Dr. Azra Raza selected for Sir Syed Day Lifetime Achievement Award 2018
The Aligarh Muslim University Alumni Association of New Jersey and Pennsylvania, one of over a dozen such organizations in North America, all not-for-profit, non-political and secular associations announced its selection of Dr. Azra Raza, an internationally recognized Medical Oncologist to be the recipient of its ‘Sir Syed Day Lifetime Achievement Award for Excellence in Poetry, Literature, Arts or the Sciences and/or for Outstanding Public Service’ for the year 2018. Over the last sixteen years, this highly selective award has been bestowed upon some of the most distinguished names of South Asia in various fields and the selection of Dr. Raza adds another eminent name to this august list. This is particularly significant since for a scientist to be worthy of this honor, the criterion of being well known in at least two countries is a tough standard to meet and thus only two scientists; the late Dr. Obaid Siddiqi, the father of Molecular Biology in India and member of both the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences and Dr. M.A.Q. Siddiqui, an internationally recognized Molecular Biologist have received this honor to-date. Dr. Pervaiz Hoodbhoy, although a Physicist was recognized for his outstanding public service.
Dr. Raza is a graduate of Dow Medical College, Karachi, trained in Internal Medicine at the University of Maryland and Georgetown/VA Medical Center and completed her fellowship in Medical Oncology at the world-renowned Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, where she later served as a Member of Faculty for six years. She started her research in Myelodysplastic Syndromes (MDS) in 1992 and moved to Rush University, Chicago where she was appointed as the Charles Arthur Weaver Professor in Oncology and Director, Division of Myeloid Diseases at the young age of 39 years. Before moving to New York, she was the Chief of Hematology Oncology and the Gladys Smith Professor of Oncology at the University of Massachusetts in Worcester. Currently, she serves as the Chan Soon-Shiong Professor of Medicine and Director of the MDS Center at Columbia University in New York. She is an international authority on pre-leukemia (MDS) and acute leukemia and is one of those rare physician-scientists who divide their time equally between caring for patients and supervising a state-of-the-art basic research laboratory which is well funded by multiple large grants. Dr. Raza started collecting blood and marrow samples on her patients in 1984 and now her Tissue Bank, the largest and oldest in the country with > 60,000 samples is a unique national treasure. She has published over 300 papers in prestigious peer-reviewed journals such as The
New England Journal of Medicine, Nature, Blood, Cancer, Cancer Research, British Journal of Hematology, Leukemia and Leukemia Research. She has over 650 abstracts to her credit, has written fifteen book chapters and is the editor of a book devoted to MDS. She has been included in ‘Top Doctors’ in the NY Metropolitan area by Castle Connolly every year since 2009.
In addition to her scientific accomplishments, Dr. Raza is a dedicated reader of Urdu Literature’ the co-author of the book – Ghalib: Epistemologies of Elegance and is the owner of over 10,000 books. She founded the ‘Urdu Mehfil’ in 1986 as a meeting point for local Urdu aficionados and has regularly hosted great writers and poets including Qurratulain Hyder, Jon Elia, Zaheda Hina, Ahmad Faraz, Fehmida Riyaz and others. She is reputed to have committed to memory thousands of verses of poetry in Urdu, English, Punjabi and Persian.
Dr. Raza is a member of the Founder Group designing Breakthrough Developments in Science and Technology with President Bill Clinton and met with Vice-President Joe Biden to discuss the Cancer Moonshot Initiative at his residence in 2015. She serves on numerous national and international panels as a reviewer, consultant and advisor. She is a sought after speaker in scientific circles and is recipient of several awards including the Hope Award in Cancer Research in 2012 (shared with the Nobel Laureate Dr. Elizabeth Blackburn), first Lifetime Achievement Award from APPNA and Award in Academic Excellence thrice (2007, 2010 and 2014) from Dogana (Dow Medical College Graduate Association of North America). She has been named as one of the ‘100 Women Who Matter’ by Newsweek Pakistan in 2012. During the last three decades, Dr. Raza has mentored dozens of young researchers both in the laboratory and the clinic, most of her trainees have had highly successful careers of their own at some of the most prestigious institutions of the country. Her mentees populate the cancer centers at Harvard, Yale, MD Anderson, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and almost all major universities in the country.
More than twenty years ago, Dr. Raza established the Azra Raza Scholarship which is a cash prize given annually to the topmost girls in Sciences and in Urdu Literature and Humanities at her alma mater, FC College for Girls in Lahore. She believes that the best way ‘to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world’ is by promoting and publicizing the achievements of humanity in Science, Arts and Literature. She was married to the late Dr. Harvey, D. Preisler, Director Cancer Center in Chicago and has a daughter, Sheherzad Raza Preisler who also lives in Manhattan.
In selecting an outstanding individual like Dr. Raza to be the recipient of the 2018 award, the association has maintained and in fact enhanced its impeccable record over the years of choosing the very best in their field for this honor.
This award will be presented at the annual Sir Syed Day to be held in early September, 2018. Exact date is TBD.