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Dr. Forough Khadem.

UM alum’s everlasting legacy will empower women in science for years to come

July 13, 2022 — 

“If you’ll permit me, I’d like to read this for you,” says Kourosh Doustshenas, proudly holding up a framed image of his fiancée  Forough Khadem [PhD/16], with a quote from a lecture she had been speaking at written underneath.

“In her own words, she said, ‘As a young woman researcher living in Canada, I have been passionate about inspiring, empowering and mentoring other scientists in general, and female individuals specifically. I believe sharing my experiences through teaching, mentoring and complementing other young scientists will influence their lives and career paths in a very positive way.’”

Tragically, Forough’s journey inspiring others was cut short Jan. 8, 2020. She was one of 176 passengers and crew members killed when Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 was shot down by missiles over Tehran, shortly after takeoff.

Forough had come to Canada from Iran to study at UM 10 years earlier. She was well known for her optimistic attitude and commitment to mentoring female students. Considered a rising star in the field of immunology, Forough’s groundbreaking research in cells and parasites was widely considered a life-saving breakthrough.

“She wasn’t just my older sister, she was my coach, my teacher, my leader,” says Faezeh Khadem, Forough’s sister. “I never saw her set a goal that she didn’t reach.”

Friends, family and colleagues rallied to raise funds and create a scholarship in Forough’s honour, with the endowment reaching $300,000 this past spring.

The Dr. Forough Khadem Scholarship recognizes and rewards an outstanding international female graduate student at either the master’s or doctoral level, who demonstrates leadership and a desire to have an impact on the world through science, and who embodies a pioneering spirit. This year, the inaugural award was presented to Marina Costa Fujishima, a PhD student in immunology at the Max Rady College of Medicine.

Kourosh says the scholarship honours not only Forough’s research but the challenges she overcame as an international student. “We’re very happy it will go to the most deserving section of the student population. They have come here for their education. That is why Forough came to Canada, it was the University of Manitoba, so this is the best place to memorialize her name and legacy.”

“She really wanted to continue coaching for other students,” adds Faezeh. “So, I know having this scholarship and helping others reach their goals would make her so happy.”

The endowment would not have been possible without the generosity of 127 donors.

“We are very grateful to whoever contributed, at whatever level,” continues Kourosh. “Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

And what would Forough say to Marina Costa Fujishima and other future female scientists following in her footsteps?

“Persevere. Pursue your dreams,” Kourosh says, with conviction. “She would famously say, ‘If there is a wall, no matter how tall that wall is, there is a door for you to find. Don’t give up because there are obstacles in your way. Persevere and keep going.’”

You—our generous UM community—keep showing us how inspiration changes everything.

Whether you are supporting health as a human right, advancing reconciliation and promoting Indigenous achievement, climate change research, or transforming the learning experience, you are making the world a better place.

Read more in our Gratitude Report

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