The University of British Columbia (UBC) and the Aga Khan University (AKU) have announced a joint program to promote academic exchanges and research between the two institutions in the field of respiratory medicine.

The exchange will allow AKU fellows to train doctors in Pakistan, and broaden the knowledge and expertise of UBC doctors in diseases endemic in the developing world.

AKU Centre President Shamsh Kassim-Lakha, AKU Rector John Dirks and other AKU officials, prominent city business people, and leaders of Vancouver's Ismaili community joined UBC President David Strangway and Associate Dean of Medicine, David Hardwick, at a dinner held in April to announce the initiative.

"This agreement with AKU is an important development in the expansion of the international initiatives we have undertaken to expand research linkages and improve cultural understanding with universities around the world," said UBC President David Strangway.

Respiratory disease is a major problem in Pakistan. Acute respiratory infections are the major cause of infant mortality, and tuberculosis is rampant. The situation is made worse by a poor national health infrastructure and lack of trained medical professionals.

The AKU/UBC initiative will enable the AKU faculty to receive training at UBC in respiratory sub-specialities and then share their knowledge with health care practitioners and researchers on their return to Pakistan.

In turn, UBC's faculty will draw on AKU's infrastructure and its wealth of epidemiological data.

Opportunities for joint research projects include the prevention and treatment of acute respiratory infections in infants; new methods of rapid diagnosis of pulmonary tuberculosis; the causes of asthma; and diseases rare in the west but common in Pakistan, such as pulmonary hydatid disease.

The collaboration stems from a memorandum of agreement signed by the presidents of the two universities. That took place in Islamabad during Prime Minister Jean Chretien's trade mission to South-East Asia last January.

The program will require $500,000 in donations over the next five years, of which about $300,000 has already been raised.

It is expected that this will be the first of many programs between the two institutions.

A joint program in education is already under consideration. Others, in fields such as the arts, sciences, library studies, and nursing, may follow.

Source: Canadian Ismaili (July 1996)

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