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2012 Archives

Laura W. Bush Traveling Fellowship enables recent graduate
to study health of Afghani refugee children in Pakistan

Saira Husain was an intern with the U.S. State Department in spring 2012

June 1, 2012

DALLAS (SMU) — Saira Husain spent 10 weeks this spring in Washington, D.C., with the U.S. State Department as an intern in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. There, she worked with the Special Advisor for International Disability Rights, who leads the nation’s strategy to promote and protect the rights of persons with disabilities internationally.

“We were busy preparing for the International Disability Rights Leadership Conference, which was attended by human rights leaders and organizations from all over the world,” says Husain, a President’s Scholar from Southlake, Texas, who graduated May 12 with Bachelor’s degrees in biology and anthropology from Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences, with a minor in Spanish. “I’ve learned that disability rights issues touch many fields – health, education, politics – and that so much work remains to be done to remove barriers.”

During her sophomore year at SMU, Husain worked on a disability rights campaign in Karachi, Pakistan. The recipient of a Maguire and Irby Public Service Internship from SMU’s Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics and Public Responsibility, she helped children collect signatures urging the Pakistani government to ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. "I've learned that all of our steps together do take us closer to our larger goals," she said at the time. "Whatever career you pursue, you need to know your community's needs."

Husain, who has blogged about her experiences while at SMU, returned to Pakistan as a Richter Fellow during winter break 2012, when she conducted research on the health of Afghani refugee children in Peshawar.

“In her years at SMU, Saira has created and pursued very unique opportunities for research and service learning,” says Carolyn Smith-Morris, associate professor of anthropology in Dedman College. “In Peshawar, she learned how to combine ethnographic and clinical research in ways that can promote large-scale improvements in health care delivery and prevention. And thanks to her State Department policy internship, Saira is now poised for a very high impact career in public health.”

Husain plans to continue her research in Pakistan later this year as the recipient of a Laura W. Bush Traveling Fellowship through the U.S. National Commission for UNESCO. She also is pursuing a master’s degree in public health at the University of California, Berkeley.

Learn more about internships with the State Department

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