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Arnold School of Public Health


Mohammed Saleem graduates with dual MD/MPH degree and determination to improve health on a global scale

May 3, 2017 | Erin Bluvas, bluvase@sc.edu 

Though he was born in Iraq, Mohammed (Mo) Saleem spent most of his youth in the United Kingdom and various major cities in Canada. He moved to South Carolina to pursue a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry at Clemson University, which he completed in 2012 (Summa Cum Laude). It was during this time that he began shadowing physicians to learn more about the healthcare field.

“Science was always a field I found interesting and some would say I have a natural inquisitive trait,” says Saleem. “More importantly though, the patients I saw while spending time with doctors during my undergraduate studies was an inspirational and motivational factor.”

I had very little background in public health prior to the MPH program, and I’m interested in a career in academia. It was important I learn how to incorporate my education in medicine to better serve the community.

-Mohammed Saleem, MD/MPH Graduate 

In 2012, Saleem came to UofSC—the only university in the state where he could earn a Doctor of Medicine (MD) and a master’s degree from an accredited school of public health. The dual MD/Master of Public Health (MPH) combines an MD from the School of Medicine and a Master of Public Health (MPH) from the Arnold School of Public Health after five years of continuous study. He completed his MD degree in 2016 after receiving the Dean’s highest recommendation and the Felix H. Lauter Award (given to the top student in medical microbiology) and graduates with the MPH degree this month.

“I had very little background in public health prior to the MPH program, and I’m interested in a career in academia,” Saleem says of his decision to pursue the dual degree program. “It was important I learn how to incorporate my education in medicine to better serve the community.”  

As Saleem wraps up his MPH degree, he is also completing a one-year Dermatology Clinical Research Fellowship at Wake Forrest University School of Medicine. “Learning to balance my time and integrating my experiences between the two has been, by far, one of the most educational and gratifying experiences of my career,” he says of the balancing act between the MPH program and his research fellowship.

In the past six months, he has published six papers in peer-reviewed journals—all in the area of dermatology. One of his research interests examines how diseases affect skin pigment. In his work, Saleem has observed the myths and stigmas that surround such conditions and the significant medical and psychosocial impacts on public health that result from these misconceptions.

I can assure you, as a result of what you learn, you will provide better care to patients. You might even be able to contribute to the field at a national or global level.

-Mohammed Saleem, MD/MPH Graduate 

“The most extreme example would be the current medical and social impact people with albinism face in Tanazania,” says Saleem. “People with albinism have a genetic defect in making skin pigment; as a result, they have light skin. Even today in Tanzania, people with albinism are hunted and killed for their body parts for witchcraft purposes because of mythical beliefs. I would call this a medical and public health emergency.”

Viewing medicine and public health from the patient perspective has shaped Saleem’s approach to both research and clinical care. He sees healthcare as a puzzle that must be solved by a team of contributors—with the patients serving as the star players, particularly through their roles in medical research.

“Patients’ voluntary contribution and commitment to research has become my motivation to provide 110 percent effort at every stage,” says Saleem. “Similar to the patients, with a dedicated team and through quality and meaningful research, I hope to incorporate what I’ve learned from this program and contribute to the field of medicine at a global level.”  

It’s a goal that he believes can be achieved by others who follow in his footsteps in pursuing dual MD/MPH degrees. “I can assure you, as a result of what you learn, you will provide better care to patients,” says Saleem. “You might even be able to contribute to the field at a national or global level.”