Mohamed Ramy

Mohamed Ramy ’18, who has spent this year interviewing international refugees in the Middle East for his Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, will jet off to yet another part of the world next fall when he begins a year of study in Beijing as a Schwarzman Scholar.

Ramy, a neuroscience major at Amherst now eyeing a future in medicine, has been selected to participate in the elite program, which is inspired by the Rhodes Scholarship and designed to build strong links between future leaders of China and those from the rest of the world.

He is one of 147 Schwarzman Scholars slated to begin classes in September 2019 at Stephen A. Schwarzman College, which first opened in 2016 on the campus of Tsinghua University, one of the most prestigious universities in China.

Just over 400 semifinalists were interviewed from a pool of 2,887 candidates. Scholars are chosen who have “demonstrated exemplary leadership qualities and the potential to bridge and understand cultural and political differences,” according to a program statement.

Schwarzman Scholars pursue degrees in public policy, economics and business, and international studies and spend a year immersed in an international community of thinkers, innovators and senior leaders in business, politics and society.

The Class of 2020 is comprised of students from 38 countries and 119 universities, with 40% originating from the United States, 20% from China, and 40% from the rest of the world.

Three Amherst alumni were among the program’s inaugural class of 2016–17: Richard Altieri ’15, Servet Bayimli ’16 and Carlos Gonzalez Sierra ’14.

Ramy is currently in his native Egypt, conducting a yearlong project as a Thomas J. Watson Fellow, exploring how refugees create a sense of community after being displaced far from home. The work, which he is chronicling in a blog and on Instagram, has also taken him to immigrant communities in Jordan, and he plans to gather more refugee stories in the United Kingdom before wrapping up his Watson year.

He sees public policy as an opportunity to resolve the divisive inequalities present in health care. He said he plans to make a close study of China’s healthcare system.

“Since 1949, China has undertaken numerous health reforms with focused rural development strategies. China’s willingness to implement major health care experiments makes its system interesting to study and perhaps model in the future,” he said.

He said he is particularly interested in the research that Harvard’s Joan A. Kaufman, lecturer on global health and social medicine, has done on China’s family planning and community-based mental health counseling.

“It’s unusual what China has been able to do in such a short time—from a booming economy to having near-universal health care in less than a century—and having the opportunity to explore the region on my own terms will have consequential effects on my future aspiration as a physician and policy developer,” he said.

Ramy hopes to later work as a physician with Doctors Without Borders to learn more about health care systems around the globe. His ultimate goal is to become a leader in health care reform in Egypt, which still struggles with providing adequate preventative care to rural communities.

“I want to inspire people to be in awe of being alive—and to critically assess the direction of our generation. Dreams change over time—mold to the reality of our lives—but I’m sure that I want to be a public servant to those most vulnerable as a physician.”