Simerg’s Special Series on Books by Ismaili Authors: “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim H. Jiwani of Vancouver

By MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergBarakah and Simergphotos

Simerg’s series entitled “Books by Ismaili Authors” continues with Vancouver based Dr. Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible (Memoirs of Engagement with a Global Development Network).” We follow the same Q/A format as our earlier presentations of books written by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert, Shairoz Lakhani, Shelina Shariff Zia, Ali Lakhani, Nizar Sultan, Nargis Fazal, Nazlin Rahemtulla, Azmina Suleman, Alnasir Rajan, Shafeen Ali, Mansoor Ladha, Zeni Shariff and Shamas Nanji. We invite Ismaili authors around the world to participate in this series, regardless of when their books were published. See details of the series HERE and submit your responses to Simerg’s editor, Malik, at mmerchant@simerg.com.

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THE PROCEEDS FROM THE SALE OF DR. JIWANI’S BOOK “HUMANIZING MEDICINE” WILL SUPPORT THE PATIENT WELFARE PROGRAM OF AGA KHAN HOSPITALS FOR NEEDY PATIENTS

Simerg’s Interview with Dr. Azim Jiwani

Simerg: What is behind the naming of the title of the book? 

Azim H. Jiwani: I think readers will perceive levels of meaning embodied by the title. Each reader will draw meaning from the title after reading the book since it can have multiple interpretations. This reflection on implications is what I intended.

Today, many people perceive medicine and health care as cold, selective, fragmented and profit and technology-driven. It seems to lack the human touch, warmth, and empathy. Hence, many, particularly in the developing world, feel a lack of “tangibility” of competent, contextual, compassionate and affordable health care available to them. The health status of large segments of populations in many parts of the world is not improving, and gains in some instances are reversing. Never have so many had such broad and advanced access to sophisticated care, but never have so many been denied access to even basic health care.

Simerg: Why would you want me or my family members to read the book, and what will we all learn from it?

Azim: Rarely in recent times has the world found itself gripped in conditions that pose substantial existential threats to lifeforms on earth, destabilize societies, impact health, quality of life, economic and cultural survival, and engender greater inequality and divisions between and within countries and regions.

The ideal of health is a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being envisioned by the WHO, not just the absence of disease. Hence, health is composite of a myriad of determinants, all constantly in a state of flux. This utopian state of health is unlikely to be achieved, but one can reimagine global health and its foundations and moral imperatives.

The recent onset of the Covid-19 global pandemic and the accelerating but belatedly acknowledged climate crisis and its devastating effects on human health have laid bare the historical, political, policy, and institutional deficiencies in health systems worldwide. The vast disparities in availability, accessibility and affordability, quality and equity are glaring in parts of the world, especially when comparing low-income countries of the global South to rich and industrialized countries of the North. This void is more apparent when healthcare systems worldwide are under tremendous stress. During the current pandemic, many in developing countries are denied access to even primary and essential care due to myriad reasons – a dearth of human and material resources, drugs, vaccines, deficits in health policies and local and geopolitical tensions.

I think one thing readers will learn is the complexity and challenges of the development process. The book traces efforts of large non-profit global development organizations — the Aga Khan University and agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network — mainly in the domains of education, healthcare, institutional capacity-building and the empowerment of civil societies. It underscores the mission to anticipate and respond to foreseeable effects of unaddressed inequalities, the poverty, program and leadership deficits in some of the most challenging regions of the developing world. It endeavours to enhance institutional capacities, establish collaborative networks, and promote best practices and international standards of excellence.

Simerg: What inspired you to write the book?

Azim: I had the good fortune of engaging with the early development of Aga Khan University and the Aga Khan Health Services internationally and its programs in medical education and fostering affordable, ethical and quality health care since the early 1980s.

I held various leadership roles in academic, administrative, clinical and planning positions in several major organizations within and outside the AKU and interacted with some outstanding leaders and thinkers. Early in my medical career, I developed an interest in the global arms race’s health, social and economic impacts, particularly on developing countries. This interest and other public health and justice questions led to a life-changing meeting with Prince Sadrudin Aga Khan at his chateau in Geneva in 1983. I was deeply inspired by his efforts and roles to foster a more just and equitable world.

As narrated in the book, the impetus and inspiration essentially derived from our faith’s essential ethical and moral foundations, as articulated by Hazar Imam in his numerous utterances. The lockdown periods of 2020/2021 finally induced me to chronicle almost four decades of engagement in aspects of medical education, global health, development, marginalization, and comment on historical imprints on development and questions of justice and human dignity. It was impressed upon me that the experience and skills I acquired over decades of engagement in global health and medical education were too valuable to be wasted. My friends and colleagues strongly encouraged me to chronicle my observations of the times and places, ideals and realities of just and compassionate societies and my wide-ranging engagements.

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Ismaili authors Series by Simerg Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani's book "Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible", Friesen Press
Front cover of Dr Azim H. Jiwani’s book “Humanizing Medicine: Making Health Tangible”, 300 pp., Friesen Press, August 2021.

Simerg: How can I purchase the book and what are its available formats?

Azim: The book is available in hardcover, softcover and e-books, e.g., Kindle, Nook, Apple Books, Google Books. It is widely available directly from the publisher FriesenPress and Amazon, Chapters/Indigo in Canada, Barnes & Noble in the U.S. and many other retail outlets. It is also available in many countries like the U.K., Australia, Europe and India.

Simerg: How did you find a publisher for the book?

