OUR PEOPLE

Award Winners

Dr Anita Zaidi​
“I feel privileged to have received the education I did, and with that comes responsibility.”​

Dr Anita Zaidi, MBBS ’88, has been rising to the top since her student days at AKU, when she was named Best Graduate of the Medical College’s first class. But she outdid herself in 2013, when she won the first annual US$ 1 millio​n Caplow Children’s Prize with her plan to save the lives of newborn children in an impoverished fishing village in Karachi that she worked in for a decade as an AKU faculty member and head of the paediatrics department. In the process, the internationally renowned researcher beat out 565 applicants from 70 countries. American entrepreneur and prize founder Ted Caplow hailed Dr Zaidi’s “innovative, comprehensive approach to supporting maternal and newborn health,” saying it “epitomizes the Prize’s mission to cost-effectively save children’s lives and uncover best practices.” Now the Director of the Enteric and Diarrheal Diseases programme at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Zaidi traces her focus on improving the health of society’s poorest members back to her community health training at AKU.​


Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta
“I’m proud to have made it possible for younger researchers to step outside the University and work among the poorest of the poor.”

For almost any other researcher in the field of global health, winning two prestigious international prizes in one year wo​uld be an extraordinary achievement. For Dr Zulfiqar A. Bhutta, it is almost a matter of course. In 2014, he received the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Samuel J. Fomon Nutrition Award and the WHO Ihsan Do˘gramacı Family Health Foundation Prize, the latter in Geneva during the World Health Assembly. The Founding Director of AKU’s Centre of Excellence in Women and Child Health and the Co-Director of the SickKids Centre for Global Child Health in Toronto, Dr Bhutta has received five such prizes in the last five years. With over 650 peer-reviewed publications and eight books to his name, Dr Bhutta has played a key role in pushing maternal and child health to the top of the international development agenda through evidence-based reasoning and advocacy over the course of his nearly 30 years at AKU. But while his influence and reputation are global, his principal focus has long been the arduous, hands-on process of developing scalable, evidence-based community interventions and training young researchers to improve the health of women and children in Pakistan’s villages.​


Sarah Savant
“With technology, we are now in a position to attempt to explain not only the role of copying in the Arabic textual tradition, butthe formation of the tradition as a whole.”

A faculty member at AKU’s Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations in London since 2007, Sarah Savant won the 2014 Saidi-Sirjani Book Award for The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion. Named for a well-known Iranian writer, the award is among the most prestigious in the field of Iranian studies. Savant’s book traces the process by which Persians rewrote their own history over the course of three centuries following the arrival of Islam, transforming their identity at the same time that they reshaped accounts of the Arab and Islamic past. In 2016, The Library of Arabic Literature will publish Savant’s translation of a 9th century work by Ibn Qutaybah. In the meantime, she is taking her research in a new direction, collaborating with volunteer computer programmers to track the ways in which Arabic texts were copied, transmitted, altered and interpreted from 750–1500 CE. Already, Savant has received an award from the British Academy to introduce other scholars to the techniques she has developed. “The Arabic textual tradition is enormous and a great example of what computer scientists call ‘Big Data,’” Savant said.​​


Anila Ali Bardai
“It’s my passion to work with newborn babies. It’s my wish to be a role model fo​r other nurses.”​

Every year, nearly 200,000 newborn babies die in Pakistan in their first month of life, the third highest number of neonatal deaths in the world. The fact that many women do not deliver in a hospital is one reason, but as AKU researchers have shown, even among women who do, neonatal mortality rates are far too high. The Aga Khan University Hospital in Karachi is an exception to that rule, and one reason has been the work of Anila Ali Bardai, Diploma ’96 and Post-RN BScN ’09. While serving as Head Nurse at the hospital’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Bardai received the International Neonatal Nursing Excellence Award in Belfast, Northern Ireland, in 2013. During the decade she spent at the hospital, Bardai was instrumental in achieving international quality standards in the NICU, which recently doubled in size to 24 beds. She also worked to raise the standard of neonatal nursing care throughout the country, helping to train dozens of nurses annually from outside AKU.