The reputation attached to the pre-med lifestyle is no secret—difficult research labs, months in the library MCAT studying, and multiple emails to doctors asking for shadowing opportunities. Despite this already hectic schedule, pre-med student Abdul-Rahman Sulieman wanted to do even more.

As an undergraduate, Abdul helped start MedEq at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. MedEq is now a nonprofit with the mission “to relieve the poor and distressed and advance education through the promotion of health, with an emphasis on raising awareness of public health disparities and empowering students to alleviate health disparities in their own communities.” Abdul currently serves on its board as the CFO and Treasurer.

Short for “Medical Equity,” MedEq seeks to not only address health concerns but also to provide a space for the students who do not often get a role in public health policy to be leaders in these efforts. Students involved in MedEq are working on building a Health Disparities Encyclopedia, a bank of research articles, and a webinar/podcast series.

Though MedEq was not created to specifically serve Arab Americans or intentionally have a fully Arab American board, it recognizes that its surrounding demographic is comprised of many Arabs. Abdul touched on the public health implications of Arab American coping mechanisms in times of stress and cites the work done by epidemiologist and public health researcher, Sherman James, to strategize his own solutions. Abdul realizes that James’s concept of “John Henryism,” a strategy for coping with prolonged stresses like social discrimination, can be adapted in the ethnic enclaves of Metro-Detroit.

Since its inception, MedEq has expanded to chapters at the University of Michigan and the University of Detroit Mercy. When asked what the world would look like if MedEq expanded further and made the impact it strived for, Abdul answered “a more equitable place with healthcare for all.”

Abdul, who is also minoring in Political Science, is passionate about more than just health. For example, he learned about the Open Source Textbook Initiative while lobbying in Lansing, MI one day and decided to bring the concept back to his own University. The project is meant to address the cost and quality of textbooks for students by replacing them with easily accessible, open-source text. Students are eager to save money and professors are rewarded with grants for implementing the new textbook system.

Even as a college student, Abdul considers himself a philanthropist. He envisions growing his network and resources to give back even more in the future. And to anyone else, young or old, who wants to pursue similar projects of philanthropy, Abdul advises: just commit to your beliefs and run wild with your ideas!


MedEq’s annual Health Equity Conference is set for Sunday April 8, 2018 from 9am-5pm at the Student Center Building of Wayne State University. You can learn more about the conference here.

Read more from our Arab Americans Who Care series!

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