Azim: As I was writing, I received many unsolicited offers to publish the book, mainly from the U.S. and Canada. I ignored these until towards the end of the initial draft. I decided to pick a large, established and reputable Canadian publisher, as I was aware of some of the books published by them. They were expensive but of high quality. The publisher FriesenPress partners with a large American publishing and printing house called Ingram; hence the book is printed in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia.

Simerg: Did you hire an editor, an illustrator or did you do all the work by yourself?

Azim: Basically, the publisher provided the editorial services, printing and distribution, but I selected the photographs and illustration with the kind permission of the AKU and the United Nations. Not being very tech-savvy, I needed some technical help from friends for this.

Simerg: How long did it take you to write Humanizing Medicine from start to finish and to begin marketing it?

Azim: I think the whole process of writing, editing, printing and distribution took about eighteen months of hard work since I could only focus on the book a few hours a day. The book was published in the Autumn of 2021 and launched in Washington, D.C., about three months ago.

Simerg: Tell us something more about your book.

Azim: The book interweaves three stands. Since it is essentially written from a personal perspective, it tells a unique story spanning almost five decades. It intertwines this strand with the efforts and the ethos of the AKU/AKDN in empowering civil society, human development and equity, the global conditions over the last century, and the historical and national and regional evolutions in health care and development. It includes many short anecdotes and vignettes set in various world locales, from Morocco to Cambodia, illustrating many of the points. I hope that the book provides a longitudinal perspective of global challenges and their relevance in today’s uncertain and trying times. I believe it could be informative and inspiring to professionals and volunteers who seek to broaden their careers and horizons through engagements globally in an interconnected world.

I should inform you that all proceeds from the global sale of this book are donated through the Aga Khan Foundation (AKF) to support the Patient Welfare Programs of the Aga Khan hospitals to care for needy patients.

Date posted: March 9, 2022.

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Ismaili author Dr. Azim Jiwani Humanizing Medicine Simerg special series
Dr. Azim Jiwani

Dr. Azim Jiwani worked in health care and global health development for several decades, holding various leadership positions in academic, hospital, and community settings. His work included teaching, research, medical administration, strategic planning, advocacy, consultancies, and advisory roles. Dr. Jiwani held senior faculty positions with the Aga Khan University (AKU) and at the University of British Columbia in the Faculty of Medicine as a clinical professor. He interacted with many local, national, and multilateral organizations, including the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations, universities, and global health institutions-and he continues to play a consulting and voluntary advisory role in health care, education and international development.

As an avid traveller, Dr. Jiwani’s journeys have taken him to locales in Europe, Asia, Americas, Africa, the Middle East, Central Asia, Australia and New Zealand, where he explored local cultures, traditions, social, historical and environmental aspects of life and development. He has lectured at many higher learning institutions, professional organizations, civil society groups, and community groups. His interests include natural sciences, moral philosophy, architecture, civilizational histories, and anthropology. Dr. Jiwani lives in West Vancouver, British Columbia, with Nilu, his wife of 45 years. They have two daughters and five grandchildren.

Calling all Ismaili Authors

We encourage Ismaili writers to introduce their books in a similar format as has been done in the post above. Please also see the series launch article and submit your responses to Malik at mmerchant@simerg.com. All submissions will be acknowledged. If a writer has published multiple books, each book will be highlighted in a separate article, and not combined with other books into one post. All writers should include a brief profile with a portrait photo.

The Ismaili Authors’ Series so far (in chronological sequence, oldest article first):

  1. “Justice Bertha Wilson Pushes the Boundaries of Humanity” by Shamas Nanji (series start, February 10, 2021)
  2. “Little One, You Are The Universe” by Zeni Shariff (February 25, 2021)
  3. “Memoirs of a Muhindi” by Mansoor Ladha (March 6, 2021)
  4. “To Be One With God: Seven Journeys to the Meaning of Life” by Shafeen Ali (March 25, 2021)
  5. “Invisible Birthmarks” by Alnasir Rajan (April 13, 2021)
  6. “IN THE NAME OF JUSTICE – Portrait of a ‘Cowboy’ Judge” by Azmina Suleman (April 28, 2021)
  7. “RSVP Rice and Stew Very Plenty” by Nazlin Rahemtulla (May 28, 2021)
  8. “Coughdrops” by Nargis Fazal (June 12, 2021)
  9. “The Roots and the Trees” by Nizar Sultan (June 25, 2021)
  10. “Faith and Ethics: The Vision of the Ismaili Imamat” by M. Ali Lakhani (July 4, 2021)
  11. “Nairobi Days by Shelina_Shariff Zia (July 21, 2021)
  12. “Shine Brighter” by Shairoz Lakhani (December 8, 2021).
  13. “This is My Life” by Naznin Rahemtulla Hébert (February 26, 2022)
  14. “Humanizing Medicine – Making Health Tangible” by Dr. Azim Jiwani (March 9, 2022)

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

The editor may be reached via email at mmerchant@simerg.com.

The AKU Global Convocation: Text and Video of Speeches by Trustee Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus and New Aga Khan University President Sulaiman Shahabuddin

Compiled and prepared by MALIK MERCHANT
Publisher/Editor SimergphotosSimerg and Barakah

1. Video and Text of Speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, Trustee, Aga Khan University

“….the hope we feel today is warranted by you, the graduands. By your hunger for knowledge. Your compassion for your patients. Your joy in sparking curiosity in your students. And your zeal to find the facts and share them with your fellow citizens, without fear or favour” — Princess Zahra Aga Khan (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“The graduation of the Class of 2021 is a watershed in the lives of its members and their families. And the installation of President and Vice Chancellor Sulaiman Shahabuddin is a milestone in the history of the Aga Khan University. This is therefore a doubly joyous day – the kind that comes along once in a very great while.

