A Fulbright and a Prayer

Dear Tulane Community,

It started with a Fulbright and a prayer.

Faraz Khalid of Pakistan was so excited to receive a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a PhD in global health policy and management abroad. He had a choice of attending either the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine or Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine.

Faraz was drawn to Tulane, but friends worried that, as a Muslim, he might not feel welcome in the United States. Nonetheless, Faraz chose Tulane after several Skype interviews with David Hotchkiss, the Tulane professor who would become his mentor and friend and now counts Faraz among the very best doctoral students he has advised during his 23 years at Tulane. In an open letter Faraz recently sent to me, he shared how he knew he had made the right choice immediately and that he will never forget his wonderful experience at Tulane, from the accommodations made for his prayer time to the faculty and friends who welcomed him into their homes and hearts.

As you will see in his letter Faraz's simple request for a space to pray led to the formation of an interfaith community that promotes harmony, understanding and friendship among people of different beliefs and backgrounds.

Faraz said that his own stereotypes about American society were shattered, as were the misconceptions held by his fellow Tulanians. "Even amidst the political situation in the U.S. leading up to and following the election, the community here has responded in such a positive way, openly sharing support for international students, migrants, Muslims, all groups," he writes.

Faraz's doctoral research focused on Pakistan's efforts to achieve universal health care coverage, and his dissertation has generated important new evidence for planning and monitoring of universal health coverage reforms in Pakistan. Faraz presented some of his findings at last year's Global Health Systems Research Symposium in Vancouver and has been invited for further discussions at a high-level meeting with health policy decision makers this month in Pakistan.

Faraz is now back in Pakistan, where he has several job offers from academic and international health organizations. I believe this promising health policy and systems researcher is destined to become an influential voice in global health and a true changemaker. I hope he reads this message and realizes how much his letter meant to me and how his experience embodies our hope for every student, faculty and staff member at Tulane. That is my prayer.