When Abdulwhab “Abe” Shremo Msdi arrived in the United States, he was in search of hope and a purpose.
He had freshly escaped the death and destruction of civil war in his home country of Syria with a singular goal: to advance his education and make a difference in the lives of others. Six years later, he’s achieved that goal in a big way.
On May 1, he will graduate from the Lloyd L. Gregory School of Pharmacy with his Doctor of Pharmacy degree, and he recently received the Gregory Outstanding Graduate Award. The award recognizes a graduate in the top 10 percent of the class who has demonstrated a continual devotion to faith and the desire to integrate faith in the practice of pharmacy. It is accompanied by a $10,000 check and the expectation the recipient will practice pharmacy for the glory of God. Shremo Msdi plans to continue his education by pursuing postgraduate residencies with the long-term goal of conducting clinical research.
Shremo Msdi said that when he began in PBA’s undergraduate medicinal and biological chemistry program, he had a limited grasp of English and a low GPA. He wasn’t as ready as all of the other students, and he didn’t know what courses to take. At the suggestion of Director of Pharmacy Admissions Lucas Whittaker, he took the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). His high scores advanced him to graduate-level courses.
“They walked me through everything,” he said of GSOP staff and faculty. “They gave me the chance to excel that no other school was going to give me.”
And excel he did. His determination and natural curiosity also led him to be the first Atlantis Scholarship recipient.
Four members of the Gregory family – Joe, Jeff, John and Joan – surprised Shremo Msdi with the award during a small ceremony in Gregory Hall.
“We love what is being done here because we love the Lord Jesus Christ,” Jeff Gregory said. “It causes us to engage in the world in a particular way.”
The uprooted Shremo Msdi found more than a high-quality education as he went to classes, went to chapel and volunteered in the community.
“What makes it special – you feel like you have a family,” Shremo Msdi said. “I was just coming from Syria. I needed this connection. Everyone calls you by name from the first day.”
During his second year of pharmacy school, he volunteered to support summer camps and Sunday school at St. Peter, Seal of the Martyrs Coptic Orthodox Church. Through those experiences, he found the spirituality and peace that had been missing from his life, he wrote in his essay to be considered for the award.
Shremo Msdi made it a higher priority to get involved in the community after he realized that it was about more than fulfilling his personal interests. He said he had an especially meaningful experience helping children read at Urban Youth Impact, a nonprofit that helps inner-city youth by providing afterschool programs.
His other volunteer experiences included visiting the elderly residents of Lourdes-Noreen McKeen Residence and setting up a booth at the GSOP health fair to educate people about the opioid crisis and risks of addiction.
He concluded his essay: “Sometimes we become overwhelmed with our goals and desires to lead a successful and happy life. Meanwhile, we lose track of what it truly means to live a fulfilling life. Having faith, helping others and giving back without expecting anything in return is what I feel is missing for most people … I hope that my journey through faith can stand as a testament to others that you can endure even the toughest roads in life when you have God.”