“I will be speaking today on behalf of the University’s Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. I would like to convey the Chancellor’s deep gratitude, and my own, to the Government of Kenya and the Commission for University Education for granting AKU its Charter. I am also delighted to welcome the founding members of the new AKU Kenya University Council, which will provide oversight of the University’s operations in Kenya.  

“Today, I am filled with hope for the future. How could anyone not be, knowing what this day represents?

“President and Vice Chancellor Shahabuddin brings to his position a wealth of experience and a lengthy record of success in both East Africa and Pakistan. His career embodies the themes of opportunity, cross-cultural connection, and commitment to improving quality of life that define AKU and the Aga Khan Development Network. 

“Already, he has begun to build on the strong foundations laid by former President Firoz Rasul. Moreover, he now enjoys the wise counsel of University Council Chairman Moyez Alibhai and of the new Chairman of the AKU Board of Trustees Zakir Mahmood. 

“It is therefore with great pleasure that I welcome President Shahabuddin to his new role; thank former President Rasul; and congratulate Chairman Alibhai and Chairman Mahmood on their recent appointments. I also wish to thank our retiring Chairman of the Board, Dr. Haile Debas, for his extensive contributions to the University’s development for the past 12 years.

“It is with equally profound pleasure that I welcome each of you, our graduands, to the ranks of the alumni of the Aga Khan University. Your fellow graduates are changing lives from rural clinics and classrooms to the laboratories of world-renowned universities. I know how proud you are to be part of this illustrious tradition, and how proud your families are to be watching you today.  

“This AKU class has worked harder for this moment than any other ever has. The last two years challenged you with lockdowns, quarantines, and isolation. But you found new ways to learn, to connect, and to maintain your motivation amid each new wave of the pandemic. 

“The diplomas and degrees you are about to receive testify to your fortitude and agility. In the years to come, you will always be able to look back and draw strength from your achievements during this momentous period. 

“Convocation is a celebration of individual accomplishment. But it also reminds us of our connections and our dependence on one another. Each of us is a link in a chain that extends backwards and forwards in time, and outward across borders and boundaries. That is especially true at AKU, as this globe-spanning event testifies. 

“With these bonds in mind, I wish to thank all those who have made it possible to send these 664 women and men into the world to educate, enlighten, and care for their fellow human beings. Our faculty and staff have demonstrated extraordinary dedication to our students and to our mission. Our front-line health professionals have displayed exemplary courage in the face of Covid-19 – I cannot thank them enough and on behalf of the Chancellor for their many sacrifices. We are grateful to our alumni, partners, and volunteers. And we are profoundly thankful for the generosity of our donors. 

“I began by speaking of hope. The hope I refer to is not an idle wish. It is the hope one feels when there is strong evidence for optimism. It is the hope our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan, has called “probably the single most powerful trampoline of progress.” 

“That is the hope that I believe unites us today. It is warranted, first, by the history and impact of the Aga Khan University. AKU will mark its 40th anniversary next year. From a seed in the mind of our Chancellor, it has blossomed into an institution that spans three continents and stands at the heart of the AKDN’s unwavering commitment to the countries that it serves. In Kenya, that commitment is vividly symbolized by AKU’s towering new University Centre in Nairobi — a world-class academic facility that is one of the largest investments in higher education in the country’s history.  

“Globally, AKU has educated over 18,000 individuals. It cares for more than 2 million patients every year in internationally accredited hospitals, and was recently ranked among the top 100 universities in the world in public health. It also serves as a trusted advisor to government and is a powerful advocate for pluralism and for women’s empowerment. 

​”During the pandemic, the value of the University’s capacity for cutting-edge inquiry has never been clearer. Its researchers have made important contributions to the fight against Covid-19. And AKU is also contributing to another crucial battle, one that our Chief Guest Peter Kalmus will be talking about shortly – the battle against climate breakdown. Along with the AKDN as a whole, AKU has committed to becoming carbon neutral in its operations by 2030 — making it one of the first institutions in Pakistan and East Africa to do so.   

“In short, the University’s record is surely one to instill hope. 

“But most of all, the hope we feel today is warranted by you, the graduands. By your hunger for knowledge. Your compassion for your patients. Your joy in sparking curiosity in your students. And your zeal to find the facts and share them with your fellow citizens, without fear or favour. 

“I have no doubt that the hope that fills our hearts, and the pride that swells our chests, will be amply confirmed by your achievements in the years to come. On behalf of the Chancellor, my thanks to all of you.”

Read full speech by Princess Zahra Aga Khan at SOURCE.

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2. Video and Text of Speech by Chief Guest, Climate Scientist Peter Kalmus

“We need to help each other wake up, and quickly. We need a billion climate activists. We need a huge number of engaged, passionate, courageous climate activists. We need to come together, with courage, conviction, and creativity, to stop the meteor that’s hurtling toward us” — Peter Kalmus (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“Greetings and congratulations! What an honor it is to address you today, on this joyful occasion! Great job to all of you! I ​share your commitment to improving the lives of all beings on this Earth. I want to acknowledge AKU’s work to improve quality of life in the developing world, as well as the leadership that Prince Rahim and the AKDN are demonstrating in addressing climate change and environmental degradation.

