University at Albany

Rockefeller College Public Service Professor Kamiar Alaei Receives Ellis Island Medal of Honor

Kamiar Alaei, M.D., a Public Service Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Policy at Rockefeller College and founding director of the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights (GIHHR) at the University at Albany, has been named a recipient of the 2015 Ellis Island Medal of Honor by the National Ethnic Coalition of Organizations (NECO). The medal will be presented to Dr. Alaei on Saturday, May 9 during a celebration on Ellis Island that will include other distinguished Americans, as well as the Joint Service Color Guard and the West Point Band.

Ellis Island Medals of Honor are presented annually to American citizens who have distinguished themselves within their own ethnic groups while exemplifying the values of the American way of life. Past medalists include six U.S. presidents, one foreign president, Nobel Prize winners, leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports, and government and, of course, a number of everyday Americans who have made freedom, liberty and compassion a part of their life's work. This year's honorees include Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Sandra Day O'Connor.

(From left) Kamiar and Arash Alaei
Throughout his career, Dr. Alaei has demonstrated remarkable determination and commitment to delivering essential health services to those in need and for upholding the dignity and rights of his fellow man. He and his brother Arash, also a physician, co-founded the first center for HIV/AIDS cases and drug users in Iran where they treated, educated and offered emotional support to patients and families. The brothers were praised for their work by the World Health Organization when they were imprisoned in Iran in 2008 for attempting to bring lifesaving treatments to that country's AIDS patients. He returned to the United States in 2010.

"I am so grateful with how this nation has treated the immigrant population by providing opportunities,  including education and research, while keeping immigrants focused on pursuing their global dreams," said Dr. Alaei. "As an Iranian American, I am so humbled to be recognized by this prestigious medal. I want to express my gratitude to the University at Albany community who have always been supportive of me, my family, and the goals of the Global Institute for Health and Human Rights, which is dedicated to promoting a human rights-based approach to health for the most disadvantaged populations in the world."

Dr. Alaei had traveled extensively throughout the Pan American Region as a World Health Organization/Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO) consultant to expand health and human rights training programs in the region. His considerable experience in both global health policy and international human rights law allows him to focus on the intersections between international health and international law, while remaining sensitive to the needs and realities of vulnerable target groups including rights of prisoners.   

Both Kamiar and Arash Alaei have been recognized for their extraordinary service many times in the past. They are recipients of the Heinz R. Pagels Human Rights of Scientists Award from the New York Academy of Science in 2009, the Jonathan Mann Award for Global Health and Human Rights from the Global Health Council in June 2011, the inaugural Award for Leadership in Health and Human Rights from PAHO/WHO in 2011, and the inaugural Elizabeth Taylor Award in Recognition of Efforts to Advocate for Human Rights in the field of HIV from International AIDS Society in 2012.

Kamiar Alaei received his Medical Doctorate from Isfahan Medical University and his Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from Tehran Medical University. He holds a Master of Science in International Health from Harvard University and his doctorate in Health Policy and Management from the University at Albany. He is currently completing his degree in International Human Rights Law at the University of Oxford.