The President’s Review​

July 2023​ 

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July 2023









President’s Message






AKU President, Sulaiman Shahabuddin  






AKU’s 40th anniversary year is emerging as one of the most transformative in its history.


As His Highness the Aga Khan said in his anniversary message, AKU’s mission is “to bring knowledge, leadership, and excellence to bear upon the challenges facing the world, especially in Asia and Africa, and to build bridges of understanding between countries, cultures, and faiths.” That is precisely what the University has been doing in 2023, thanks to its faculty and staff, students and alumni, donors and volunteers, partners and friends.


We are just two months away from welcoming the first students to our Faculty of Arts and Sciences in Karachi and to our Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery and four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing in East Africa. The quality of the applicant pool was high, and our inaugural classes will be rich in talent, potential and passion. After years of planning and anticipation, we are eager to start educating these future leaders.


In April, we celebrated the start of construction on our new 60-acre campus in Kampala at a ceremony attended by Princess Zahra Aga Khan, First Lady of Uganda Janet Museveni and our generous donors and partners. By the end of 2025, our University Centre, Student Residences and Aga Khan University Hospital, Kampala should all be operational.


In Tanzania, we are developing our 3,700-acre property in Arusha into a climate change and environmental research station that will bring together scientists from across AKU and around the world. Local and international partnership agreements have been signed and research projects have begun. Outside the University, interest in the project is strong; within AKU, optimism regarding its potential is high.


These new developments will change the University. Student enrollment in East Africa is now on a path to double. The face of the typical AKU student is changing from that of a graduate student or working professional to that of an undergraduate. Our faculty is changing too, as experts in the healing and learning sciences are joined by scholars from the humanities, social sciences and natural sciences. A major expansion in our disciplinary scope, geographic reach and overall impact is well underway. It is an exciting time for AKU.


But it is not just our future that is bright. The present is as well. The past few months have given us much to celebrate. In our 40th year, we are demonstrating that AKU is, as His Highness said, “a source of hope” for countless families.









Awards and Recognition












AKU Ranked in the Top 250 Worldwide in Medicine

The QS World University Rankings placed AKU among the top 250 universities in the world in medicine. Only four other universities based in lower-income countries managed that feat. What’s more, AKU was the only university in Africa outside of South Africa to be ranked among the top 250. There are more than 3,700 medical schools globally.


Pharmacy Training Programme Earns U.S. Accreditation

The pharmacy trainee programme of the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi became the first at an academic medical centre in Pakistan to be accredited by the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists. Well-trained pharmacists are critical health care providers. More than 800 individuals have completed AKUH’s one-year pharmacy training programme since 1990, making it a vital source of pharmacists for the country.


University Centre, Nairobi Wins Sustainability Award

The University Centre, Nairobi won a Green Building Award from the Kenya Association of Manufacturers for its energy conservation features. The Centre previously received EDGE Advance certification, meaning that it uses at least 40 percent less energy than other newly constructed buildings in the area.


Saving the Snow Leopard

An episode of Voices from the Roof of the World was selected for the World Wildlife Day Film Showcase. Five years in the making, “Shadows in the Snow” focuses on efforts to save the endangered snow leopard in northern Pakistan. A joint project of AKU and Aga Khan Agency for Habitat, Aga Khan Foundation and University of Central Asia, Voices is a series of environmental documentaries that explores the challenges facing the mountainous region stretching from Nepal to Kyrgyzstan in the era of climate change.









Influencing Change






Sindh Adopts Teaching License Policy  






IED Paves the Way for Teaching License Policy in Sindh

New teachers in Sindh will be required to complete a Bachelor of Education and pass a licensing exam under a new policy that AKU’s Institute for Educational Development played a leading role in developing. The approval of the policy by the Sindh Cabinet is the culmination of a multi-year effort and collaboration between IED and Sindh education officials that included seminars, policy dialogues, opinion surveys and the publication of a 70-page white paper by IED. Studies show that teacher quality has a huge impact on student learning. Licensing is meant to ensure that students are taught by qualified education professionals. Sindh Minister for Education Syed Sardar Ali Shah thanked IED for its efforts and said the policy “has laid the foundation for a more robust and professional teaching workforce.”


AKU-EB Grading System Adopted in Pakistan

A new system for grading school-leaving examinations developed by the AKU Examination Board (AKU-EB) will be used nationwide in Pakistan after the federal Inter Board Committee of Chairmen voted to adopt it. Researchers at AKU-EB reviewed the grading systems of 30 countries before developing the new system. Among other features, it increases the minimum score needed to achieve a passing grade.


