Advertisement

How a Calgary brain researcher used a scientific award to help victims of terrorism

How a Calgary brain researcher used a scientific award to help victims of terrorism
WATCH ABOVE: Rather than get mad or sue, Doctor Syed negotiated with the Pakistani companies that were using his image on billboards to help children impacted by terrorism. Tony Tighe reports.

In his home country of Pakistan, Dr. Naweed Syed is considered a hero for his achievements and he’s using that notoriety to help others.

In August 2016, Syed was named to receive the “Tamgha-e-Imtiaz” which is Pakistan’s Medal of Excellence, the highest civilian honour.

The professor of cell biology and anatomy at the Cumming School of Medicine developed a silicon chip to replicate a brain cell, which can one day help better understand neurological diseases that affect learning and memory.

Story continues below advertisement

The award of excellence in Pakistan is like the Order of Canada and since the honour last year, companies across the country have been using his picture to advertise their products, including cellphones, insurance and milk.

Companies across Pakistan have been using his picture to advertise their products, including cellphones, insurance and milk.
Companies across Pakistan have been using his picture to advertise their products, including cellphones, insurance and milk. Provided by Dr. Naweed Syed

“In the civilized world, you would ask for permission and if it’s a promotion, you would have to pay for royalties and all kinds of other compensations,” he said. “But none of that had actually happened.”

Rather than get mad or sue, Syed saw an opportunity and negotiated with the companies to turn it around and help children impacted by terrorism.

“We could get a hundred children sponsored until Grade 12 for their education. We will also really like you to pay their uniform, tuition fees and their book money. And it’s not such a big deal and many of these companies have agreed.”

Story continues below advertisement

He’s created a trust fund named CAN-UC after Canada and the University of Calgary, and also has interest from local businesses.

“As a Canadian, we owe it to the world,” he said. “I think my approach would not only make Canada proud, but help my home country Pakistan get out of this mess.”

Dr. Naweed Syed and his wife after the award ceremony in Pakistan.
Dr. Naweed Syed and his wife after the award ceremony in Pakistan. Provided by Dr. Naweed Syed