2013 alumni UBC Achievement Awards Recipients

Many of us lament the state of the world and wish things could be different. At the Alumni Achievement Awards on November 14, 2013, we will celebrate six members of the UBC community who regard the need for change as a personal responsibility.

Alumni Award of Distinction

William CarpentierWilliam Carpentier, MD’61

Dr. William Carpentier was chief physician for the Apollo 11 crew and is acknowledged as one of the greatest contributors to the field of space life science. His later career has focused on nuclear medicine, and four decades of exceptional work has resulted in important applications and advancements in radiology, diagnostics and cancer treatment.

When Carpentier was selected as one of NASA’s first aeromedical clinical investigators in 1965, responsible for the health and welfare of the astronauts, operational space medicine was a new field and research about the effects of microgravity on humans was limited. Carpentier thought the clinical tests and evaluations being developed for the Apollo Program were not enough and requested that comprehensive quantitative biomedical measurements be taken to ensure the welfare of the astronauts and to gain a better understanding of human health in weightlessness.

With a fast-approaching end-of-the-decade deadline for sending the first humans to the moon, Carpentier met with some resistance but, with the help of a number of research scientists, went on to develop a sophisticated set of standardized measurements for NASA’s astronauts. His natural diplomacy ensured full collaboration. The data collected formed a foundation for the development of NASA’s spaceflight biomedical database, which Carpentier believes will be key to solving problems of future human space flights.

Carpentier served as flight surgeon for several Gemini and Apollo missions, including Apollo 11, the first lunar landing. He worked closely with Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins during their pre- and post-flight training, accompanying them on their 45-day worldwide tour and even standing in for the astronauts if they were unavailable, earning him the nickname “world famous physician.”  He received the US Presidential Medal of Freedom for his vital work as a member of the Mission Operation Team for Apollo 13.

When the Apollo program ended in the 1970s, Carpentier pursued a second career as a pioneer in the emerging field of nuclear medicine. In 1973, he joined the Nuclear Medicine Division at Scott & White Healthcare in Texas, where he was instrumental to the division’s success and expansion, particularly during the significant growth of nuclear cardiology. Regarded as an exceptional physician, Carpentier trained and mentored many radiology residents and cardiology fellows over the years, impressing them with his knowledge and expertise — not to mention all the Apollo stories.

Since retiring from Scott & White in 2003, Carpentier is again working with NASA researchers to study changes in the cardiovascular system in microgravity. He is collaborating on combining and analyzing four decades of human physiology data from the Gemini, Apollo, Skylab and Space Shuttle programs to create a better understanding of the effects of microgravity on human physiology and aid in the development of health and safety guidelines for future astronauts.


Young Alumnus Award

Tim LaidlerTim Laidler, BA’09

Tim Laidler is a master’s candidate in counselling psychology and a corporal in the Canadian Forces who is committed to enhancing the quality of life for veterans of war. As executive director of the Veterans Transition Network, he has increased awareness around the profound impact of war on soldiers and raised in excess of $2.5M to support the Veterans Transition Program — a peer-based group program developed at UBC in 1999. The program helps soldiers returning from active service overcome barriers preventing a healthy transition to civilian life.

Veterans can feel lost and disconnected after leaving the military or returning to Canada from long overseas missions, and all too often have to deal with Operational Stress Injuries. These are typically characterized by flashbacks, nightmares, debilitating anxiety, numbness or depression, and commonly accompanied by marital discord and difficulty holding down a job. Laidler understands all too well the importance of help for veterans trying to cope with these common issues. When he returned home with psychological stress after completing an eight-month tour of Afghanistan in 2008, he participated in the Veterans Transition Program himself.

On completing the program, Laidler went out of his way to commend and promote it and was so bent on its expansion he was soon offered the position of operations coordinator. Under his leadership, the program evolved into the non-profit organization Veterans Transition Network, now delivering the service across Canada to current and former members of the Canadian Forces. During the first year of operation, Laidler gained official recognition for the network from Veterans Affairs Canada, secured further federal funding, and expanded the cutting-edge program to include more than 20 staff across Canada.

He plays a key role recruiting veterans in need of support and also serves as a paraprofessional in group style sessions. His presence and ability to empathize makes it easier to cultivate trust. Since Laidler came on board as avid spokesperson, the program has received coverage more than 100 times, including through major media outlets like the CBC.

