrect his passion for track and field, primarily as an avenue to secure a scholarship to an HBCU campus.
“I wanted to be fully focused, and when I first came here, I didn’t know anybody, which allowed me to concentrate on my school work and track,” said Hussein, who is pulling down A’s and B’s in his classes. “Everything is aligning,” Hussein said. I feel good.”
He’s also turning heads on the track, where he runs the 800 meters, 1,500 meters and 4-by-400 meters relay events, despite not running since he was a junior in high school.
“He is a very dedicated student of the sport, and that dedication will take him far,” said track coach Tim Seaman. “His ability to drive toward a goal is remarkable. He had four years off of athletics, he comes here, and he is running at a very high level.”
In his first 800-meter race, at Cerritos College, Hussein set a personal best mark of 2 minutes flat. He followed that up at Long Beach State University against Division I competition and won his meet again, this time with a time of 1:58.
“Abdi is a leader on the team and a mentor to the other athletes,” Seaman said.
Hussein speaks just as highly of Cuyamaca College.
“Cuyamaca College provides you with as many resources as you need to do what you want to do,” he said. “The STEM Center is one of my favorite places here. If you’re a STEM major, you have access to tutors, STEM professors, and a lot of space to help you out. It’s invaluable.”