“Now, this strikes me as a strange time in our planet’s four-and-half-billion-year history for giving convocation speeches. 

“As a climate scientist, I see a meteor hurtling directly toward our achingly beautiful planet, and I don’t yet see society or world leaders mobilising to stop it. Fossil fuels are heating our planet at a rate of a tenth of a degree Celsius every five years. This may not sound like much, but for an entire planet to heat this quickly is both astounding and terrifying. 

“The disasters we are living through now are just the beginning. At every additional fraction of heating, climate disasters will come faster and hit harder. Like gut punches to our global society, they will increasingly stress infrastructure systems, economic systems, energy systems, food and water systems, political systems and ecosystems. 

“The proximal cause of climate destruction is burning fossil fuels. Before we had a fossil fuel industry, the planet was in energy balance. The same amount of energy came in as sunlight as went back out to space, so it stayed at a constant temperature. Burning gas, coal, and oil has changed that. It continues pushing our planet further and further out of balance, forcing it to heat up. 

“The crisis has been overwhelmingly caused by the Global North, with impacts hitting the Global South soonest and hardest. And powerful vested interests are doing what they can to block action. So, what can we do?

“This is a question I’ve been grappling with for a very long time. 

“Sixteen years ago, I was a physics PhD student in New York City, in love with the universe and its mysteries, overjoyed to finally be part of the noble quest for human knowledge. I was interested in cosmology — the big questions, where we come from, and where we’re going.

“The year 2006 brought two big changes to my life. First, I became a dad, which was expansive. It connected me to the future. And second, I heard a lecture about how the Earth was out of energy balance and heating up. This lecture rattled me. Earth is out of energy balance? This is absolutely monumental news, literally the biggest story on the planet. It was then, and it’s even more so today.

“I started learning about climate change. I tried to get my university to switch to electricity that came from wind power. I could only find one other person on campus who supported my cause – and not for a lack of trying, because back then, hardly anyone cared about climate change. Social norms around climate hadn’t started to shift. 

“Now, social norms are unspoken but very powerful shared beliefs. They’re like society’s subconscious mind. For example, the belief that it’s normal to burn fossil fuels. Sure, it’s destroying our planet — but it’s a normal thing to do. Everyone’s doing it. 

“Social norms are like the water surrounding a fish. We swim in them, every moment. They create society, they shape its systems and its power structures, but most of the time, we don’t even notice them. They are partly responsible for climate and ecological breakdown, as well as humanity’s breathtaking lack of response. How much we can still save will be largely determined by how quickly we can shift these norms.

“Now, as the years ticked by, I grew ever more alarmed and frustrated about climate inaction. By 2010, burning fossil fuels had become deeply upsetting to me. The connection between fossil fuels and worsening climate impacts was just too clear. So I started reducing my emissions systematically, scientifically, starting with the biggest things first: giving up air travel, biking instead of driving, and slashing my energy use at home, among many other changes. This taught me three valuable lessons. First, for me it was fun to live with less fossil fuel. It engaged my curiosity, led me to new hobbies and caused me to make new friends. Second, I experienced how we all rely on vast impersonal systems for all of our daily needs – food, water, clothes, streets – everything. To be able to get to zero fossil fuel use, all those systems are going to have to change. And third, very few people were actually willing to follow me in these sorts of changes. 

“When I started, I hoped my actions would inspire other people. But I’d say roughly maybe one out of a hundred people are willing to systematically reduce their emissions. So, while I think it’s a great thing to do, it simply isn’t enough on its own. 

“By 2012, I’d become so alarmed that I couldn’t focus on astrophysics any longer, so I switched into climate science. I also started speaking out as much as I could. I was told that scientists aren’t supposed to speak out, but I did it anyway. How could I not speak out, seeing what I see, and knowing what I know?

“We need to help each other wake up, and quickly. We need a billion climate activists. We need to build a global climate movement that’s even stronger than the fossil fuel industry. We need a huge number of engaged, passionate, courageous climate activists. We need to come together, with courage, conviction, and creativity, to stop the meteor that’s hurtling toward us. No one is safe from global heating. There is no hiding from it on this tiny, connected, pale blue dot of a planet. The only safety will come from stopping it, and doing this will require deep changes in how humanity organizes as a society, and how we live upon this Earth. 

“Climate work will be humanity’s main task for the rest of this century: healing the Earth, restoring wild places, adapting to new disasters, and figuring out how to live side by side with each other and all the other species here, who have just as much of a right to be on this planet as we do. There’s infrastructure to build, technologies to invent. There are new legal and moral and even spiritual frameworks to come up with. There is new art to make, new economics to devise, and new stories to tell. We need institutions to devise new disciplines and new ways of thinking, rapidly reduce their emissions, educate the public, and create social change. AKU is already playing a hugely important role in the Global South and must keep going. 

“We also need you, the graduates of the Aga Khan University — among the best and the brightest the world has to offer — to devote your lives to solving the greatest crisis humanity has ever faced. Contribute to global knowledge and innovation. Demand climate justice. Have the courage to cause good trouble. Be the voice for the voiceless, for all the species that are going extinct and for future generations. 

“Climate disasters will get worse before they get better. But we could stop all of this, if we would make the collective choice to treat climate breakdown as an emergency. Imagine in the future that we’ve turned this corner, that the living Earth is in the process of healing, that our species was on the brink of destruction but came to its senses at the last moment. I foresee that this will bring a tremendous feeling of global solidarity, of cosmic solidarity with life in the universe. My dream is that I will live to experience a time when we are finally on the right path, toward a more mature humanity, a kinder and more grateful humanity, full of joy simply to be here, on this Earth – one strand in the tapestry of life. 

