By Mark Dwortzan
Historically the domain of doctors and public health professionals, the field of global health is becoming more inclusive of technology, innovation and engineering. In a move reflective of this change, the Consortium of Universities of Global Health (CUGH), the most prestigious professional organization in global health, has elected Associate Professor Muhammad Zaman (BME, MSE) to its Board of Directors. Zaman is one of a small but growing number of non-physicians—and only the second engineer—to achieve this status.
“I am deeply honored to be on the board with some of the biggest names in the world in global health,” he said. “These world leaders have the vision, passion, knowledge, experience and expertise, and a track record of making the world a better place. I’m sure I will learn a lot from their input and experience.”
“This is a testament to the very high regard in which you are held within the global health community,” said CUGH Executive Director Keith Martin, MD, in a letter notifying Zaman of his election. Founded by leading North American university global health programs, CUGH sets standards for global health curricula, competencies and field placements, and coordinates collaborative global health projects among resource-rich universities and resource-limited nations and institutions.
As a CUGH board member, Zaman looks forward to bringing his perspective as an engineering researcher and educator to conversations, policy and practices shaping the future of global health. He is especially excited about getting more engineering undergraduates involved in the field.
“Historically, undergrad engineering students have not been a part of the activities in global health, but there is tremendous interest amongst them,” he said. “This opportunity will allow me to get them more engaged and provide a platform for them to make an impact on the world.”
A BU faculty member since 2009, Zaman heads the Cellular and Molecular Dynamics Lab, which engineers new experimental and computational technologies for major healthcare problems in both the developing and developed world, including probing the mechanisms of cancer metastasis. The lab focuses on how physical and mechanical properties of cancer cells impact their growth and movement, modeling this behavior in computer programs.
Meanwhile, Zaman is developing robust, cheap, portable and user-friendly diagnostics and analysis toolkits to address global health challenges. As director of the Laboratory for Engineering Education and Development (LEED), he works with BU students to advance technologies to detect counterfeit drugs, preserve biological reagents used in diagnostic tests and provide other in-demand healthcare solutions targeting the specific needs of resource-limited countries. He is also co-director of the Africa Biomedical Engineering Initiative, which was funded by UN Economic Commission for Africa to improve biomedical engineering education, innovation and practice in Africa.
Zaman’s achievements in cancer and global health research have earned him funding from USAID, the Saving Lives at Birth Consortium, U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and many private foundations, as well as several invitations to participate in U.S. National Academy of Engineering research and education symposia. The 2013 recipient of the Early Career Achievement Award from the IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Society (EMBS)—the world’s largest international society of biomedical engineers—Zaman has served as keynote or plenary speaker at major national and international conferences and published dozens of highly-cited papers in leading biomedical journals.