Amer El-Ahraf: Emeritus Professor of Health Sciences Organizes Conference of Egyptian American Scholars
Dr. Amer El-Ahraf, emeritus professor of health sciences, served as the chair of the organizing committee for the 36th International Conference of the Association of Egyptian American Scholars (AEAS). The Cairo native helped present the conference, which was titled “Enhancement and Modernization of the Medical, Engineering and Commerce Sectors in Egyptian Higher Education” in Redondo Beach last December.
El-Ahraf and Dr. Shokry El-Kanery, a lecturer at South Valley University in Aswan, Egypt, presented their paper, “Physical Health and the Use of Cosmetics in Ancient Egypt.” El-Kanery is a former post-doctoral fellow who was mentored by El-Ahraf at CSU Dominguez Hills. CSU Dominguez Hills colleagues who participated in the AEAS conference were Dr. Mohamed El-Badawi, chair and professor of accounting, who served as a member of the organizing committee, and Dr. Mohamed Eyadat, associate professor of information systems and operations, who was in attendance.
A founding member of AEAS since its inception in 1972, El-Ahraf has served as secretary general and president of the organization. He currently is a past president ex-officio on the board of directors. Having chaired subcommittees on the environment, public health and the advancement of medicine for AEAS conferences in the past, El-Ahraf says that a focus on the environment is a recent development in the academy in Egypt.
El-Ahraf says that initial interest in environmental issues began in the 1980s, with the widespread public perception that such studies were only relevant for professionals in the agricultural and medical fields. As a visiting professor at Zagazig University at that time, he pioneered a comprehensive approach to curriculum development and was recently honored on the campus for his efforts. With his colleagues, El-Ahraf initiated an innovative campus-wide program in environmental sciences.
“In order to improve the environment, every college in the university [had to have] an environmental outlook,” he recalls. “We went to the places that were willing to cooperate, such as the school of engineering, the school of humanities and the college of veterinarian medicine. We developed a research center on environmental pollution and I supervised the Ph.D. work of the first faculty in that field.”
El-Ahraf says that despite the strict preservation efforts at scenic sites such as the Sinai Peninsula and the Red Sea, the emergence of commercial agriculture and industrialization in Egypt in the early 1950s introduced the issue of pollution as a major problem.
“Cairo has about 16 million people,” says El-Ahraf. “You have overcrowding and consequently, a large amount of cars. Laws have been put in to control air pollution and you have academicians [working] with an environmental health component.
“Egypt has a very small but occasionally influential green party that has been able to prevent highways around the pyramids or the disposal of waste in the Western desert, after developing the Ministry of Environment. The problems are many but there is a major effort.”
- Joanie Harmon