“I know that a much better world is possible. No law of physics prevents it. It’s up to us. It’s the journey of a lifetime, and it beckons to each and every one of you. Go out there and do it.”

Read full speech by Peter Kalmus at SOURCE

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3. Video and Text of Speech by Aga Khan University President Sulaiman Shahabuddin

“We continue to believe, as we always have, in the power of knowledge to solve humanity’s biggest problems. And we continue to believe that AKU, as a powerful creator and disseminator of knowledge, can make an extraordinary contribution to improving life in Africa, Asia, and beyond.” — Sulaiman Shahabuddin (watch video and read speech excerpts, below)

“I am profoundly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President and Vice Chancellor by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. As this medallion reminds me, I have been entrusted with a great responsibility. I am humbled by His Highness’s confidence in me. I pledge to do everything in my power to prove that it has been well placed.

“What a day this is! I am profoundly honoured to have been chosen to serve as President and Vice Chancellor by our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan. As this medallion reminds me, I have been entrusted with a great responsibility. I am humbled by His Highness’s confidence in me. I pledge to do everything in my power to prove that it has been well placed. 

“I am deeply grateful to you, Princess Zahra, for honoring us with your presence. Your participation speaks to the bright future of our graduands and our University. It adds luster to an already brilliant day. 

“Most of all, I am excited by the opportunity I have been granted to carry forward the Chancellor’s vision, by AKU’s role as a powerful force for good in the world, and by the tremendous potential of all of you, our graduands. 

“I remember watching my daughter, Anjiya, graduate from AKU’s Medical College. By my side was my wife, Zeenat, herself an alumna of the School of Nursing and Midwifery. Little did I know that I would be standing at this podium a few short years later while they and my son Basim look on. Certainly, when I stepped onto the AKU campus as a 22-year-old purchasing officer and a newly minted MBA, I could not have imagined that one day I would return to the University in my present role. 

“But that just demonstrates the transformations that AKU makes possible.

“Each of you, our graduands, has taken your own unique path to this moment. Some of you are the first in your family to attend university. Others are carrying on a family tradition as the sons and daughters of teachers, nurses, or doctors. For some, our campus was their first home after leaving home. For others, AKU represented a return to academia after years in the workforce. 

“I want to take a moment to acknowledge your individual journeys. The moments of doubt – the first time you got back an exam paper covered in questions and comments and you thought to yourself, “I’ve got work to do!” The moments that galvanized your confidence – that day in the classroom, in the newsroom, in the library or in the clinic when you achieved a new level of insight or excellence. 

“I also want to recognize that you are part of a collective – one that stretches across three continents. As members of the Class of 2021, you have forged lasting relationships, supported one another’s academic development, and built a shared commitment to helping those in need.

“And now you are ready to make your mark on your professions and the world. 

“This is a time of transition for our graduates. It is also a time of transition for AKU. But a change in leadership does not mean a change in the University’s guiding principles.  

“We continue to believe, as we always have, in the power of knowledge to solve humanity’s biggest problems. And we continue to believe that AKU, as a powerful creator and disseminator of knowledge, can make an extraordinary contribution to improving life in Africa, Asia, and beyond.

“As our Chancellor, His Highness the Aga Khan told the Class of 1994, “At its best, the university is linked to the welfare of the society in which it is based. While taking knowledge from all quarters, such a university applies that knowledge to the solution of the pressing problems of the world, both at home and abroad.”

“That is, in fact, what AKU is doing. Allow me to elaborate: 

“In East Africa, AKU and the University of Michigan are using cutting-edge artificial intelligence to identify individuals at risk of future health problems. We are not the only ones who think that project has tremendous potential – it just received more than $6 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health in the United States.

“In Pakistan, AKU reduced newborn death rates by more than 15 percent in eight rural districts that are home to 14 million people. How did we do it? By sharing our knowledge with hundreds of public and private health facilities and thousands of community health workers. 

“AKU researchers are using stem cell science and gene editing to develop new treatments for blood disorders and cancers such as leukaemia. They have analyzed the test scores of 15,000 students to show which factors improve performance in math and science. They are studying indigenous efforts to protect the rights of minorities in Muslim-majority countries.

“As Princess Zahra highlighted a moment ago, we are also working to slash our carbon emissions and become one of the few universities in the world to achieve carbon neutrality. It is an ambitious goal that will require tremendous innovation. But we are committed to achieving it, and to helping other universities to follow in our footsteps.

“In the coming years, we will launch new undergraduate medical and nursing education programmes in East Africa. Build a new University Center and Hospital in Kampala. And open our Faculty of Arts and Sciences in Karachi to prepare young men and women as leaders with a unique education that spans the social sciences, natural sciences, and the arts. 

“As all these examples show and as AKU approaches its 40th anniversary, we remain faithful to our founding vision, while acting boldly to meet new challenges.

“I am grateful to all those who make our success possible. The policymakers who create the enabling environment in which we work, among them our guest of honor, East African Community Secretary General Dr Peter Mathuki. Our generous donors, volunteers, alumni, and partners, including our fellow agencies of the Aga Khan Development Network. Nothing has given me more pleasure in my first months in office than getting to know and working with the diverse members of the AKU family. 

“Ladies and gentlemen, the University’s biggest contribution to the countries we serve will always be our graduates. 

