By Guuled Siddi
About a year ago, I accompanied a nephew of mine to his first freshman orientation to a local university in a cold Midwestern US weather. University or college orientation sessions can be chaotic situations and navigating your ways through the crowds to get to your destination can be frustrating at times. In the midst of one of orientation sessions, my eyes caught an older Somali-looking man rolling a wheeled school backpack. My first inclination was that the lad must be one of the instructors, assistant professors or professors. After beginning a short conversation with him, the gentleman told me that he is one of the students. He states that he wants to get a PhD degree as he willingly mentions that he is in his mid-50s. He said that he wants to be a doctor and show for it, after a long and successful career in business that has not provided him with the personal fulfillment he has been seeking for years.
In an online video highlight that features the appointment of new Somali prime minister designate, the Somali President Mr. Hassan Sheikh Mahamoud introduces the new prime minister designate as “Dr.” Siciid Faarax Garaad. Not hearing the name of the new prime minister, I was little bit inquisitive about his background and stumbled upon a short but informative biography about the new prime minister and all I could find in regards to his educational achievements was that the prime minister designate graduated from the University of Gaheyr with an economics degree in early 1980s. Having previously heard many Somali politicians with the “Dr. Title”, the old gentleman’s assertion that he wants to have something to show for donned on me. So what is a “Dr.” and who should have this riveted title?
The word Doctor is a Latin term which translates to “to teach” and in America, the Dr. title is often reserved for medical doctors and for professionals who have attained Ph. D. (Doctor of philosophy) degrees. There are other doctoral variations held by other professionals such JD, which stands for Juris of Doctor, which is required for those practicing laws here in the United States, but lawyers rarely use Dr. in their title. The two most common professionals that use the Dr. title are the Doctors of Medicine and the PhD degree holders. So, what do you need to obtain these degrees?
In North America, attaining a medical doctor degree is a very daunting undertaking that requires lots of sacrifices and dedications. An average, one needs at least 11 years of higher education to be a doctor. Four years of undergraduate degree, another four years of medical school, and then at least three years of internship or residency. If a doctor wants to do subspecialty in a field such as cardiology, then that would mean another three to four years of fellowships. After satisfying the degree requirements, you would need to pass the American Medical Board certification exams. Keep in mind that getting accepted into a medical school by itself requires a monotonous and time consuming preparatory processes which include having a higher GPA grade, higher scores on the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), passing various in-person interviews by the school professors and many letters of recommendations. To give you a prospective on how difficult it is to get into a medical school in the United States, in 2010 over 521,800 students applied to 121 US medical schools and the average acceptance was about 8.9 percent.
The second platform for achieving Dr. title in front of your name is that of the PhD degree which requires four years of undergrad degree, two years of master’s degree, and three to five years of PHD education, which includes length research courses and dissertations. You need to have a very good GPA; I would say at least 3.5 on the scale of 4.0 to have an opportunity to be admitted into an accredited typical graduate school. In addition, you would need to acquire a very good score in the graduate exams. Some of the graduate school admission exams include the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and etcetera. The dreading graduate exams are simply designed to sieve the candidates so only the best and the brightest get in. In my experience with these exams, Somalis do well on the math sections of these exams, but not so in the verbal and analytical writing sections. These exams are very competitive therefore taking some time to study before you take them is a very good idea.
Any Somali who attains a medical or Ph. D degree deserves our at most admiration given that we have been through difficult times in the last two decades. Spending over a decade of your life in higher education requires patience, commitment and a discipline, not to mention a personal and family sacrifice. President Xasan should apologize to the Somali people on this blooper particularly to the academia communities of which he is a member. The prime minister designate is not a doctor and in reading his biography doesn’t even have a master’s degree. It is my understanding that Kuliyada Culuunta Dhaqaalaha ee Gaheyr offered only bachelor’s degree in economics. I am in no way, shape or form implying implicitly or explicitly that one needs to possess a doctoral level degree to be a strong and accomplished leader as some of the best leaders in the world never had any formal educational backgrounds. However, it is very imperative that our leaders lead by example in this critical juncture of our history. We don’t want our younger generations to believe that in Somalia you can be called a doctor without showing for it and relinquish the hopes and dreams of those who want to get personal gratification from their merited academic achievements!