PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — In the many years that Dr. Ruhul Abid has provided direct medical care to vastly underserved communities in Bangladesh, there’s one patient whom he has never forgotten.
A young girl, who appeared to be about 8 or 9 years old, came to one of the mobile medical centers Abid operates through Health and Education for All (HAEFA), a nonprofit he founded. After a brief exam and screening for common diseases — hypertension, asthma and diabetes — he learned that the girl was actually 16 and had been living with undiagnosed Type 1 diabetes for half of her life.
“She had been tested by various other organizations for tuberculosis and HIV, but no one ever thought to give her a simple blood glucose test,” said Abid, an associate professor of surgery (research) at Brown University.
During the examination, the girl revealed that she had a twin sister who died three weeks before the mobile medical center arrived in her area. “She had the same symptoms, and it was likely that she, too, was living with undiagnosed diabetes,” Abid said. “And no one ever knew.”
Now, every time Abid visits Bangladesh, which can be multiple times over the course of a year, the young woman finds him, thanks him, and they take a picture together, documenting her growth and development over the years. And it is for the positive impact on patients like this young women that Abid and HAEFA have earned a nomination for the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, which will be awarded on Friday, Oct. 9.
While the Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awards the prize, does not release nominee names, Jean-Philippe Belleau — an associate professor at University of Massachusetts Boston — confirmed that UMass Boston’s anthropology department nominated Abid and HAEFA.
Abid, who joined the Warren Alpert Medical School in 2011 and established a vascular biology lab at Rhode Island Hospital’s Cardiovascular Research Center, founded HAEFA in 2012 with a focus on bringing health care to underprivileged people and workers in Bangladesh.