“Graduands, our alumni – your predecessors – walked the same corridors and courtyards that you have walked, and learned in the same clinics and classrooms. They wore the same green and gold that you wear now. And every day, they are proving just how powerful an AKU education can be.

“They are founding schools and clinics in underserved communities. Winning international recognition for their teaching, research, and leadership. Serving in government and shaping public policy. Launching high-tech startups and writing award-winning poetry. Here at AKU, they are among our most valued leaders, scholars, and practitioners. Their record proves that you can achieve your most audacious ambitions. 

“Today is not an end. Your journeys are just beginning. Now is the time for you to show the world what an AKU graduate can do. Thank you.”

Read full speech by Sulaiman Shahabuddin at SOURCE.

For complete coverage of the 2021 Global Convocation, please click HERE.

Date posted: March 3, 2022.

Featured image at top of post: The Seal of Aga Khan University is a visual representation of the principles which underlie the founding of the University. The circular form of the Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle also symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides. The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light). The star incorporates 49 points to commemorate the University’s founding by His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the forty-ninth Imam of the Ismaili Muslims.The outer ring circumscribes a Quranic Ayat rendered in classic thuluth script and reads as follows:

“And hold fast, All together, by the rope
Which God (stretches out for you),
And be not divided among yourselves,
And remember with gratitude
God’s favour on you:
For ye were enemies
And He joined your hearts
In love, so that by His grace
Ye became brethren” — Sura 3, Ayat 103

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

Afghanistan Update: Nature Journal’s World View – The Incoming Afghan Government Must Allow Immunizations

“I am optimistic that Taliban Leaders could be persuaded to permit vaccinations again” — Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta

Aga Khan University's Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta
Aga Khan University’s Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta. Photo: Aga Khan University. Click photo to read article.

“The world must work with Kabul’s new rulers to get polio and other diseases under control….The Taliban now running the country has an opportunity to show a pragmatic, reformist face to the world and people of Afghanistan: it needs to run the health system, to care more about protecting women and children….and for the polio-immunization programme to resume.” — Zulfiqar Bhutta, writing in Nature…. READ MORE

Zulfiqar A. Bhutta of the Aga Khan University and The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) is the Founding Director, Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health at the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, which includes a teaching hospital in Kabul. He was recently honoured the 2021 Roux Prize for his tremendous impact on maternal and child health, as a researcher and a leader as well as his commitment to reducing health inequities. READ PROFESSOR BHUTTA’S SEPTEMBER 23 PIECE IN NATURE.

NATURE is a weekly international journal publishing the finest peer-reviewed research in all fields of science and technology on the basis of its originality, importance, interdisciplinary interest, timeliness, accessibility, elegance and surprising conclusions.

Date posted: September 28, 2021.

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We have created a special page on Afghanistan where you will find links to all our posts published on Afghanistan since the Taliban takeover. Please click AFGHANISTAN.

President Uhuru Kenyatta Tells Universities to Invest In Training as He Grants Charter to the Aga Khan University; and Link to Excerpts from Hazar Imam’s Speech

The following report is reproduced from the website of the President of Kenya. Thematic excerpts of the virtual speech made by Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, can be read at Simerg’s sister website Barakah, which is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat (please read Mawlana Hazar Imam Thematic Excerpts).

Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a plaque on June 11, 2021, on the historic occasion of the Award of the Charter to the Aga Khan University. Photo: Aga Khan University.
Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta unveils a plaque on June 11, 2021, on the historic occasion of the Award of the Charter to the Aga Khan University. Photo: Aga Khan University.

June 11, 2021: President Uhuru Kenyatta has asked universities to invest in research and training that support Kenya’s new Competency-Based Curriculum (CBC).

“The Competence-Based Curriculum is a revolutionary step we took as a country to provide our learners with twenty-first-century practical skills relevant to the needs of the present world,” the President said.

President Kenyatta, who spoke on Friday in Nairobi when he awarded a charter to the Aga Khan University-Kenya (AKU), also urged universities to concentrate on producing graduates who can tackle global challenges and make the world a better place.

The Head of State reminded Kenyan universities to ensure that they offer quality education.

“You must strive to remain compliant to both the programmatic and institutional standards set by our professional regulatory bodies such as the Commission for University Education,” President Kenyatta said.

At the same time, the President directed regulatory institutions in the education sector to execute their mandate fully in order to ensure the quality of university education is not compromised.

“Regulatory standards are not mere exercises in box-ticking.  They are the lifeblood of a vital process that ensures that learning delivers tangible results for both the learner as well as the nation,” the President emphasized.

On research, the President challenged universities to be at the forefront in providing solutions to emerging challenges such as the COVID-19 pandemic.

During the event, President Kenyatta also inaugurated the Aga Khan University’s new Kshs 5 billion ultra-modern building. The building will be the university’s main campus in Kenya, housing its graduate school of Media and Communications, Medical College, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Institute for Human Development as well as the Brain and Mind Institute among other programmes.

His Highness the Aga Khan, who is the Chancellor of the Aga Khan University, addressed the occasion via video link, saying the awarding of charter to AKU is a vote of confidence in the university.

He thanked President Kenyatta’s leadership for creating an enabling environment that has allowed private universities in Kenya to flourish.

Education CS Prof George Magoha, Commission for University Education (CUE) Chairman Prof Chacha Nyaigoti Chacha, CUE Secretary Prof Mwenda Ntarangwi as well as the Aga Khan University’s Vice Chancellor Dr Firoz Rasul spoke during the occasion.

