MSUCOM student receives SOMA SAM Award


Syed Rizvi, a third-year medical student (OMS-III) at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine and outgoing National Liaison Officer (NLO) for the Student Osteopathic Medical Association (SOMA) has earned this year’s SOMA SAM Award for Excellence in Political Advocacy.

According to the organization, this award is presented to an individual who displays “outstanding local, state and national political involvement.” Rizvi’s role in the Michigan Osteopathic Association (MOA), his political engagement at MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine’s SOMA, his passion for policy, advocacy and resolution writing, and his recent fundraising effort for the Pakistan well water project were cited in nominations as contributing factors.

A passion for politics

Emigrating from Canada 10 years ago, Rizvi came to Michigan with a fresh perspective and thirst for knowledge of the United States political sphere. His interest in U.S. politics stemmed from a combination of required U.S. government courses and friends who majored in political science during his undergraduate program at Wayne State University in Detroit. Hearing from friends about the university’s student senate and other organizations inspired Rizvi to run for the senate at his own college, the Wayne State College of Education.

“Throughout my time at Wayne State student senate, I started to realize how many things are happening at an institution that students tend to just remain unaware of,” he said. “I felt responsible for representing my entire college at that point – I needed to make sure the kids were aware of what was going on, and that I was voicing our concerns to whatever operations were happening on campus.”

Once he graduated from college, opportunities for political involvement continued to follow Rizvi, who was always eager to welcome them. A job posting in a WhatsApp chat during his gap year between earning his undergraduate degree and going to medical school inspired him to apply for a public policy intern position for District 6 of the City of Detroit, for which he was accepted. His interest in the health field tied into his work with public health policies, as he recalls.

“I think it took whatever I did at Wayne State, and I was able to do it at a larger level, because all of a sudden, I was now working for public policies and public health policies. COVID was a big thing, and they were taking my input during that time as well,” Rizvi said. “Developing public health policies for the district in the city of Detroit got me more involved on a community level.”

Other community involvement with District 6 included coordinating development for the new Detroit Windsor Bridge, gathering opinions and stories door-to-door for the census, and working closely with Rashida Tlaib, congresswoman for Detroit’s 12th District, which includes Detroit, Dearborn and Southfield, as well as working with other members of the city council.

Rizvi’s experiences in public policy did not end after his acceptance to MSUCOM. Once accepted, he was so eager to apply to the Michigan Osteopathic Association, he sent in his information before they were accepting applications. After getting into MOA, his Big at MSUCOM (an upperclassmen mentor within SOMA connected with new medical students at their request to assist in their transition) then encouraged him to apply for the board at SOMA, as well. He cites SOMA and MOA as the “powerful duo” of his career at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

“I think the biggest goal for me was to fortify that relationship between MOA and SOMA, to let everyone know that we aren’t different entities when it comes to the AOA (American Osteopathic Association) table,” Rizvi explained.

Historically, although having a student board, MOA is not a solely student-led organization like SOMA. Having Rizvi as a representative of both entities at once reinforced common goals between the two differently led organizations.

“We want to have everyone’s support,” Rizvi said. “We may have different opinions on certain things, but we all want to work together to grow the osteopathic profession.”

Rizvi said his biggest opportunity to unite the work of both organizations was last year’s AOA House of Delegates, where SOMA had a seat at the Michigan table.

“I was able to go there and learn a lot about how SOMA can write our own policies and develop our own things, but also have a seat at this table where we can work with the state government and our state institutions to figure out how to get voices (heard at the table),” he said.

Giving back to the community

Earlier in the year, Rizvi organized a Pakistan water well project, in which students were encouraged to give up one meal a day during Ramadan, the holy month of fasting, introspection and prayer for Muslims. The money that would have been spent on each meal for students participating was then put into a fundraiser to provide a well to a village in Pakistan.

“I could always just raise funds at the local mosque, or just within IMSA (Islamic Student Medical Association) locally, just build the water well and just call it a day,” Rizvi said. “But I think for me, it was an educational moment for everyone. Yes, everyone knows that we’re fasting, but what is fasting all about? It’s the charity, it’s about those who need the resources more than we do, and that’s what led me to make this a school-wide project. We were very lucky to have the IOMO (International Osteopathic Medicine Organization) partnership with that, and to get our voices out through advertising and other resources.”

The project gained so much traction that they surpassed their goal of $300 and were able to build one large and one small well, instead of the one they originally planned.

“It led to us helping around 300 people, which was our class size,” he said.


For anyone hoping to get involved in their community but do not know where to start, Rizvi encourages them to not only reach out to him through his professional Instagram and LinkedIn accounts, but to also connect with other MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine students.

“I think one of the biggest things that we are very fortunate to have here are the student clubs, and how passionate whoever is running e-boards are,” he explained. “There’s an e-board for everything – it doesn’t need to be SOMA, or IMSA – we have a specialty organization for everything,” he said. “Don’t be afraid to reach out to us – we’re always willing to work with anyone. All it takes is an idea. Don’t be afraid to hear ‘no,’ because chances are, the next person is also interested to see how far you can take this, and they’ll find you the routes to get as far as you need to go.”