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DAA Award Winners Shine

Each year, the Dalhousie Alumni Association Awards recognize a number of Dalhousie alumni for their outstanding accomplishments and contributions. These remarkable individuals are carrying on Dalhousie’s nearly 200-year tradition of excellence.

The Lifetime Achievement Award

The Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes alumni for exceptional accomplishments in career and community service

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Dr. John Akabatu (Laughing Dog Photography)

If anyone has had a profound effect on people’s lives, it’s Dr. John Akabutu (MD’67). He’s been at the forefront of pediatric cancer and hematology treatments in Alberta for more than 30 years, helping to save hundreds of lives.

The founder of the University of Alberta’s Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Division, Dr. Akabutu led an effort that increased survival rates from less than 10 per cent to 95 per cent among children with leukemia in Northern Alberta. He created a mouthwash to treat sores caused by chemotherapy and radiation therapy that is now used for other procedures and in emergency rooms across the province. And he introduced a revolutionary preventative homecare program that led to a reduction in emergency room visits for hemophiliacs in Northern Alberta.

“I don’t think there is any better recognition than that of your alma mater,” says Dr. Akabutu about the award. “That’s really the crème de la crème for me.”

Although retired, Dr. Akabutu continues to heal and innovate as the head of the Alberta Cord Blood Bank, which he founded in 1996. A doctor who has given patients hope that they can live without illness, motivated colleagues to be inventive in the delivery of medicine and inspired others to follow in his footsteps, Dr. Akabutu proves medicine is more than a profession; it is a passion.

The Volunteerism Award

The Volunteerism Award recognizes alumni for outstanding volunteer contributions to the community

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Glenn Dodge with President Richard Florizone (Danny Abriel Photo)

From Canada to Cameroon, Dalhousie Law School alum Glenn Dodge (BComm’91, LLB’94) has devoted himself to making a difference in the lives of others whenever and wherever he can, spending nearly a decade volunteering overseas.

Through the Voluntary Service Overseas organization, he helped develop an advocacy centre for children’s rights in Nigeria. In Bangladesh, he helped young people become more effective in their social activism by setting up a system to evaluate activity outcomes. He assisted in coordinating relief response efforts during seasonal flooding in Laos with the United Nations. And he served as project manager with the Muslim Students Association of Bamenda (MUSAB) for an initiative to help eradicate the abuse of widows in northwest Cameroon.

“When you give back, there’s a sense that you’re helping people in difficult situations feel like human beings again,” says Dodge.

That impressive career of advocacy and community involvement continues through Dodge’s work with the Justice Education Society of British Columbia. As B.C. program director, he is helping to make the legal system more approachable for youth, immigrants and Indigenous People.

The A. Gordon Archibald Award

The A. Gordon Archibald Award recognizes alumni for outstanding volunteer contributions to Dalhousie

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Kevin Bourgeois (Nick Pearce Photo)

For 12 years, Kevin Bourgeois (MBA’96) has devoted countless volunteer hours to making Dalhousie University’s varsity track and field program one of the best in Canada. The horizontal jumps and combined events coach has helped produce provincial, regional and national champions such as team captain Jessica Shannon, among others.

“He’s inspired athletes and helped develop them in their respective events,” says Shannon. “He brings an enthusiasm and a passion to the sport that is unparalleled.”

Bourgeois says the opportunity to help Dalhousie athletes achieve their dreams on and off the field keeps him coming back. “The students I coach are more than athletes. They want to be good students, ambassadors of the university and role models, and I get to help them do that—to encourage them to make a difference in the world.”

More than an exceptionally devoted coach, Bourgeois has also proven himself to be a top financial supporter of the track and field program, covering equipment and travel expenses. “I believe you have to give back, especially if you have the means to do it. That’s why I contribute regularly: I want to encourage more people to make a gift to the program and to athletics in general at Dalhousie.”

The Christopher J. Coulter Award

The Christopher J. Coulter Award recognizes recent graduates for innovative accomplishments and contributions to society, the community and Dalhousie

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Asraa and Asile El-Darahali with President Florizone (Danny Abriel Photo)

Sisters Asile (BSc’03, DDS’08) and Asraa El-Darahali (DDS’13) are not yet 40, but these dentists have already built a legacy of accomplishments, professional successes and community commitments that could fill several lifetimes. Longtime mentors, volunteers and fundraisers, Asile and Asraa have touched lives near and far through initiatives like the Spirit of Ramadan, a community food and funding drive, and Coats for Humanity, which provided 1,100 new and used coats donated to children and adults throughout the municipality of Halifax.

But perhaps their most ambitious undertaking was a fall 2015 trip to the Jordanian border to provide volunteer dental services to Syrian refugees. Inspired in part by the kindness they encountered from Canadians when their family escaped Kuwait during the Gulf War, the sisters took it upon themselves to share that spirit of generosity with the world. “The sacrifices the refugees made to get to the camp far outstripped ours,” says Asraa.

Delighted to be recognized by their fellow alumni, both Asile and Asraa see this as an opportunity to mobilize others to make a difference. “You don’t have to change the world for everybody,” says Asile, “but if you can change it for one person, that’s what matters.”

Nominations for the 2017 DAA Awards are now being accepted. Nomination deadline is February 15, 2017. For more details about the award winners, visit alumni.dal.ca/awards