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Dornsife Welcomes Hero of Health and Human Rights

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January 10, 2019

In the first weeks of 2019, Kamiar Alaei, MD, DrPH, a distinguished scholar of global health from Iran, joined us here at Dornsife. For the next six months, Alaei will be a visiting and working with Joe Amon, PhD, MSPH, director of the Office of Global Health and clinical professor in Dornsife’s department of Community Health and Prevention, to develop projects and teach courses on health and human rights. 

An award-winning scientist and human rights advocate, Alaei earned his medical doctorate from Isfahan Medical University, his Master of Public Health in epidemiology from Tehran Medical University – two of the top universities in Iran – and his Master of Science in International Health from Harvard University, his second doctoral degree in Health Policy and Management from SUNY, University at Albany, and his Master of Studies in International Human Rights Law from the University of Oxford in London. Over the past fifteen years, his focus has been on HIV/AIDS, health disparities, drug policy, the linkage between health and human rights law, and health diplomacy in the Middle East.

In 2000, Alaei and his brother co-founded the first "Triangular Clinic" in Iran for people living with HIV, documented by the UN/WHO as a "Best Practice Model”. In 2008, they were both imprisoned by the Iranian government – first held in Tehran’s notorious Evin prison for six months without charges, and then tried in a one-day, closed-door trial in which they were charged as conspirators working with an “enemy government” to overthrow the government of Iran. Neither they nor their lawyer were allowed to know, see the evidence of, or address the charges. Their unjust imprisonment was the focus of a campaign, led by Physicians for Human Rights, that engaged the global health community. While imprisoned, they developed several health initiatives for their peer prisoners. After release in 2011, Alaei became the director of the Global Health and Human Rights Institute at the University at Albany and was a principal investigator for more than $6 million in federal and international grants related to HIV, prisons, and drug policy.

While at Dornsife, Alaei says, “I look forward to teaching students, both undergraduate and graduate, about global health and human rights issues that they can act on.” Dornsife’s commitment to practice aligns with Alaei’s mission to not only teach about health and human rights, but to inspire and equip students with the resources and connections they need to take action. “Students in my classes will use what they’ve learned to develop projects and see their work implemented in the field,” he adds.

“Kamiar has boundless energy and passion for the issue of health and human rights, and has worked tirelessly around the world in difficult settings with people who are the most marginalized and most often denied access to prevention, treatment and care,” shares Amon. “He is a hero of the health and human rights movement and I am delighted to have him here at Drexel and to work with him engaging students, exploring research projects and advancing the mission of the school and our dedication to rights and social justice in public health.”