One of first to graduate with MA in biomedicine: ‘everything and more’ than expected

Qaiser Ahmed, who earned a biology degree from the University of Mary Washington before embarking on graduate studies at EMU, was a keynote speaker at EMU's 2014 Commencement, representing the first class to graduate with a master's degree in biomedicine. Ahmed is a rising first-year student at the School of Dentistry at Virginia Commonwealth University. (Photo by Jon Styer)

Two years ago, after earning an undergraduate biology degree from the University of Mary Washington, Qaiser Ahmed was looking for a graduate program that could give him extra preparation before pursuing his ambition to become a dentist. At the same time, Eastern Mennonite University was preparing to launch a new MA in biomedicine program designed precisely for students like him.

Ahmed basically knew just one thing about EMU, but it was more than enough to convince him to apply: the university’s science graduates have enjoyed remarkable rates of acceptance to medical and dental schools. Last month, he was among the speakers at the university’s commencement, representing its first graduating class from the new MA in biomedicine program.

“It was everything and more than what I expected,” said Ahmed, in a separate interview. “It was a great two-year experience and I think I’m better for it.”

One of the things he most enjoyed and benefited from at EMU, he said, was the availability of his professors, and their concern for his success in the program.

“Something unique and welcoming at EMU was that professors instituted an ‘open-door policy’ of sorts,” he said in his commencement speech. “I did not have the privilege of experiencing this as an undergrad.… I had plenty of questions for all faculty members, not just [my] professors. The saying that there’s no such thing as a bad question? Well, I took full advantage of that.”

Ahmed had been advised by practicing dentists to learn as much as he could about the business aspects of running a dental practice. At EMU, where students are allowed and encouraged to take classes offered by other graduate programs, Ahmed was able to follow through on that by taking classes through the MBA program. He also took a graduate-level nursing class. In his remarks at graduation, he said that these experiences broadened his horizons and prepared him to approach dentistry from the perspectives of a CEO and a nurse practitioner, as well as a dentist.

During his second year, Ahmed helped prepare labs and other materials as a graduate assistant for courses in molecular genetics, anatomy and medical terminology. He also edited the inaugural issue of The Synapse, the yearbook of the MA in biomedicine program.

Looking back on his time on campus, Ahmed said, he learned that there was much more to EMU than he’d originally thought. But there was something to that original impression, too – Ahmed has joined the long, long list of successful applicants to professional health programs, and will begin dentistry school at Virginia Commonwealth University in the fall.

Published May 2014.