Emory Report
May 27, 2008
Volume 60, Number 31


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May 27, 2008
Brittain winner a model of engaged scholarship

BY Beverly Clark

Putting knowledge into action are ideals of engaged scholarship that Emory graduate Zain Ahmed lives each day. Ahmed pushes himself to the limit for the greater good, whether it’s in the lab working on intensive organ transplant research, developing programs for an international nonprofit, or tutoring local high school students.

His achievements earned him Emory’s highest student honor, the Marion Luther Brittain Award, presented each year at Commencement to a graduate who demonstrates exemplary service to both the University and the greater community without expectation of recognition.

The political science and neuroscience and behavioral biology major (who also completed requirements for a chemistry degree), graduated summa cum laude with highest honors. He completed his honors thesis in transplantation immunology with his mentor, Allan D. Kirk, professor of surgery and scientific director of the Emory Transplant Center.

A 2007 Emory Community Building and Social Change Fellow and an Emory Scholar, Ahmed is focused on tackling issues related to health and education. “I consider them to be basic human rights that are both integral and related to other complex issues in the world. It is very difficult for me to see others undergoing preventable hardships,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed founded Global Health, Education, Empowerment and Development (HEED) in 2006. The nonprofit engages students around the nation to work in developing nations to address issues related to health, education and economic development. The group’s first major initiative will be to collaborate with a local nonprofit in Calhuitz, Guatemala, to build a health clinic and school and implement a micro-credit initiative starting this summer. Ahmed donated the $5,000 that comes with the Brittain Award to the effort.

He will stay at Emory next year and continue his research full time at the Emory Transplant Center and travel to Guatemala throughout the year to implement HEED’s various initiatives. He also plans to apply to joint programs in medicine, research and public health next year to earn a medical degree and a doctorate.

Ahmed dedicated the Brittain Award to his parents, immigrants from Karachi, Pakistan.

“They have sacrificed a lot for me and have instilled many of the values and principles that I constantly strive to follow and uphold,” Ahmed said. “They have always encouraged me to help others, work hard, never quit, be a kind-hearted person and always challenge myself while encouraging me to pursue my own interests and desires. They are my role models and I owe them everything.”