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  • President of McMaster University Dr Peter George addresses the audience at the signing ceremony of a Memorandum of Understanding between McMaster University and the Aga Khan University.
    AKDN / Gary Otte
Speech by President Dr. Peter George at the Memorandum of Agreement signing

Thank you, Mr. Shariff.

Your Highness, The Honourable Minister Oda, President Rasul, Mr. Shariff, invited guests and members of the media.

This is a day of commemoration and celebration. More than five decades ago, a twenty-year-old Harvard student – albeit a remarkable Harvard student – became imam of the Ismailis. In the fifty years since, His Highness, the Aga Khan has been a shining example of the enlightened world leader, a man with a deep interest and investment in redefining the potential of the developing world through advancements in the fundamental pillars of human security and achievement – health care, education and cultural enrichment.

Your Highness, your Golden Jubilee marks fifty years of profound global influence; fifty years of tireless work to improve the quality of life, not just for Ismailis, but for people of all faiths in all corners of the world.

On behalf of my colleagues at McMaster University, I offer to you, our graduate, both my congratulations on your jubilee and our thanks for your selfless work. We wish you every blessing in that work and please know that McMaster shares your vision and will continue to work both in partnership and in parallel to achieve our shared goals.

It is an honour to be here today to speak as well about another important jubilee, for the partnerships between McMaster and the Aga Khan University now has a twenty-five year history of its own.

This collaboration now celebrating its silver jubilee and has shown how effective universities in general and these two universities in particular can be in working together to address the important challenges facing the developing world.

Our common goal comes from the understanding that the health of communities and nations depends on the health of their people. Together, the Aga Khan and McMaster universities are working to preserve and enhance individual health and with it, the fortunes of families, villages, cities and countries. In short, we believe we can change the world and the evidence of our twenty-five years of accomplishment is proof.

In the first phase of our partnership, McMaster was invited to Pakistan to collaborate with the new Aga Khan University School of Nursing to assist in establishing the curriculum, administration and faculty of the nascent nursing program. McMaster was keen to assist and brought its renowned problem-based, self-directed educational approach to AKU.

In the second phase of our partnership, as the Aga Khan University developed its program, McMaster helped enhance the capacity of nursing education in Pakistan with a work-study initiative and the development of a post-RN Bachelor of Science in Nursing program to train nurses for leadership roles in hospitals and in communities.

A great source of pride for us at this stage of the partnership was that many of the Pakistani nurses educated at McMaster became faculty for the new program, thus extending the legacy and influence of the collaboration to new generations of nurses.

During the third phase, beginning in 1994, CIDA funded the Development of Women Health Professionals Program for Nurses and Lady Health Visitors.

Representatives of McMaster University School of Nursing and the Aga Khan University School of Nursing worked collaboratively with representatives of the federal and provincial governments in Pakistan and nursing leaders to design one the most influential health human resource development project ever conceived.

Much larger and more complex than earlier projects, it strengthen clinical services and educational institutions.

The project lead to an increased number of health personnel and its impact was felt not -- only in the cities of Islamabad and Karachi -- but in remote tribal regions such as Gilgit in Hindu Kush.

Nurses and Lady Health Visitors drove down the treacherous Indus valley roads to receive advanced education, and returned to their villages with their new knowledge to practice more effective primary health care.

These were only some of the initiatives that were a great source of pride to Canada and Pakistan.

When the program finished in August 2002, we were proud indeed that the new dean of the AKU School of Nursing, Dr. Yasmin Amarsi, was a McMaster alumna for both her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her PhD degrees.

Overall, the joint Aga Khan-McMaster program has been effective, coherent and accountable. It has strengthened Pakistan’s ability to develop sustainable conditions and increased capacity for better health care and a better health care system. It is, simply, contributing to a better quality of life.

Of course, the benefits of this partnership are found not just in Pakistan. McMaster has relished the opportunity and the avenue for us to enhance our global profile and engage the developing world in the important work that flows from our campus here in Canada. We have been able to build on our experience working with Aga Khan University to enhance opportunities for higher education for women in places like Haiti, South Africa and the United Arab Emirates.

McMaster has also been able to enrich our faculty and students with valuable international contacts and experience, thus creating the type of learning environment we value most here – one that is global, informed, engaged and dynamic.

Now, as we prepare for the second generation of our partnership, we anticipate that it will expand the benefits and network of our collaboration to many more countries.

We have long recognized that if we want – if we need – to educate and maintain adequate workforces in health and health care, we need strong nurses and a strong nursing workforce, especially in developing nations.

The Memorandum of Understanding we sign today will provide the foundation for partnerships in Africa and Asia, in regions where the nursing profession has not been given its due attention. We will assemble experienced nursing leaders to find the solutions to the dramatic need for nursing practice, education and regulation in these areas and we will have an important and lasting influence. I know this will happen because I have seen it before; I have watched exactly this type of impact unfold for the past twenty-five years.

His Highness is the author of a book called Where Hope Takes Root. Under the force of his vision and leadership, that description – where hopes takes root – applies to an ever-expanding number of places.

Hope has put down solid roots in the partnership between Aga Khan University and McMaster University. Hope has taken root in that collaboration and for a quarter century wonderful things have grown on the strength of that foundation. I look forward to the next twenty-five years and the continued growth of hope here and around the world.

Thank you.