Mohamed Ramy
How does a refugee create a sense of home in an unfamiliar place?

As a 2018 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, Mohamed Ramy ’18 will spend next year traveling among three countries—Djibouti, Germany and Canada—interviewing immigrant refugees about their experiences.

“The trauma of being displaced—of feeling lost or alone—creates unexplored wounds that affect ideas of personhood,” Ramy wrote in his Watson application. A neuroscience major from Egypt, he plans to use his Watson to immerse himself “in the forms of healing—such as cooking cultural food or performing religious practices—among displaced and resettled people.”

The Watson Foundation announced its new class of 40 fellows yesterday. Each will receive $30,000 to support international projects in any field, as well as college loan assistance as required. They were chosen from a pool of 149 finalists. (In addition to the 40 fellows, there is now also a pool of alternates.)

Ramy is the son of a medical doctor, and he grew up reading medical texts, part of his father’s campaign to encourage him towards a medical career.

“I learned about healing from my father before anyone else,” he wrote in his application. “I would sometimes ask him about his operations and his patients’ unorthodox practices that made their pains less severe. He once told me about a patient who enjoyed reading Ibn Sina, one of the great Islamic philosophers, who studied medicine extensively and wrote about the healing of the soul. It was my first hearing about the soul’s need to heal, and at the age of 14, I wanted to explore the concept.”

While expanding on his knowledge of therapy and trauma during his Watson year, he plans to produce a multimedia website as a way to give a digital home to refugee narratives of struggle.

“Each country’s unique population dynamics, naturalization programs and refugee camps will increase my understanding of refugee healthcare and the meaning of a home,” he wrote.

Upon returning from his Watson year, Ramy intends to apply his lessons learned to clinical research on biomedical explanations of trauma. He plans to eventually go to medical school, and then he hopes to work for Doctors Without Borders serving vulnerable populations.

Jeannette K. Watson established the Watson Foundation in 1961 as a charitable trust in honor of her late husband, Thomas J. Watson, the founder of IBM. In 1968, in recognition of the Watsons’ longstanding interest in education and world affairs, their children decided that the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program should constitute a major activity of the foundation. The foundation restructured in 2015, unifying its program activities under the Watson Foundation. More than 2,800 Watsons have been named since the fellowship’s start in 1968. This year’s class comes from six countries and 21 states. They’ll travel to 67 countries.