A Toolkit for Climate Action on Campus

Universities that wish to reduce their carbon emissions have a valuable new resource: a 110-page guidebook from the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network. AKU contributed to Net Zero on Campus as part of an eight-member advisory panel of universities from around the world. As AKU’s Miriam Kugele remarks in its pages: “Mitigation is doable, necessary and good business – for the planet, for people, and for institutional pockets.” In addition to reducing its own emissions, AKU has also begun working with its suppliers to reduce their emissions.  


GSMC Hosts Region’s First Sustainable Journalism Conference

In the first conference of its kind in the region, the Graduate School of Media and Communications brought together 140 delegates from 10 countries to discuss how journalism can be made financially sustainable and socially and environmentally responsible. The Sustainable Journalism in Practice conference in Nairobi was a collaboration between GSMC and the Fojo Media Institute of Linnaeus University in Sweden and the University of Witwatersrand’s Wits Centre for Journalism in South Africa.









Collaborating Across Borders






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AKU Celebrates Its Portuguese Partnerships

AKU has active partnerships with the Catholic University of Portugal, NOVA University Lisbon and other leading institutions in Portugal. Faculty from AKU and its partners are collaborating on medical research, advising one another on various subjects and helping each other to educate students. AKU celebrated the impact of its Portuguese partnerships at an event in Lisbon attended by its leadership, Board of Trustees and representatives of its partners.


Collaborating with the Public Sector in East Africa

The University is looking forward to collaborating with public institutions in East Africa on research, education and clinical care under three new partnership agreements. Partnerships with the Tanzania Wildlife Research Institute and the Nelson Mandela African Institution of Science and Technology will facilitate research at AKU’s new Arusha Climate Change and Environmental Research Station. An agreement with Murang’a County  will enable AKU students to do clinical rotations in county health facilities. In addition, the strong ties between AKU and Kilifi County were reaffirmed at a meeting with county officials. “I am utterly impressed by the work Aga Khan University and the Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health, East Africa, have been doing here in Kilifi,” County Executive for Health Peter Mwarogo said. “Your impact is undeniable.”









Building Capacity






New Training Programmes Launch  






New Training Programmes Launch

From the West Nile region of Uganda to northern Pakistan, AKU is working to build the capacity of educators and health care professionals. In Sanghar, Sindh, the University is working to increase the capacity of public-sector health care workers. In Arua, Uganda, AKU is offering a two-year diploma in educational leadership and management in partnership with Muni University. In Kilifi County, Kenya, laboratories in two public hospitals were upgraded as part of an international study of pregnancy complications that AKU is contributing to.









Collaborating with AKHS,P






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AKU and AKHS,P Partner in Gilgit-Baltistan

Residents of Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral will be able to access free mental-health counseling from trained psychologists through a helpline established by the Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan, AKU’s Brain and Mind Institute and the nonprofit Taskeen Health Initiative. The region has reported a high suicide rate in recent years. Later this month, AKU will start training specialists in family medicine at AKHS,P health facilities in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral. The two-year programme will include seven months of training at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi. AKU is also supporting the public health sector in Gilgit-Baltistan, where an award-winning mobile app it developed is being used by more than 1,200 Lady Health Workers.









Research and Innovation






Centering the Indian Ocean in the Study of Islam  






Big Grants, Bold Ambitions

AKU researchers received three major grants from international institutions – further confirmation that the University is working at the cutting-edge of knowledge. A $1.5 million grant from Wellcome Leap will fund efforts by Assistant Professor Afsar Ali Mian and his team to develop a gene-editing drug to treat beta-thalassemia, an inherited blood disorder. A $3.6 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will support the PRISMA project, an international collaboration that aims to deliver new insights into the key risk factors for pregnant women and infants. A $4.4 million grant from the Science for Africa Foundation will enable Professor Amina Abubakar and her collaborators to explore brain development and interventions to promote child development.


Making Health Systems Work

Professor Sameen Siddiqi and his co-editors published a landmark textbook on health systems in lower-income countries with Cambridge University Press. Dr Julio Frenk, former Dean of Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, predicted it will become “a cherished reference for both health systems scholars and practitioners.”


The State of Health in Pakistan

Five faculty members contributed to the most detailed study available of health trends in Pakistan. Published in The Lancet Global Health, the study notes that while childhood and infectious diseases continue to be leading sources of mortality, non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart disease are now among Pakistan’s top causes of death and disability. “We have seen national action plans on NCDs, but implementation is largely lacking and much needed in this area,” Professor Zainab Samad said.


