Munir Ahmed, M.D., a 19-year veteran of the substance abuse field in Bangladesh, had never been to the United States before arriving at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2008. As a participant in the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program for substance abuse prevention, treatment and policy, he engaged in 10 months of academic study and related professional activities at VCU. The experience changed him.
“I have no hesitation in saying that my fellowship year was the best year of my life,” said Ahmed, who brought his wife and two children to Richmond for the duration of his fellowship. “My family also says so. The VCU Humphrey Fellowship program impacted all of us.”
Ahmed is one of 37 mid-career professionals who participated in the program during VCU’s Institute for Drug and Alcohol Studies’ initial five years as host. The institute recently earned a five-year renewal of the grant from U.S. government-funded Fulbright exchange program. The award totals more than $1 million and ensures that more professionals from developing countries will sojourn to Richmond.
During Ahmed’s tenure in the U.S., he took classes, visited local substance abuse prevention and treatment programs, attended leadership training workshops and learned about American history and culture.
Now back in Bangladesh, he applies his enhanced understanding of social justice and human rights to his work, striving to reduce the stigma and discrimination against marginalized populations living with HIV and AIDS while also spreading awareness about the virus infection. An adviser with the United Nations’ program on AIDS, Ahmed is making a difference in his home country.
“I strongly believe that my experience at VCU shaped me to be a better advocate and leader for Bangladesh, not only in issues related to substance abuse but also as a practitioner in the field of development,” he said.
“VCU benefits from the fellowship program because it exposes our faculty and students to people from very different cultures and creates opportunities for research collaborations in their countries,” said J. Randy Koch, executive director of the Institute. “Having this prestigious award from the U.S. State Department reflects very positively on VCU.”