With the award of the charter, the Aga Khan University becomes Kenya’s 21st private chartered university.

Date posted: June 11, 2021.

Please also click Mawlana Hazar Imam Thematic Excerpts.

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Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. Also visit Simerg’s sister websites Barakah, dedicated to His Highness the Aga Khan, and Simergphotos.

7 Key Themes from Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Aga Khan University Convocation Address

Simerg’s sister website Barakah is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat. Barakah has broken down Mawlana Hazar Imam’s Aga Khan University Convocation address which was delivered virtually on May 22, 2021 to a world wide audience into 7 themes. The Barakah post includes pertinent photos and carries appropriate subtitles to make it highly readable. To read the excerpts please click on Address by His Highness the Aga Khan or the photo below.

Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, Barakah, a website dedicated to the Aga Khan
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, addressing the 2020 Aga Khan University Convocation. Please click photo for thematic excerpts of his speech. Photo: Facebook / AKU

Date posted: May 22, 2021.

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Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, and Melinda Gates Address First Ever Global Aga Khan University Convocation

(NOTE: For a more detailed report, with photos, of this morning’s Global Convocation event, please click Barakah, a website dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam, members of his family and the Ismaili Imamat – Ed.)

For the first time ever, the Aga Khan University this morning, Saturday May 22, 2021 brought together all the graduating classes in Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda, Tanzania and the United Kingdom in a single Global Convocation that is being held throughout the day. The Global Convocation began at approximately 8:45AM (Toronto time), and included speeches by the outgoing president of the Aga Khan University, Firoz Rasul, Melinda French Gates, Co-Chair and Trustee of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Clockwise from left: Prince Amyn Muhammad, Prince Rahim, Prince Ali Muhammad, Prince Hussain, and Princess Zahra. Photo: Clip from Ismaili TV.

The approximately 70 minute program was transmitted via The Ismaili TV and The AKU Website. Present in the room where Mawlana Hazar Imam was speaking from were members of his family — Prince Amyn Muhammad, Princess Zahra, Prince Rahim, Prince Hussain and Prince Ali Muhammad.

A comprehensive report of the global convocation with excerpts from the speeches that were made will be presented on Simerg and Barakah when the transcripts become available. In the meantime, we have a report with a few photos in Barakah, a website that is dedicated to Mawlana Hazar Imam and members of his family as well as the Ismaili Imamat. Please click HERE

Date posted: May 21, 2021.
Last updated: May 22, 2021.

Featured photo at top of this post: Mawlana Hazar Imam delivering his remarks on May 22, 2021 at the Aga Khan University’s Global Convocation. Photo: Clip from Ismaili TV.

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Is Research Underway at the Aga Khan University to Find a Cure for Covid-19?

Letter from publisher

By MALIK MERCHANT
(Publisher-Editor, Simerg, Barakah, and Simergphotos)

Many of our readers who have visited the website of the Aga Khan University (AKU) over the past 2 weeks, may have read about (1) the crucial support AKU needs at this time during the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) Dr. Faisal Mahmoud at the AKU who treated Pakistan’s first COVID-19 patient; and (3) the AKU’s launching of a mobile app that helps to self-screen for Covid-19. You can follow these and other informative stories of how the AKU is dealing with the COVID-19 crisis by clicking HERE. I have been wondering whether the AKU, like other institutions around the world including several in Canada, is racing to find a vaccine for COVID-19. It’s very possible that there is already an initiative underway, but I have yet to read about it.

I would like to start by briefly mentioning the incredible steps that our beloved 48th Imam, Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III, took in response to the bubonic plague that affected India in 1897. (See full article HERE or an abbreviated version HERE)

The twenty-year-old Imam aided Professor Haffkinez’s research for the development of a vaccine by putting freely at the scientist’s disposal one of his “biggest houses, a vast, rambling palace in Bombay.” The scientist remained there for about two years until the Government of India, convinced of the success of his methods, took over the whole research project and put it on a proper, adequate and official footing.

Portrait His Highness the Aga Khan
Mawlana Sultan Mahomed Shah, His Highness the Aga Khan III (1885-1957), 48th Imam of Ismaili Muslims. Photo: © National Portrait Gallery London, photograph by Elliott & Fry.

Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah writes in his Memoirs that “the impact of the plague among my own people was alarming. It was in my power to set an example. I had myself publicly inoculated, and I took care to see that the news of what I had done was spread as far as possible and as quickly as possible….The immunity, of which my continued health and my activities were obvious evidence, impressed itself on their consciousness and conquered their fear.”

At that time, the Imam did not have Jamati institutions at his disposal to support such an initiative. At the turn of the 19th century, the Ismaili Jamat was economically weak, and educationally even worse off. Very few members of the Jamat could boast a knowledge of the three R’s.

Then, over a period of some 50 years, the 48th Imam transformed the community from rags to riches, an act that is probably unparalleled in history. The Imam was the architect of the modern miracle that we continue to witness today under the benevolent guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam Shah Karim al Hussaini, His Highness the Aga Khan.

His Highness the Aga Khan in University regalia
Mawlana Hazar Imam, His Highness the Aga Khan, in the Aga Khan University regalia. Photo: The Aga Khan Development Network.

Today, the Jamat is eminently placed on the world stage with its fantastic infrastructure. It has become socially well-organised, professionally competitive, and commercially adventurous. More importantly, the Jamat’s youth is conscious of its strength and ready for any new challenge. We have become a dynamic, intrepid community capable of bearing further loads under the guidance of Mawlana Hazar Imam. He has created exceptional institutions for the well being and progress of the Jamat and humanity at large.

