Emory Report
April 17, 2006
Volume 58, Number 27


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April 17, 2006
Walker honored for work in post-Soviet Georgia

Lailee Mendelson is public relations manager for the Office of International Affairs.

Professor of Medicine Kenneth Walker has been awarded the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Outstanding Citizen Achievement Citation for his role in a groundbreaking partnership that has brought the first modern pediatric emergency room (ER) to the nation of Georgia or to any post-Soviet country.

Recipients of the honor are chosen for contributions to the realization of USAID’s mission to provide economic development and humanitarian assistance around the world. Only eight other individuals working in the Europe and Eurasia region have received the citation since its inception.

Walker will be honored along with his Georgian counterpart Irakli Sasania, chief administrator of M. Iashvili Central Children’s Hospital in Tbilisi, Georgia, where the pediatric ER was established in 2004. Through their joint vision and commitment to improving health care for the Georgian people, Walker and Sasania mobilized the volunteer efforts of medical professionals from their respective institutions and communities, including several School of Medicine faculty from pediatrics, emergency medicine and surgery who traveled to Tbilisi to help develop the ER.

Walker will receive the citation at a dinner hosted by USAID on April 19, at Emory Conference Center, co-sponsored by the Office of International Affairs and the Halle Institute for Global Learning. Sasania will be honored at a June ceremony in Tbilisi.

Through the Atlanta-Tbilisi Healthcare Partnership, Walker has worked to establish joint state of Georgia/nation of Georgia projects. The partnership has built sustainable networks that have facilitated the exchange of more than 300 faculty and students. He also has cultivated alliances among high-level officials at home and abroad to support these collaborations. In tribute to Walker’s efforts, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili declared him an Honorary Citizen of Georgia in 2004.

Saakashvili noted, in a speech commemorating the ER unit’s opening, that “this unit will meet one of our most urgent needs.” In a country where many citizens, including children, cannot receive specialized care because they do not have the means to pay, the ER fulfills an especially critical need. Saakashvili added that “this unit will help provide highly qualified critical care to all children without exception.”

The ceremony honoring Walker will include remarks by Sasania, President Jim Wagner and top U.S. and Georgian government officials and USAID regional officials.

“This collaboration has created an innovative model for international engagement,” said Vice Provost for International Affairs Holli Semetko. “It is also a testament to Emory’s growing ties to the nation of Georgia, thanks in large part to Dr. Walker’s work.”

The last two years have seen visits to Emory by Saakashvili, First Lady of Georgia Sandra Roelofs, U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Georgia Richard Miles and Deputy Mayor of Tbilisi George Meladze. David Tkeshelashvili, a prominent member of the Georgian parliament, is currently working toward a master of laws degree at Emory’s School of Law.