Hodan Isse was born in Hargeisa, Somalia. She holds a PhD in economics from George Mason University in Virginia and two master's degrees – in economics and international development – from Ohio University. She is a clinical assistant professor emeritus at the University at Buffalo School of Management. Isse is a cofounder and board member of the United States–based Somali Mental Health Foundation, a member of the board of directors for the Central Bank of Somalia and a founder of H.E.A.L., a not-for-profit based in Buffalo, New York, that helps refugees settle into their new lives. She is the first lady of the Puntland State of Somalia.