January 23, 2021 6:59:04 PM
Diversity and inclusion are part of Ghanshyam Heda's DNA.
Growing up in Hyderabad, a large cosmopolitan city in India, allowed Heda to experience different cultures, religions, languages and dialects. The lessons Heda learned in his formative years fostered a desire to incorporate diversity and inclusion into his teaching, research and everyday life.
Heda continues to implement those ideas as a tenured professor of biology at the Mississippi University for Women. The Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning recently recognized Heda's work when it named him The W's recipient of its annual Diversity and Inclusion Award for Excellence.
"This award is very special, and I consider it a tribute to the success of the many advisees and students of diverse background who were trained and are still being trained in my research laboratory," Heda said. "This award motivates me and strengthens my resolve to contribute more toward diversity and inclusiveness at The W and beyond."
Heda has received many other awards such as the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Award to conduct research in Japan (2000), the William J. Stickel Award in podiatric medicine research (2018), the Fulbright-Nehru Award of academic excellence (2018) and the Kossen Faculty Excellence Award at The W (2020). He also was a member of European group to prepare consensus protocols for cystic fibrosis research (2002-03).
He said receiving the IHL's Diversity and Inclusion Award for Excellence speaks to the success of all of the men, women, local, international, undergraduate, and even a high school student of different ethnicities he has taught, trained or mentored.
Heda said he was fortunate to train with top scientists like Dr. G.M. Reddy, his Ph.D. advisor at Osmania University, India; Dr. J.K. Reddy, his post-doctoral mentor at Northwestern University School of Medicine; Dr. Michael Madigan (Southern Illinois University) and Dr. Alvin Schmaier (Temple University School of Medicine). He said all of the working environments were diverse, inclusive and electrifying and had collegial and cohesive atmospheres. Heda said The W has a Department of Sciences and Mathematics that is "very diverse" and it is a pleasure to work with faculty members from so many countries and backgrounds.
W President Nora Miller nominated Heda for the annual award based on the recommendation of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. She said Heda, who has been at the university since 2008, has made many notable contributions in the area of service and teaching, including traveling to India during his sabbatical in 2015 and as a Fulbright Scholar in 2018. In that time, Heda taught graduate students at the University of Hyderabad and also visited area high schools and presented admissions opportunities at The W. He also created study abroad opportunities for W students through the special topic course "Science Education and Research in India (BSB 485) at the University of Hyderabad.
In October 2020, Heda visited students at Aberdeen High School who were dually enrolled in Anatomy & Physiology I to help them with their work. After seeing the students were struggling with the format and their work, Miller said Heda adapted his delivery and testing methods and met with the students to encourage them to complete the course and to pursue a college degree.
"The care in which he connected with the Aberdeen High School students mirrors the manner in which he supports W students and research on campus," Miller said. "Dr. Heda is dedicated to developing students into excellent researchers and scientific/medical professionals, including publishing articles and writing grants."
Bonnie Oppenheimer, a professor of mathematics and chair of The W's Department of Sciences and Mathematics, also nominated Heda. She said he has helped his students publish four peer-reviewed full publications, 18 abstracts and numerous oral and poster presentations at regional and national level scientific conferences. She also praised him for bringing in more than $650,000 in revenue to The W in terms of extramural research grants.
"Dr. Heda is an outstanding and meritorious faculty member with demonstrable excellence in diversity and inclusion of students in teaching, research and service, both on campus and off," Oppenheimer said.
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