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A Dream (Finally) Come True

Shadi Shalehian

Shadi Salehian’s route to the MPH program was rich, if not straight.

Oftentimes, the more uncertain and circuitous the paths that students take to the Bloomberg School, the more unflagging and passionate their desire to be here.

A case in point: Shadi Salehian. Having recently aced the public health training certificate program, the Iranian-born mother of three is in the midst of pursuing an MPH degree in the online/part-time format.

“It’s a dream come true,” she enthused during a phone interview from her current home in Toronto, Canada. “The Bloomberg School transferred all the 23 credits from my training certificate in public health to the MPH.”

Even sweeter, she said, is the fact that she’s been conferred a Welch Scholarship.

In fact, all new online/part-time MPH students beginning the program effective January 2016 will be awarded the new $20,000 Welch Scholarship. This scholarship is in honor of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s 100th anniversary and founding Dean William Henry Welch.

Salehian’s journey to here actually began in 1979, during the revolution in Iran, when her parents were fired from their jobs and she and her brother were dismissed from school for their Bahá'í faith. Fleeing persecution, they landed in India for four years. Living amidst dire poverty and disempowerment of the masses made a lasting impression on Salehian, then an adolescent.

“My mother, who had been the principal of school in Iran, started volunteering in an Indian orphanage for children with leprosy,” Salehian recalled. “She would take me with her. We had to wear masks and gloves, and on top of several layers of clothes, a plastic garbage bag. I became very conscious of injustices in the world, in terms of health and the availability of health resources for minority populations.”

Salehian ended up in a university in Canada, and then volunteered at the Bahá'í World Centre in Israel. Twenty-three years later, having raised her family, she moved back to Canada and revisited her dream of becoming a public health professional.

Previously, she had volunteered and worked with the Iranian HIV/AID doctors Kamiar Alaei and his brother Arash Alaei, who had developed harm-reduction programs in Iran, as well as an HIV/AIDS training program for regional health experts in the Middle East and Central Asia. After being imprisoned in Tehran, they founded the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights at University at Albany. Through her work with the brothers Alaei, she had become acquainted with cancer surgeon and Bloomberg School alum Sean S. Tedjarati, MD, MBA, MPH ’08.

“Dr. Tedjarati told me I should not think about doing an MPH anywhere but Hopkins,” she recalled.  “He said that it was a paradigm shift for him, doing this MPH; his whole concept and outlook on health and healing changed.”

His advice influenced Salehian, of course.  But, it also made her wonder: “Is it possible I could do such a thing?”

It had been a long time since she had been in school. So she enrolled in a couple online courses. She promptly earned straight As.

“The rest is history,” she said. “I have a 4.0 from my training certificate, just finished last May. And then I applied immediately for the MPH.”

Recently, she was on campus in East Baltimore attending the Winter Institute, at which she took the maximum eight credits.

“Every course I take, I think, oh my God, this is my favorite! I never thought I was any good a math until I aced biostats. . .  and then I just took the most amazing problem solving course.”

Salehian’s on track to graduate with an MPH in May 2017.

“Johns Hopkins gave me an opportunity to pursue my dream,” she said. “The Bloomberg School has been fantastically encouraging. It didn’t matter where I was from, or what my circumstances were.”

—Maryalice Yakutchik

Learn More About the Welch Scholarship

Learn More About the Training Certificate in Public Health