The Department of Biology at VCU has instituted a new award honoring Mohamed Gamal Shaaban Ibrahim (1992-2013, VCU Biology Class of 2013) by recognizing students who display an exceptional commitment to service. While at VCU, Mohamed showed extraordinary leadership and caring as one of the co-founders of “Emerging Healthcare Leaders of VCU” and “United 2 Heal” (http://www.united2healinternational.org/). Mohamed also was involved in the Muslim Student Association, the African Student Union, and the VCU Honors College. He was one of VCU’s first “Global Ambassadors,” a program designed to help international students transition to college life in the United States.
Mohamed Shaaban’s generous spirit was evident in all of his interactions. His friends often referred to him as an “everyday hero” because of his infectious enthusiasm and his unwavering belief that we can all make a difference. Mohamed always focused on seeing the good in others and encouraged us all to value every moment of our lives. He serves as an ongoing inspiration to biologists and the entire VCU community.
In selecting winners for the Mohamed Shaaban Humanitarian Award, the Department of Biology seeks to find students who, like Mohamed, inspire us to do more, help others, and strive to make a real difference.
Kevin Ghaffari co-founded I RISE, an organization that seeks to increase student awareness of the issues facing our homeless community and to develop a model that helps these individuals in a holistic and long-lasting way.
Kevin was presented with the Mohamed Shaaban Humanitarian Award at the 2016 Spring Commencement Ceremony as a current graduate student.
Sahil Aggarwal was a co-founder of PENdulum Global, a nonprofit organization that works to empower vulnerable adolescents to become leaders through mentorship, education, and service projects. Sahil is now a medical student at the University of California at Irvine, and he continues to work with PENdulum Global.
Sahil was awarded the Mohamed Shaaban Humanitarian Award at the 2016 Spring Commencement Ceremony as an alumnus. He was unable to attend the ceremony due to the work he has been doing in Tanzania on HIV stigma research.
In addition to his outstanding leadership and service at VCU as Student Representative to the Board of Visitors and President of the College of Humanities and Sciences Student Leadership Council, Sameen implemented the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program, a Baha’i-inspired educational program engaging a community’s young people in a process that develops their powers of expression and fosters a love for service to humanity. As these youth groups take on increasingly more complex acts of service, their work becomes a significant source of positive change at the neighborhood level. Sameen worked with several counties in Virginia to implement the program, and in the summer of 2014, he supported its development in Manzini, Swaziland. Today, the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program is strengthening communities in localities across the world. Sameen graduated from VCU with a B.S. in biology, minors in music and chemistry, and is pursuing his M.D. degree at Harvard Medical School.
Even in her freshman year, Sravya Uppalapati began volunteering at the VCU Medical Center and the Richmond Center for Healthy Hearts. Her observations of disparities in treatment of uninsured patients inspired her to investigate health care practices in inner cities and rural communities and present her findings at a VCU symposium. This example illustrates her persistent diligence in discovering needs, seeking solutions and making a real difference. In addition to numerous leadership activities at VCU and volunteering with the Richmond Volunteer Rescue Squad, Circle K services for the homeless, SciKids services for inner-city children, and going on an Alternative Spring Break’s trip to serve terminally ill children, Sravya played an enormous role for RamPantry. She trained approximately 200 volunteers during the year, helped organize food insecurity education, and collaborated efforts for food donations and drives. Sravya Uppalapati graduated from VCU with a B.S. in biology and psychology and a minor in chemistry. She will enter the VCU School of Medicine in Fall 2018.