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Fighting malaria

Shazia Ali, H Sci ’11, took an unusual detour on her way to medical school.

She’s spending the year in Washington, D.C.— after a month of training in London — talking up malaria as an interfaith ambassador for the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Ali is one of 34 young people chosen from more than 700 applicants worldwide for the foundation’s Faiths Act Fellowship. The fellowship aims to advance the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals, and this year’s fellows are focusing on malaria, a preventable disease that kills more than 750,000 people a year. Ali works for the D.C. branch of Malaria No More and helps raise awareness and funds to fight the disease. She and other fellows — who are Buddhist, Bahá’í, Christian, Jewish, Sikh, Hindu, Muslim and Quaker — reach out to faith-based communities, with a special effort on getting youth involved in the cause.

Faith often moves people to action, and yet many don’t discuss it outside of a religious context, she notes. “Our faith isn’t something we should hide,” says Ali, who is Muslim. “By sharing it and learning from each other, we can use faith as a positive force.”

Ali learned about the fellowship opportunity at Marquette’s Leadership Summit, and she’s eager to test the leadership skills she honed on campus, where she was active in numerous student groups. This past spring, she won Marquette’s top student honor, the Rev. Andrew J. Thon, S.J., Vice President’s Award for Distinguished Leadership, Scholarship and Service.

Ali started thinking about malaria prevention when she traveled to Honduras with Marquette’s Global Medical Brigades and took anti-malaria drugs for weeks. Not everyone can afford the drugs, but other cost-effective measures like treated bed nets can make a real difference, she says.

Although she’s just begun, she’s excited about the year ahead. Says Ali, “If together we can use faith to fight malaria, what else can we use it for?”  — NSE

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