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University of Michigan and AKU to deepen ties

June 18, 2021
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The University of Michigan and Aga Khan University have agreed to deepen their collaboration across a range of academic and scientific initiatives to transform data science for global health.

Joseph Kolars, director of the U-M Center for Global Health Equity, and AKU Provost and Vice President Carl Amrhein signed an agreement between the two institutes during a virtual ceremony on June 18. U-M President Mark Schlissel and AKU President Firoz Rasul also attended the signing ceremony.

“A core part of our mission is serving the people of Michigan and the world,” Schlissel said. “International collaboration enables us to pursue unique research opportunities and tackle critical challenges facing our societies in ways that we simply could not do alone. This includes working with global partners who share our core values, which is certainly the case with AKU.”

U-M and AKU have been collaborating on projects since 2019 with an emphasis on research initiatives that use data science to improve health outcomes. U-M is one of the largest public research institutions in the world and enrolls more than 64,000 students annually across its three campuses within the state of Michigan. These students represent 139 countries.

During the event, both universities acknowledged how their shared values would enable them to launch projects that would generate knowledge and create opportunities to expand access to high-quality health care and education.

“Successful and consequential partnerships are based on shared values. And clearly, AKU and Michigan share fundamental values,” Rasul said. “We believe in the power of knowledge and the power of collaboration to address the challenges that individuals and families face in their daily lives.

If we want to make a real dent in scourges like child mortality or the growing burden of noncommunicable diseases in low-income countries, we need globe-spanning partnerships like the one between AKU and U-M.”

Scholars from the two universities said that the impact of these joint projects was likely to be greater since AKU and U-M already have experience and expertise in working on common themes such as strengthening health systems, informing policy on health determinants, leveraging technology for health equity and empowering women.

“You’ve really managed to bring out the best in us,” Kolars said about AKU. “I’m particularly attracted to the commitment that Agha Khan has made to education and translating new knowledge into action. I’ve always admired your ability to build new bridges, and to really be relevant to the communities that you’re called on to serve.”

The two universities are already collaborating on data science and artificial intelligence projects in East Africa that seek to strengthen local health systems and to raise health care standards.

In the future, both partners also plan to cooperate on new teaching and scholarly projects, faculty development and student internship initiatives.

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