Faizullah Kakar, PhD, Afghanistan’s Minister for Advising the President on Health Affairs, met Oct. 11 at UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health with global health leaders from the UNC schools of public health and medicine. Kakar outlined his country’s priority health challenges, including maternal mortality, mental health, access and quality of health care, and the environment. Discussion centered upon ways UNC might support efforts to improve health in Afghanistan.
UNC public health school participants included moderator Peggy Bentley, PhD, associate dean for global health and professor of nutrition; coordinator Leah Devlin, DDS, MPH, Gillings Visiting Professor of health policy and management; Myron Cohen, MD, professor of epidemiology in the public health school, distinguished professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology in the UNC School of Medicine, and director of the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Diseases; Bruce Fried, PhD, associate professor, and John Paul, PhD, clinical associate professor, both in health policy and management; Herbert Peterson, MD, Kenan Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of Maternal and Child Health in the public health school and professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the medical school; Layla Lavasani, maternal and child health doctoral student; and Mark Elliott, PhD, postdoctoral research associate at The Water Institute. Also present were Sam Hawes, program director for the School of Medicine’s Office of International Activities, and Joumana Haidar, MBA, business services coordinator atUNC’s Center for Infectious Diseases.
After earning a master’s degree in toxicology from Indiana University and a doctorate in epidemiology from the University of Washington at Seattle, Kakar held a variety of leadership roles in Afghanistan and Pakistan, including serving as founder and chairman of the Research and Advisory Council of Afghanistan, Chancellor of the Islamic University of Afghanistan and consultant with the World Health Organization. Prior to becoming President Karsai’s adviser, Kakar served six years as Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister of Public Health.
“The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is well known around the world for its strong public health program of teaching and training,” Kakar said. “I would like to see an academic relationship between the Medical Sciences University of Kabul, Afghanistan, and the UNC school of public health.”
He said that he appreciated comments made by several meeting participants about ways to improve the health of mothers and children in Afghanistan. “The suggestions were very helpful,” he said, “and I will share them with officials at the Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health for follow-up.”
“It was an honor to meet with Dr. Kakar,” Bentley said. “I hope we can work to support him and others to continue his impressive work to achieve health and well-being for the people of Afghanistan.”