Students studying outside the library

Fourth sister graduates from Wofford, enters medicine

Anum Ahmed follows in sisters’, parents’ footsteps

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The Ahmed family attended Anum Ahmed's graduation from Wofford on May 15. From left are father, Dr. Jawed Ahmed; sister Zehra (Class of 2004); sister Maryam (Class of 2007); Anum; mother, Dr. Najla Ahmed; and sister Amna (Class of 2011). In front are Maryam's daughter and Zehra's daughter. Below, Anum Ahmed paints the face of a child from the Spartanburg community participating in the Twin Towers' Terrier Play Day.

SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Next year, Wofford College professor Dr. Bob Moss will go through a withdrawal of sorts. It will be the first time in 14 years that he won’t be teaching a student from the Ahmed family from Shelby, N.C.

The last of the Ahmed sisters, Anum, graduated from Wofford on Sunday, May 15. She is the fourth sister to have attended and graduated from Wofford, and the fourth who has or will enter the health care field – three medical physicians or med school students and one dentist.

“The young women’s parents both are physicians, and all of their husbands or fiancés are doctors as well,” Moss, the McCalla Professor of Biology, says. “With three of the sisters being doctors, or planning to be doctors, and one dentist, they’ve got a family of nine MDs and one dentist. I’ve joked that they should open a family hospital together.”

The first of the Ahmed sisters to attend Wofford was Zehra, who graduated in 2004; then came Maryam, a 2007 graduate; Amna, a 2011 graduate; and now Anum, a biology major with a minor in English who will attend Cooper Medical School in New Jersey beginning in the fall.

“I knew I wanted to be in the health care field, and Wofford offered an excellent program to prepare me for that,” Zehra says, adding that her parents, especially her mother, influenced her career choice as well. “Being young girls and having such an accomplished and confident woman as your mother really inspired us to strive to become equally qualified.” An overnight stay at Wofford during her senior year of high school helped cement the decision, she says. “I fell in love with the campus, it was so beautiful and intimate compared to all of the big campuses I had seen.”

“Wofford was the only college I applied to,” Anum says, adding that her sisters’ having been successful at Wofford – and enjoying their experiences – influenced the decision. “I talked with my parents about where I should go, and they felt I would be more well-prepared by attending Wofford, and so did I. Plus, it’s only an hour away from home, and I wanted to be close.

“After our first sister attended Wofford, for the rest of us, it was a no-brainer,” she admits.

Dr. Jawed Ahmed, a nephrologist, and Dr. Najla Ahmed, a pediatrician in Shelby, immigrated to the United States from Pakistan more than 30 years ago. They naturally influenced their daughters to go into the medical field.

Zehra is a dentist with a practice in Houston, Texas. Maryam is in her third year of residency, about to head into her last year in ophthalmology at the University of Cincinnati. Amna is doing a pediatric residency at Georgetown Hospital in Washington, D.C.; she graduated from East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine in North Carolina.

All of the sisters credit their professors at Wofford – and specifically Moss – with having tremendous influence on their lives.

Anum Ahmed Twin Towers “I couldn’t have gotten through without him,” Anum says.

“Probably the best hidden secret about Wofford is the life-lasting friendships you can make with faculty and staff,” Maryam adds. “Everyone from Dwayne Harris (Campus Safety) to Miss Rita (Acorn Café) to Dr. (Doug) Rayner (biology) and Dr. (Clayton) Whisnant (history). Dr. Moss was not only a mentor to me while I was there, but also a huge part of my support system after I graduated. He is a great family friend and an incredible person without whom I don’t think I would have survived.”

Amna agrees. “(Moss’s) patience and great advice helped guide us through four very difficult years. Not only helping with planning our classes and making a career choice, but even helping us decide which med schools to apply to. Even though he insisted that we call him ‘Bob’ by graduation day, he will always be Dr. Moss to us — the same Dr. Moss that the rest of my sisters and I have invited to our weddings and had the pleasure of him attending.”

Moss says he learned a lot from the sisters and their family as well. “They showed me quite a bit about traditional Pakistani family relationships and values. I’m actually quite envious of how close the whole family is, and I learned quite a bit about Islam from them as well.”

The professor says he watched each sister mature – even as he sometimes couldn’t tell who was who when Zehra and Maryam were at Wofford for one year together. “Zehra was the most unsure of herself (when she first arrived on campus), and needed a good bit of support and lots of tissues … living apart from her family was something new to both her and her parents. Maryam seems to have benefited from the path that Zehra created. She seemed a bit more confident, needing somewhat less support. Amna was even more independent and confident, and Anum rarely came into my office and didn’t go through as many of my tissues at all.”

All of the sisters who followed Zehra confessed that they sometimes were either mistaken for another sister or were reminded of whose footsteps they were walking in. “We’re a lot alike,” Anum says, “so some people at Wofford sometimes think I’m one of my sisters. I get used to it, but sometimes I get tired of it, too.”

Zehra says once Maryam joined her at Wofford, Moss began to believe “human cloning is real, when he saw us together.”

Anum, who is considering a medical practice in obstetrics or women’s health, says, “I loved Wofford as my starting ground,” crediting other professors, in addition to Moss – some of whom she didn’t have in classes – with making her college experience satisfying. “Carey Voeller (assistant professor of English) made me want to continue taking the courses I needed to get my English minor and fostered my love of gender studies, and he has remained a great friend even after I was in his classes.” She also cites Courtney and Phillip Dorroll, both assistant professors in religion, as being great influences on her at Wofford.

Anum has been president of the Muslim Student Association at Wofford and is a member of the biology honor society and the English honor society. She also has been involved with Twin Towers service organization. “I found that I can be involved in the community along with my studies and have an impact on the community. I am able tie my academics in with other activities from the perspective of not just helping people in my career, but in my community.”

Wofford has been challenging and at times “grueling” in terms of academic rigor, Anum admits, “But it’s worth it. I’ve made really good friends. These are my formative years and I have made meaningful connections.”