National, Front Page

BSMMU to confer honorary doctorate on Saima Wazed

Published : 12 Mar 2023 09:53 PM | Updated : 13 Mar 2023 04:34 PM

The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) will confer an honorary doctorate on global autism expert Saima Wazed in its fourth convocation on Monday.

Saima Wazed is a licensed school psychologist, nationally certified in the United States, and a specialist in clinical psychology. She is currently an Advisor to the Director General of WHO on mental health and autism, and a member of the WHO’s Expert Advisory Panel on Mental Health.

She brought the neglected autism issue to the fore in Bangladesh by organising a regional conference in 2011 where regional leaders, including India’s then ruling Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi, participated.

She is the daughter of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and granddaughter of Bangladesh’s founding father Bangabandhu.

“We are glad that she is accepting the honorary doctorate,” BSMMU Proctor Prof Habibur Rahman told Bangladesh Post.

President Md Abdul Hamid will hand over the honorary doctorate degree to her along with other two senior professors – orthopaedic surgeon Prof Kazi Shahidul Alam and virologist Prof Nazrul Islam.

 Autism – also referred to as autism spectrum disorder ̶ constitutes a diverse group of conditions related to development of the brain. About one in 100 children has autism, according to the WHO.

Characteristics may be detected in early childhood, but autism is often not diagnosed until much later.

The abilities and needs of autistic people vary and can evolve over time, WHO says. While some people with autism can live independently, others have severe disabilities and require life-long care and support.

Evidence-based psychosocial interventions can improve communication and social skills, with a positive impact on the well-being and quality of life of both autistic people and their caregivers.

As a result of Saima Wazed’s efforts, the Neurodevelopmental Disability Protection Trust Act 2013 has been passed in Bangladesh. The United Nations also adopted several resolutions based on her proposals.

A graduate from Barry University in Florida, she is an expert on neurodevelopmental disorders and mental health, and an accomplished speaker whose efforts has led to international awareness, policy and program changes, and the adoption of three international resolutions at the United Nations and World Health Organization.

Even though she is not a parent of a child with autism, she has been engaged in this field professionally, encouraging others, whether with direct connection to neurodevelopmental disorders or not, to be supportive of her work.

Her other interests are multimodal therapy and crisis intervention counselling, and development of multi-disciplinary/multi-stakeholder partnerships, among others, according to the Suchona Foundation, her own NGO.

Saima Wazed has been recently appointed as the Thematic Ambassador of the Climate Vulnerable Forum, for the thematic domain ‘Vulnerability’.

Additionally, she is the Chairperson of the Bangladesh National Advisory Committee for Autism and Neurodevelopmental Disorders, and Chief Advisor for National Mental Health Strategic Plan Working Group.

She is also the focal Person for Disability for the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief, Government of Bangladesh, to ensure that mental health and issues related to persons with disabilities are incorporated into the international guidelines developed by UNISDR.

She was WHO’s Goodwill Ambassador for Autism in the South-East Asia Region prior to which she was WHO’s regional champion for autism in South Asia. WHO also awarded her the ‘Excellence in Public Health Award’, noting that she had put autism on WHO’s map.

Born on 9th December 1973, Saima Wazed has been educated in Bangladesh, India, and the United States. Currently she is pursuing her doctoral degree from Barry University.

The BSMMU is the first medical university in Bangladesh. The Institute of Postgraduate Medical Research (IPGMR) was converted into BSMMU in 1998.

The last convocation of the university was held in 2018, before the global outbreak of Covid-19, the Proctor said.