During his Imamat, the establishment of the Aga Khan University in Karachi is probably one of the most significant and monumental projects undertaken in Ismaili history. Its creation and development has led to satellite hospitals and universities in East Africa, and a major mountain university in Central Asia. Over the last 4 decades, the AKU has achieved an international presence and recognition in the world of learning with major educational institutions as its partners — a vision that was first enshrined in the logo of the university.

According to the AKU website, the University’s research endeavours extend across diverse subjects: health sciences, education, culture and society. “At the core of our mission,” the website states, “is the desire to spearhead change for generations to come.” It further adds that the AKU faculty, scientists, educationists and students are engaged in impacting people, communities and societies for a better tomorrow.​​​ It gives an example of the Centre for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research which houses international researchers conducting state of the art research and teaching in basic and translational stem cell science.

Today, we are in the midst of a worldwide crisis – the COVID-19 pandemic. We have already witnessed its social, cultural, and economical impact on billions of people around the world. We don’t want it to remain with us and plague us for years to come, and a vaccine that will address the virus is the only solution we have for our future well-being. In the USA, the cost of a complete COVID-19 treatment for people who are hospitalized is around US $39,000.

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The circular form of the Aga Khan University Seal, with its different levels of imagery contained in concentric circles, has its visual roots in the rosettes of early Islamic periods. The circle symbolises the world and reflects the international presence of the University. At the centre of the Seal is a star, or sun. Light is a universal symbol for the enlightenment that education provides.The light emanating from the star is also symbolic of Nur (Divine light).

The development of a vaccine may require millions of dollars, and efforts at developing one may not guarantee that it will be one that is selected for massive immunization. Today, researchers at the AKU, as well as others around the world, have access to the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. Additionally, lab-grown copies of the virus are available to researchers thanks to the efforts made to isolate and culture the virus from two patients by the University of Toronto and McMaster University.

An aerial view of the Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan. The University was chartered as Pakistan’s first private international university in 1983. Photo: Aga Khan Development Network.

If they have not already done so, it is important that the AKU join the collaborative efforts that are being spearheaded by the World Health Organization (WHO), where scientists, physicians, funders and manufacturers from around the world are coming together to help expedite the formulation of a vaccine against COVID-19. In its declaration of April 13, to which several renowned institutions are signatories, the WHO states that “we believe these efforts will help reduce inefficiencies and duplication of effort, and we will work tenaciously to increase the likelihood that one or more safe and effective vaccines will soon be made available to all”.

While a vaccine will take time to develop, it will likely be instrumental in controlling this worldwide pandemic. We hope that the Aga Khan University will dedicate some of its research facility and scientists to the development of a vaccine against COVID-19. The AKU’s contribution may literally change the lives of hundreds of millions of people around the world, just as Imam Sultan Mahomed Shah’s foresight was responsible for saving countless lives.

Date posted: April 14, 2020.

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few.

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Simerg’s Merchant

Malik Merchant is the founding publisher/editor of Simerg (2009), Barakah (2017) and Simergphotos (2012). A former IT consultant, he now dedicates his time to small family projects and other passionate endeavours such as the publication of this website. He is the eldest son of the Late Alwaez Jehangir Merchant (1928-2018) and Alwaeza Maleksultan Merchant, who served Jamati institutions for several decades.

We welcome feedback/letters from our readers. Please use the feedback box which appears below. If you don’t see the box please click Leave a comment. Your comment may be edited for length and brevity, and is subject to moderation. We are unable to acknowledge unpublished letters.

Support the work of the Aga Khan University at this critical time of the COVID-19 pandemic: Your HELP IS CRUCIAL and IS NEEDED

The Seal of the Aga Khan University
The Seal of the Aga Khan University

By RICHARD BROW
Chief Development Officer

The COVID-19 pandemic is having an enormous impact on individuals and families in our communities and around the world.

AKU [Aga Khan University] is on the front lines of the response to this unprecedented health challenge. Our dedicated physicians, nurses and other medical staff are working tirelessly to save lives.

You can support our efforts to secure specialised medical equipment, provide testing and life-saving care to the vulnerable through our Patient Welfare Programme, and address the needs of our physicians and healthcare personnel during this extraordinary time [Note: readers outside Pakistan have encountered problems in completing the form – please select the COVID-19 Fund over the Zakat Donation COVID-19 Fund option, and see if that works for you – Ed.].

The COVID-19 Fund would support the following: 

1. Providing world-class medical care, including for disadvantaged patients through our Patient Welfare Programme;

2. Securing specialised equipment including ventilators and personal protective gear for our staff;

3. Changes to our hospital and University facilities to expand our capacity to respond effectively to this emergency; 

4. Research by our infectious disease specialists, and others, that contributes to the global effort to deliver better diagnostics for COVID-19 and care for those infected;    

5. Support for our staff who are working exceedingly long hours, and need accommodation and other essential support.​

If you would like to make a donation, additional information may be found HERE.

You may also contact us directly at: resource.development@aku.edu

On behalf of all of us at AKU and the countless people we serve, thank you.

Date posted: March 23, 2020.

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Read the latest updates on the University’s action on the coronavirus.​ ​​

Before departing this website please take a moment to review Simerg’s Table of Contents for links to hundreds of thought provoking pieces on a vast array of subjects including faith and culture, history and philosophy, and arts and letters to name a few. In the past few days, we have published some excellent pieces on Navroz.