Meet the Arab Americans honoured at the 2024 Takreem America awards

This year’s ceremony took place at The Westin Copley Place in Boston, US

Ahmed Badr, Najla Said and Elias Zerhouni were granted awards for their contributions. Photos: Narratio; WireImage; Getty Images
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Takreem America held its third annual awards ceremony on Saturday, honouring several Arab-American personalities and organisations for their contributions to science, technology, corporate leadership, culture and environmental initiatives.

The institution was founded in 2019 under the umbrella of the non-profit Takreem. Like its parent organisation, Takreem America aims to recognise and support Arab achievements while focusing its mission on the Arab diaspora in the US.

Held at Boston’s The Westin Copley Place, the ceremony was the culmination of a weekend-long initiative by Takreem America called Takminds. The event took place at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the theme Ripples of Impact. It featured panel discussions and talks on the use of artificial intelligence in healthcare and financial services, as well as Arab-American art and the impact of philanthropy. Many of the topics discussed in Takminds contemplated the categories presented in Takreem America’s awards.

Here are the Arab-American individuals and organisations recognised at the 2024 Takreem America awards.

Ahmed Badr – Young Entrepreneur

An Iraqi-American author and social entrepreneur, Ahmed Badr is known for While the Earth Sleeps, We Travel. The book brings together stories by 27 young refugees from around the world. The collection is emblematic of Badr’s work, which is at the intersection between creativity and youth engagement.

“The book is not so much about displacement, but about people who are displaced, who are sharing their stories in creative ways,” Badr told The National in 2020, following the book’s release.

While the Earth Sleeps, We Travel was a natural extension of Badr’s online blog Narratio, which, while open to poetry, art and story submissions from young people around the world, focuses on highlighting voices of refugees and immigrants. Badr’s drive to help youth find creative means to reflect on their experiences of displacement is rooted in his own personal history.

In one of his most famous poems, A Thank-You Letter from the Bomb that Visited My Home, Badr gives a voice to the bomb that pierced his Baghdad home in 2006 – an incident that forced his family to move to Syria, where they lived as refugees for two years, before being approved to live in the US. Badr read the poem during a World Refugee Day event at the UN headquarters in New York in 2016.

Today, Badr is one of the youngest senior faculty members employed at a US university. At 25, he is the director of the Patricelli Centre for Social Entrepreneurship and an adjunct assistant professor of public policy at Wesleyan University.

Najla Said – Cultural Excellence

A Palestinian-American actor, author and playwright, Najla Said is the daughter of famed academic Edward Said and activist Mariam Said.

She was among the creatives who established the Arab-American theatre company Nibras in 2001. Known for her solo show Palestine, which made its debut off-Broadway in 2010, she has gone on to perform it in academic and cultural institutions around the world.

Her memoir, Looking for Palestine: Growing Up Confused in an Arab-American Family, was published in 2013 and has become a staple reading across many US schools and universities. As with many of her plays, librettos and academic writing, Said’s work often confronts the racism and social issues Arabs face in the US.

Gary Nabhan – environmental and development sustainability

Known for his advancements in agroecology, conservation biology and studies on natural resource, Gary Paul Nabhan is a descendant of Syrian-Lebanese refugees. Much of his work touches on his heritage as he has carried out fieldwork in several countries in the region, including Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Egypt and Oman. Nabhan’s research chiefly focuses on how traditional foods and crops from the region spread to the US, and his studies often reflect on the interconnected nature of the international food network.

Nabhan is also known for his writing, which explores Arab agriculture and gastronomy. He is the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and Lannan Foundation Literary Fellowship.

Magid M Abraham – Corporate Leadership

A former student of Ecole Polytechnique in Paris and the MIT Sloan School of Management, Lebanese entrepreneur Magid M Abraham is perhaps best known for being one of the founders of the internet market intelligence company comScore. He also founded Paragren Technologies, a company that focused on customer relationship management before it became part of Siebel Systems.

Abraham has also branched out into health as the chief executive of NeuraWell, a company that develops medicines for the treatment of central nervous system disorders. He is also an inductee of the Entrepreneurship Hall of Fame and has been honoured as a pioneer by the World Economic Forum.

Elias Zerhouni – Scientific and Technological Achievement

A professor emeritus at Johns Hopkins University, Dr Elias Zerhouni is famous for his work in radiology and biomedical engineering.

His career has spanned several prestigious titles. He has been the vice chairman and president of Opko Health, and has also served as president of global research and development at Sanofi. He was director of the National Institutes of Health between 2002 and 2008. A year later, he was appointed by then-president Barack Obama as one of the inaugural US science envoys. He has also been a senior fellow at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Zerhouni is a member of the US National Academy of Medicine and the US National Academy of Engineering. The Algerian-born scientist has received several accolades, including the Legion of Honour medal by the French National Order in 2008.

Dimitri Azar – Lifetime Achievement

With several roles at the cutting edge of the medical field, Dimitri Azar is the chief executive of Twenty/Twenty Therapeutics, an organisation that brings together AI technologies with ophthalmology.

At the University of Illinois College of Medicine, he is a distinguished professor and chairman of ophthalmic research, as well as the executive dean emeritus. He has been the director of cornea, refractive surgery and contact lens services as the Harvard Medical School and a senior scientist at the Schepens Eye Research Institute.

His contributions also include more than 500 scientific articles and book chapters, as well as the editing of almost two dozen ophthalmology books. His accolades, meanwhile, include a Life Achievement Award from the American Academy of Ophthalmology, as well as the Distinguished Professor Award from the University of Illinois.

Rima Kaddurah-Daouk – Lifetime Achievement

A professor at Duke University’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences and Department of Medicine, Rima Kaddurah-Daouk has worked at Johns Hopkins, Massachusetts General Hospital and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She has been a vocal proponent of the use of AI and big data within precision medicine and Metabolomics, or the study of small molecules within cells, tissues or organisms.

Kaddurah-Daouk cofounded the Metabolomics Society, serving as its first president between 2004 and 2007. She was seminal in launching the leading scientific journal Metabolomics and founded several biotechnology companies including Metabolon. She led a group of more than 120 scientists in the initiative Precision Health and Precision Medicine, which makes use of big data and AI to offer optimal treatment and care.

Anthony R Abraham Foundation – Special Distinction

Awarded for its philanthropic work, the Miami-based Anthony R Abraham Foundation was established in 1976 by the Lebanese-American entrepreneur who lent the organisation his name, alongside wife Genevieve. It is dedicated to supporting medical research and sustainable living, easing poverty and improving the standard of living in the US and around the world. The foundation is now led by the couple’s son Thomas G Abraham.

Updated: April 22, 2024, 2:18 PM