Incoming first-year Adam Sherif spent his high school years creating a community for his fellow students and making health care more accessible for residents in his hometown of Sacramento, California.
Now, he’s looking forward to bringing that work to Carolina.
“There’s a strong emphasis on community service at Carolina, and you can see how the students are creating real changes in their community and around the world. I don’t want to come to school just to study and get good grades. I want to make a difference while I’m doing it,” Sherif says.
Sherif’s drive to serve began at his private Catholic school, where he felt disconnected from his culture as an Egyptian and Muslim. He says joining the Black Student Union was the turning point when he began to think about service and belonging.
“I joined the Black Student Union during my sophomore year, and I started reading and noticing the hardships we were experiencing as a community,” Sherif says.
That led him to found the Arab/Muslim Student Union to further serve students in his school who felt they didn’t fit into other communities.
“It can be hard to feel like the odd man out, so having a group to identify with was important to me,” says Sherif, who served as the organization’s president. “We also used the unions as a space to talk about different perspectives and hear from each other.”
When the pandemic began during Sherif’s sophomore year, he started searching for an opportunity to extend his service beyond his high school to help the Bay Area community. His mission was motivated by his father, an emergency room physician, who was on the front line of the response.
“My father would come home from the ER and have stories of the suffering observed before vaccines were available,” Sherif says. “The pandemic put a pause on a lot of our high school activities, but I started asking around about how I could contribute.”
His high school organized a vaccine clinic, and despite its success, Sherif felt they weren’t reaching those who truly needed assistance.
“Although the vaccine clinic at my school was successful, I looked at the line of cars and saw people driving Mercedes and Teslas, and I realized to really make a difference, I needed to go into the community,” Sherif says.
Working alongside school board member Dr. Kawanaa Carter, Sherif helped organize another vaccine clinic, this time focused on underserved populations in his area. He directed traffic in the pop-up drive-thru clinics, handed out paperwork, input data, filled out vaccine cards and recruited his classmates to join in the effort. The clinic vaccinated almost 30,000 people in eight months and held clinics in public spaces within the community to ensure accessibility.
Volunteering with the clinic solidified Sherif’s interest in health care, and he chose to attend Carolina to pursue a career in public health.
“I want to study health disparities and how we can address them,” Sherif says. “COVID was a reality check for most of us that these communities have been hurting for so long, and it was only amplified during the pandemic.”
The University’s focus on service appealed to Sherif, who wants to continue to contribute to ending health inequality. Carolina also stood out to Sherif because his father has been a fan of the University since he immigrated to the United States after attending medical school in Egypt.
“My father went to a seminar in Chapel Hill while he was a resident, and he absolutely loved the school, and especially the basketball team,” Sherif says.
Although he’ll have to wait a few months to attend his first basketball game as a student, Sherif is looking forward to his first day on campus and meeting his roommate, an international student from Nepal.
“I’ve never lived anywhere except California, so I’m looking forward to coming to Chapel Hill and working, living and studying beside my classmates from all over the world and learning from them,” Sherif says.