Meet Taha Osman: First Generation Med Student at Northwestern University
Taha Osman has an interesting background. At a young age, he loved playing soccer and would carry the ball throughout school. During lunch break, he would watch Premier League highlights and closely followed Real Madrid. As a varsity athlete, he juggled advanced courses and participated after school programs. In 9th grade, he took a few Biology courses and began volunteering at Regions Hospital. Thereafter, he was accepted at the U of MN Biological Science Program and crushed all his course. Ladies and gentlemen, will you please stand up for Taha Osman!!!
Explain to me your childhood memory. How did you grow up?
I was born in Saint Paul, Minnesota to a mother from Egypt and a father from Ethiopia. I grew up in a low income household of 11 children, in Frogtown Saint Paul. My father has been a janitor for over 30 years, and my mother stayed at home to care for the kids (shocker). Of course, growing up in this environment was not very conducive to success, since most of the families that lived there including my own were living on the poverty line. I grew up in a very strict household where my parents often used different types of discipline. Somewhere in there throw in. My living situation was a nightmare as well. We lived in section-8 housing, where you have to trade lower living expenses for substandard housing. If I remember correctly, my family and I moved 7 times during my childhood. This is because a lot of the houses that we rented were foreclosed or did not meet city standards. We lived in exotic locale such as East St. Paul, North Minneapolis, Mt. Airy (yup, pretty much all the worst places to live in Minnesota). We at least had rats and mice to keep us company along the way. I was able to cope with it, however. As a religious person, I was taught to always value what you have and that you’re always better off than someone else! I can’t lie though, it was still brutal. I would often seek to be outside the house as much as possible as the house was often cramped and I often bickered with my siblings. When I was outside the house, I would usually go to the public library, the playground, or Science Museum. I couldn’t escape all my troubles by simply leaving the house however. When I was 10 years old, Child protection services deemed our home to be so broken that my 10 siblings and I were placed into foster care (all separated from one another). Although I was only in foster care for a year, the experience has a profound impact on me. All I’ve ever wanted was a normal life with a happy family, but those things were not in my control. It was there when I realized that the only chance of bettering my circumstances was to stay in school. School was the only thing where it seemed like I had any control, and that mindset stuck with my for the rest of my formative years.
Overall, I would rate my childhood as pretty miserable, with a few sprinkles of happiness here and there.
2. During middle school, you enjoyed Math and Science. Why?
I enjoyed Math and Science because during my time in middle school, I would frequently visit the Science Museum of Minnesota and spend hours exploring. I thought the exhibits were so cool. In addition to the science museum, I spent much of my free time at the local public library. It was a haven from the problems afflicting my community and the perpetual conflict and negativity that enveloped my household. I remember my favorite book being “Medicine, Eyewitness Science Book”. When the library closed, I would read the borrowed books on a giant mattress on the floor where my siblings and I all piled on top of to go to sleep at night. Every night before I went to sleep, I would carefully tuck the books under my pillow, using my library card as a bookmark. The adversity that I faced growing up stimulated my inquisitive nature and desire to learn. I knew it was a tool I could use to help myself and the community I came from. Throughout my academic career, I enrolled in rigorous courses. I figured out quickly through my science classes that I enjoyed work that involved solving complex problems and coming up with creative solutions.
3. You played sports in high school and participated after school activities, did that in help getting in at the U of MN Biological Science program?
It definitely did help. Most Colleges/Universities want to see someone who is well rounded. My activities included but were not limited to the National Honor Society, Varsity Soccer, Volunteering at Regions Hospital and the Science Museum of Minnesota. I was also involved in College Possible and Upward Bound, two college prep programs that I would highly recommend to college students.
4. What were your favorites classes in high school and why?
Needless to say, I enjoyed classes like biology, physics, and environmental science. I absolutely loathe literature classes of any kind.
5. Do you have any advice for anyone that is planning to pursue medical school?
I would advise them to get a GPA of at least 3.4 first and foremost. Next, I would highly encourage them to pursue extracurriculars especially research, volunteering/community service, and hospital related community. Last, they will need to prepare well for the MCAT. This means using the Kaplan Books in addition to AAMC official practice tests. I would say the things that helped me the most were the practice questions.