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MIT grad earns Cooke Scholarship

Farhan Merali
Farhan Merali

An MIT graduate whose goal is to "bring equitable care to impoverished nations around the world" has earned a full scholarship to medical school.

Farhan Merali, a 2005 brain and cognitive sciences graduate who has worked to fight AIDS in East Africa, is the first MIT recipient of the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship.

Merali, of Toronto, is one of 76 Cooke Scholars chosen from a pool of close to 1,300 applicants from 600 colleges and universities across the United States. The scholarship will fund Merali's tuition, room and board at Harvard Medical School.

Established in 2000, the scholarship is funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Cooke, who died in 1997, was a philanthropist and businessman who at one time owned both the Washington Redskins and the Los Angeles Lakers sports teams. He used his estate to create the foundation, whose mission is "to help young people of exceptional promise reach their full potential through education."

With his diverse interests and high academic standing, Merali was exactly the kind of scholar the foundation seeks. A 1992 visit to East Africa sparked 10-year-old Merali's passion for AIDS treatment and prevention programs in Africa. While in high school, Merali organized fund-raisers to support Kenyan emergency care facilities and Tanzanian AIDS prevention programs.

At MIT, Merali held a 5.0 grade point average while working with the Harvard-MIT Hippocratic Society to pair students with policymakers to discuss the social and humanistic side of illness.

Merali spent two spring breaks on service trips in Paraguay and rural Florida. In the summer of 2004, he returned to Africa, where he submitted grant proposals to the Ugandan government seeking support for an HIV/AIDS clinic as well as a youth-targeted AIDS prevention program. He also helped train local residents to become peer educators in AIDS prevention.

In his scholarship application, Merali said he wants to go into medicine in order to "bring equitable care to impoverished nations around the world."

"The impressive variety of things that he (Merali) has done and the way he has used his skills made him a terrific candidate," said Associate Dean Andrew Eisenmann of the Office of Academic Services, who nominated Merali. "He is a very committed, caring student and will employ his education, talents and cultural experiences to do well."

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