Through the Veterans Transition Network Laidler has made a profound difference in many people’s lives, including his own. He is also excelling as a graduate student. In 2013, he received a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his work to support fellow members of the Canadian Forces. More information is available at vtncanada.org.


Future Alumnus Award

Salina DharamsiSalina Dharamsi, BCom'13

Ms Salina Dharamsi has already established an impressive record of academic achievement, leadership and community service. As well as being a familiar face on the local volunteering scene, she has travelled to Guatemala, India and Rwanda, where she worked and learned side-by-side with local people on community development projects.

In 2010 she was admitted into the highly competitive accounting co-op education program at UBC’s Sauder School of Business, and was soon identified as a top recruit by KPMG. She completed three work terms as a chartered accountant articling student and in 2011 was one of only two Canadian interns selected to complete a one-month rotation in corporate finance in Johannesburg, South Africa, as part of KPMG’s Global Internship Program. She is a keen participant in the company’s volunteering opportunities, especially those with an international focus, and represented KPMG at a UBC initiative in Phalaborwa, South Africa, teaching local entrepreneurs marketing, finance and accounting skills. In Guatemala, she helped develop children’s literacy and health awareness. More recently, she travelled to Udaipur, India, to participate in projects with Free the Children.

Passionate about international development and diplomacy, she was selected from among hundreds of candidates as one of six youth ambassadors for World Vision Canada and participated in a leadership forum with Rwandan, Tanzanian and Congolese youth. She was a panelist and youth facilitator for two United Nations debates in New York and Geneva, and was the sole Canadian student delegate at the Peace Conference of Youth held in Japan last year.

Dharamsi has also been extremely active in her local community. She has facilitated a conference on healthy living for inner-city students, tutored children with learning disabilities and raised money for literacy. She has also been a regular volunteer for AIDS Vancouver, Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, BC Ismaili Volunteer Corps, the Canadian Cancer Society and UBC Meal Exchange, which collects canned goods for local food banks, and was a mentor in UBC’s Emerging Leaders program. In 2011, Dharamsi was featured as a “local hero” on the cover of The Province newspaper.

Since being selected as recipient for Future Alumnus Award, Dharamsi has graduated from UBC and is currently enrolled in the Master of Professional Accounting program at the Edwards School of Business in Saskatchewan. In recognition of her community involvement and significant contributions, she has received a BC Community Achievement Medallion and a Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Medal.



Faculty Community Service Award

Muhammad IqbalMuhammad Iqbal

In 1996 Dr. Muhammad (“Mo”) Iqbal retired from UBC’s department of Mechanical Engineering after enjoying a distinguished career specializing in solar power. After 30 years contributing to education and research in Canada, he now devotes himself to creating opportunities for disadvantaged communities in Pakistan, his country of birth.

Iqbal grew up in modest circumstances in a village near Islamabad, but his academic promise meant he was able to receive an education through scholarships and bursaries. In an environment that was largely hostile to the idea of educating females, he helped his two younger sisters secure an education as well. His support for them was an indication of what would come later, on a much larger scale.

In 1999 Iqbal and his wife, Diane Fast, established the family-based Maria-Helena Foundation (MHF) to provide educational opportunities to disadvantaged children in Pakistan, notably to girls. The logistical and cultural barriers to establishing this endeavor were daunting, but, crucially, Iqbal was able finding the right local partners to work with and set up a board in Vancouver as a base of advice and support.

To date the organization has established several self-sustaining primary schools and two libraries serving more than 3,500 pupils. All the teachers are female. A further 450 very impoverished students are receiving education at temporary home-based primary schools with one teacher, with the foundation paying fees and salaries. In addition, a medical clinic is providing approximately 80 people with low-cost treatments, and two training centres are teaching girls and women needlecraft and sewing.

This has been achieved with limited resources that, especially in the early days, came mostly out of Iqbal’s own pocket. He quickly learned to wring out every cent for its full worth. Nowadays, the foundation has charitable status and receives funding from individual donors and organizations such as the United Way. Each year, a recent UBC graduate in Political Science spends a year with Iqbal at the Maria-Helena Foundation to train for work in International Development, with seven students so far benefitting from this experience.

Iqbal’s desire to help his country of birth is not limited to education. In 2010, at the age of 80, he completed Vancouver’s Grouse Grind hike 20 times to raise funds for Pakistani flood victims. He is a generous and compassionate individual with a deep belief in social justice – a practicing humanitarian who is committed to action and change.


