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Nadeem Named Whitbeck Award Winner at UA Little Rock

Biology major Ahad Nadeem is the 2023 Whitbeck Award winner. Photo by Benjamin Krain.
Biology major Ahad Nadeem is the 2023 Whitbeck Award winner. Photo by Benjamin Krain.

Ahad Nadeem, a biology major from Little Rock, has been named the winner of the 2023 Edward L. Whitbeck Memorial Award at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Frank L. and Beverly Whitbeck established the top graduating senior award in memory of their son, Edward Lynn Whitbeck, who was a senior at Little Rock University, the predecessor of UA Little Rock, at the time of his death in 1965. Each scholar receives a personalized plaque and a monetary award.

“I feel really grateful to have won and really honored to receive such a prestigious award,” Nadeem said. “It was a surprise because I knew so many qualified students who applied. I worked hard for it, and I am glad to see that all the hard work has paid off in the end.”

After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in biology and a chemistry minor, the award-winning member of the Donaghey Scholar Honors Program plans to spend a year working in medical research while applying for medical school to fulfill his long-held goal of becoming a doctor.

“I’ve known I wanted to go into medicine since high school,” Nadeem said. “I shadowed some doctors in high school, and I saw first-hand how they can help people and apply their vast medical knowledge to heal others. In college, I got more involved in different health care experiences, such as volunteering and participating in clinical research. That affirmed my desire to enter the field.”

Nadeem has worked at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) for years in their emergency department research lab, working on multiple clinical research trials on patient empathy, stress of emergency department patients, and acceptability of naloxone.

“Ahad worked with the UAMS Institute on Aging to coordinate a grant-funded opioid education project in the emergency department, in which over 500 patients were given health information about opioids,” said Dr. Michael Wilson, director of the UAMS Emergency Department Research Associates Program. “Ahad developed protocols for this project and trained all lab members, including holding monthly training sessions and lectures. Throughout this project, Ahad and the other lab members were able to help many patients acquire naloxone, a life-saving opioid overdose antidote.”

In other health care-related activities, he also worked as a summer intern at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and presented his work at the 2022 Arkansas INBRE Research Conference. Additionally, Nadeem volunteers in the UAMS Winthrop Rockefeller Cancer Institutes and in UAMS’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, where he holds and reads to babies in NICU. He also volunteers with Kaleidoscope Grief Center, a part of Methodist Family Health, in a support group for children who have lost loved ones.

“When I started volunteering, I had just lost my grandfather last year,” Nadeem said. “I wanted to learn how to deal with loss and help others learn as well. It’s helped me to learn to talk about people that I’ve lost.”

An active member of student life, Nadeem serves as vice president of the Student Government Association, a health and wellness writer for The Forum, and president of the Campus Garden Alliance. He’s also on the Donaghey Scholars Student Committee, organizing Donaghey events and interviewing new applicants for the program, and on the Academic Integrity and Grievances Committee.

Nadeem also enjoyed serving as a learning assistant for a genetic class taught by Stefanie Leacock, an instructor of biology, who feels Nadeem made a positive impact on student learning.

“For my genetics course, I use an open-access textbook I developed in LibreTexts,” Leacock said. “Ahad himself noted that additional practice questions would be helpful to students. Ahad spent the spring semester of 2022 working on review questions for each chapter that addressed specific learning objectives. Ahad authored nearly 70 questions and question sets, which are now publicly available in the online H5P question database LibreStudio. His work benefited not only our UA Little Rock genetics students, but other students and instructors may benefit from the questions he created as well.”

Nadeem’s presentation on his work to improve student learning in the genetics course earned him a first place in the 2022 Student Research and Creative Works Expo. Additionally, he earned a second first place in last year’s expo for a research project he created about food deserts in Little Rock. Nadeem developed a map of food deserts in Little Rock, marking locations of dollar, convenience, and grocery stores in the city. He later presented this research at the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Summit, where it was shared with legislators, policy makers, and graduate students researching food insecurity in Arkansas.

With his college career wrapping up, Nadeem’s advice to new college students is to branch out of their comfort zones and try new things.

“Initially starting out, I was scared to go beyond my comfort zone,” Nadeem said. “Once I started trying new things, I realized how many opportunities are here and how many cool things you can do at this university. In order to experience them, you have to branch out and not be afraid to fail. You never know what kind of opportunities you will get in return.”