First winner of Bill Gates Sr Prize announced

  • June 12, 2013
First winner of Bill Gates Sr Prize announced

Dr Rajiv Chowdhury wins the first Bill Gates Sr Prize for his contribution to public health.

Gates Cambridge Scholar Rajiv Chowdhury has been awarded the first Bill Gates Senior Prize in recognition of his outstanding work in public health.

The Bill Gates Sr. Prize was established by the Gates Cambridge Trustees in June 2012 in recognition of  Bill Gates Sr.’s role in establishing the Gates Cambridge Scholarships, over a decade of service as a Trustee, and his engagement with, and inspiration to, many generations of Gates Cambridge Scholars.

The Prize allows Scholars to recognise the impact and contribution to the Scholar community of one of their peers (who may be pursuing any subject and be from any part of the world), with particular reference to the scholarship’s selection criteria.

For the inaugural Prize, awarded in May 2013, Scholars were asked to nominate a fellow Scholar for the Prize by completing a 500-word statement about why that Scholar would be a suitable recipient.
 
Selection was on the basis of how well the nominated candidates met the selection criteria while in residence in Cambridge. Gates Cambridge Provost Professor Robert Lethbridge who was part of the selection committee said: “After carefully reviewing all nominations, it was clear there were many deserving candidates for the inaugural Bill Gates Sr. Prize, but we felt that it should be awarded to Dr Rajiv Chowdhury [2009] for his outstanding work in public health”.

Presenting the Prize at the annual Gates Cambridge Graduation Dinner, Bill Gates Sr. singled out Rajiv’s publication of 15 high-impact papers during his time at Cambridge, several of which have attracted worldwide media attention, and his election as a Fellow of the UK Royal Society for Public Health. He also praised Rajiv for developing the first ever academic module on global health, which is now in its second year as part of the Cambridge MPhil in Public Health course and for setting up a pioneering cardiovascular research study among South-Asians, which is now one of the largest case-controlled studies of heart attacks in the region. Rajiv has been involved in a number of other successful grant applications, including a joint British Heart Foundation and UK Medical Research Council programme, helping to attract ten million pounds to support cutting-edge vascular research and was the first Bangladeshi to be awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

Gates Sr. quoted from one of the nominations received for Rajiv, saying ‘such outstanding achievements demonstrate the academic excellence of a future leader in global health, who is committed to making a significant difference to the lives of people around him’.

Rajiv, who received a physical award and a cash prize and will have his name displayed on a winner’s board in the Gates Cambridge office, said: “I am very honoured to receive this award. This is truly special not only because it recognises my efforts during the past three years, but for the fact that it bears the name of Mr Gates Sr. who has been a great inspiration to me for his life-long commitments in global health through his leadership roles in the Gates Foundation. Finally, I would like to thank Gates Cambridge for giving me the unique opportunity to be a part of this amazing community of future leaders, who are all, in my opinion, doing amazing jobs in their own fields worldwide!”

He is doing a PhD in Public Health and Primary Care, focused on various lifestyle, behavioural and genetic risk factors of cardiovascular disease in South Asian countries such as Bangladesh and Pakistan, based on collaborative primary studies between Cambridge and local leading cardiovascular facilities. He says comprehensive evidence expected from this work should make a significant contribution to scientific understanding, to the development of locally appropriate strategies to prevent and control the disease, and to the efficient use of scarce resources for vascular prevention in low-income countries.

At the end of last year, research on the impact of eating fish oil on stroke prevalence, co-authored with Professor Oscar H. Franco at Erasmus MC Rotterdam was published in the bmj.com and received significant international press attention. A study of cardiovascular disease in Bangladesh co-led by Rajiv also brought international headlines the previous year. 

The Bill Gates Sr. Prize will be awarded annually at the Gates Cambridge Graduation Dinner held in late May/early June.

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