Global Citizenship Award

Gurdev GillGurdev Gill, MD'57

The history of Asian immigration to Canada is characterized by prejudice, discrimination and exclusion. When Dr. Gurdev Gill arrived in Vancouver from India’s Punjab region in 1949 immigration policy was still biased towards Europeans and residents of South Asian origin were not treated as equal members of society.

Gill became a citizen in 1954, but the 1950s and 60s continued to present human rights issues for minorities. Over the years he has been centrally involved in several organizations that support new immigrants from South Asia, helping them adapt to Canadian culture and promoting equality and intercultural understanding.

In 1957, Gill became the first Indo-Canadian to graduate in medicine from UBC and subsequently the first to practice medicine in Canada. As a student, he co-founded the East India Student Association and served as its first secretary. During the 1960s he lobbied government in his official capacity as president of the East Indian Welfare Association. In 1970, the Khalsa Diwan Society, under his leadership, raised funds to build a Sikh temple on Ross Street in Vancouver, an important resource for the Indo-Canadian community.

In 1976, Gill founded the Indo-Canadian Friendship Society of BC. Initially focused on improving race relations in Canada, from the mid-1990s the organization has set its sights on improving living conditions for rural communities in Punjab. Since India’s sanitation is recognized as among the worst in the world, the projects have focused on providing clean, running drinking water, and building underground sewage systems and waste water treatment plants. The result is a marked decrease in disease – especially gastroenteritis, responsible for 400,000 deaths in India annually.

Starting with Kharoudi village, where Gill was born, projects have so far been carried out in 16 communities at a cost of approximately $3M. As well as improved sanitation, they have introduced solar street lighting and computer education in schools. Along with the health benefits, Gill is happy to report improvements in gender equality, education, governance and employment.

Gill achieved all this with grass roots support, fending off corruption by insisting on as much transparency in the process as possible and keeping costs low. Now retired from his New Westminster practice, he spends half the year living in India overseeing projects.

Gill’s work has improved the quality of life for thousands of people in India and Canada and his global citizenship has helped to foster a stronger and more inclusive society. In 1990 Dr. Gill became the first Indo-Canadian to receive the Order of BC. On the 125th anniversary of confederation, he received a commemorative medal from the Government of Canada. He received an honorary degree from UBC in 1996.

Volunteer Leadership Award

Juanita LohmeyerJuanita Lohmeyer, BSc'00

Ms Juanita Lohmeyer is an award-winning business executive with a long record of service to disadvantaged communities in Canada and abroad. She has a practical, business-based approach to creating workable solutions for providing healthcare, alleviating poverty, and empowering communities.

Currently based with BCAA, she has held senior positions at several large organizations and led results-focused business strategies that have greatly enhanced operations and cut costs. Her innovative practices have been featured in several business journals. In 2010, Lohmeyer founded her own consulting company focusing on business transformation. Forward Strategy Group has advised on many ventures, a good proportion of them non-profit, in Africa, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. She has so far visited, studied or worked in more than 55 countries.

Lohmeyer believes in empowering others to create their own success. That’s why she helped develop a project strategy in support of For Young Africans Live, a mobile app initiative to assist African youth in low income brackets learn math; it’s why she provided business start-up and growth plans for entrepreneurs in India seeking micro-financing through Unitas, an organization focused on market-based solutions to global poverty; and it’s why she drove the expansion of an orphanage and establishment of a self-help sewing circle in Tanzania.

Lohmeyer shares her expertise broadly as the volunteer strategic advisor to Vantage Point, which provides training to executives of non-profit organizations, and also to the Canadian Executive Service Organization. She has volunteered in UBC’s tri-mentoring program for the past decade, encouraging computer science students to think critically and creatively and round themselves out by taking advantage of community-based learning experiences. She regards it as a long-term commitment and stays in touch with mentees long after they graduate, encouraging them to become mentors themselves. Lohmeyer also coaches in the UBC Executive MBA Medical Program.

As well as her business-focused activities, Lohmeyer is a health advocate and certified fitness instructor. She has volunteered as manager for the Downtown Eastside women’s Centre yoga program and urges her corporate clients to promote healthy living among employees as an ethical and productive business practice. Among her personal accomplishments is summiting several high peaks without oxygen – including the Aconcagua in the Andes, a height of nearly 7,000m.

Lohmeyer was an exceptional student at UBC who earned numerous scholarships, awards and honours. Her professional activities have continued to attract positive attention, including an International Stevie Award in 2006 from the business community, and recognition from the Canadian government with a Next Generation Leadership Award in 2012.