Centering the Indian Ocean in the Study of Islam

Professor Stéphane Pradines and Professor Emeritus Farouk Topan are the co-editors of a new book, Muslim Cultures of the Indian Ocean: Diversity and Pluralism, Past and Present. Featuring contributions from scholars in nine countries, it explores the circulation of “peoples, ideas, and ideologies, as well as art, culture, religion, and heritage” in the Indian Ocean region, from the ninth to the 20th century. Pradines and Topan argue for “the centrality of the Indian Ocean in the study of Muslim cultures.”


The Media Habits of Gen Z and Millennials

The Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi issued an 82-page report on the media consumption habits of East Africans between the ages of 18 and 35. Almost 70 percent of respondents said they spend three or more hours per day on social media.


Bringing New Treatments to Asia and Africa

The Aga Khan University Hospital, Nairobi, became the first institution in Africa to provide cancer patients with access to an experimental gene-blocking drug as part of an international clinical trial. The study is one of numerous clinical trials currently underway at AKU. Meanwhile, for the first time, surgeons at the Aga Khan University Hospital, Karachi performed a bedside surgery in the neonatal intensive care unit. Such surgeries can lead to better outcomes for newborns who are too unstable to safely move from the NICU to an operating room.









Faculty Honours






Dr Vinayak  






AKU faculty continued to earn national and international recognition for the leadership. Professor Sudhir Vinayak was elected President of the World Federation of Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology. Assistant Professor Miriam Mutebireceived the Global Health Catalyst Distinguished Leadership Award at the Global Health Catalyst Summit at the University of Pennsylvania. Professor Zulfiqar Bhuttareceived the Henry G. Friesen International Prize in Health Research. University Librarian Peter Gatiti was elected Chairperson for the Kenya Libraries Association.









Alumni News






Salim Virani  






Alumnus Appointed Vice Provost for Research

A member of AKU’s Class of 1998 (and the recipient of the Medical College’s Best Graduate award), Salim Virani has rejoined his alma mater as Professor and Vice Provost for Research. Dr Virani was previously Professor of Cardiology and Cardiovascular Research and Director of the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Training Program at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He is among the most highly cited cardiovascular researchers in the world.


Anita Zaidi takes the stage at UCA’s Graduation

A graduate of the inaugural medical class of AKU in 1988, Anita Zaidi, President of the Gender Equality Division at Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, was invited to address the graduands at the University of Central Asia. She shared lessons from her own life and career, which have been focused on tackling infectious disease killers of children, and now, a much harder job, creating a more gender-equal world.


Saad Omer Appointed as Founding Dean

Saad Omer ’98, earlier this year joined UT Southwestern as Founding Dean of the Peter O'Donnell Jr. School of Public Health. Prior to his appointment, Saad was the inaugural Director of the Yale Institute for Global Health.









Princess Zahra Aga Khan  






Celebrating 40 Years






The vision. The history. The impact. The future. With Princess Zahra Aga Khan in attendance, we saluted all that AKU and its global community of supporters have achieved at our Convocation, Founder’s Day and 40th Anniversary celebrations in March. Learn about AKU’s journey in the video and our 40th anniversary website.









Did You See…






Against all odds  






Grateful. Confident. Ready for anything. Don’t miss this opportunity to hear the members of the Class of 2022 discuss their experience at AKU.









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Twelve-year-old Hamida couldn’t walk when she arrived at the French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children in Afghanistan, which is managed by AKU. Discover the difference that FMIC made in her life here.









Did You Know…






University Centre, Karachi  






The University Centre, Karachi has been renamed the Alyshah Abdul Rehman Kanji Building, honouring the late son of one of AKU’s most generous donors, Mr Abdul Rehman Kanji. The largest structure built on campus since 1985, the Kanji building is making possible the launch of AKU’s new Faculty of Arts and Sciences.















The Aga Khan University Hospital in Nairobi has opened two specialty outreach centres, in line with our objective to increase access to specialised care. TheRoysambu Specialty Care Centre and Karen Specialty and Executive Clinic will bring the same quality of care offered at the main hospital closer to home.









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In the Malir district of Karachi, the Aga Khan University Hospital has screened more than 40,000 people for hepatitis C and successfully treated more than 2,000 people.







As part of the University’s commitment to environmental sustainability, a wastewater treatment plant was installed at the AKU-managed French Medical Institute for Mothers and Children in Kabul. Treated water is used for landscape irrigation, reducing the amount of water FMIC consumes in a region where water scarcity is a major concern.
























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