Muslim doctor lauded as hero for work on COVID-19 response

Dr. Omar Lateef of Hinsdale, nationally renowned for his work managing the COVID-19 pandemic, will receive the Top Muslim Achiever 2020 award Sunday night during the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago's virtual community gala.

Lateef has been president and CEO of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago since May 2019. Under his leadership, the center received national recognition for its effective management of the COVID-19 pandemic, including building a forward triage, deploying early testing, acceptance of critically ill patient transfers, and being one of the first health systems to offer antibody testing. He was named one of "Modern Healthcare's" 50 most influential clinical executives for his work.

"I do not feel like I deserve this kind of recognition, especially at a time when so many are fighting the pandemic every day and remain at risk for exposure during this global pandemic," Lateef said. "The CIOGC is a voice of unity in the community, and unity is the message we need if we are going to successfully put this disease behind us and find a true return to normalcy."

Lateef is a professor of pulmonary and critical care medicine at Rush University, where he formerly was associate dean of medical sciences. He has won numerous teaching awards as a clinical educator at Rush.

To register for the CIOGC gala, visit

Libraries confronting racism

Equity, social justice, and diversity and inclusion are the focus of the American Library Association's Midwinter Meeting & Exhibits Virtual, Jan. 22 to 26.

It's among the nation's largest professional events for the library information industry, offering meetings, programs, discussion groups, in-depth conversations, and exhibits.

Speakers include civil rights activist Ruby Bridges, who at the age of 6 was the first Black student to integrate an all-white elementary school in New Orleans and the subject of the Disney movie "Ruby Bridges"; Joy Harjo, a member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and a renowned musician, playwright, and author; acclaimed actor, writer and director Ethan Hawke; Ibram X. Kendi, New York Times bestselling author of "How to Be an Antiracist"; and Cicely Tyson, a film and theater actress, lecturer and activist.

ALA conference highlights

• "Rising to the 2020 Challenge," 11 a.m. to noon Jan. 23, exploring how the library system can address social justice and equity.

• ALA will honor 10 outstanding librarians who will receive the I Love My Librarian Award, 2:30 to 4 p.m. Jan. 23.

• ALA Youth Media Awards celebrating the best in children's and youth literature, including the Newbery and Caldecott medals, 8 to 10 a.m. Jan. 25.

• The 22nd annual Sunrise Celebration commemorating Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s legacy, 10 to 11 a.m. Jan. 25.

• A series of on-demand sessions: "Anti-racism work and women in librarianship," "Resilience: How libraries can partner to reshape the future," and "The future of trust in the age of the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and racial injustice."

• Jemar Tisby, award-winning author of "The Color of Compromise," will lead an on-demand session offering solutions on confronting racism in everyday life.

For more information, visit

Helping Cambodian children

Baker Memorial United Methodist Church in St. Charles will accept donations to support Cambodian street children and their families during a drive-through "Christmas Story Caravan" from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. Sunday at the church, 307 Cedar Ave.

Money raised will support Clara Biswas, a Bangladeshi Methodist missionary working in Cambodia with HIV positive adults and helping street children get an education to break the cycle of poverty, Senior Pastor Mary Zajac said.

"She is amazing," Zajac said. "We send her money and she does miracles with it. She can get things that are more appropriate to the culture and support the local economy."

Youth center project

The Islamic Center of Wheaton's plan to build a youth center on its property at 900 E. Geneva Road will be delayed as fundraising for the project has stalled due to the pandemic.

The mosque had set aside roughly $300,000 for the more than $2 million project from earlier collections, but it has had to borrow from that fund to cover operations due to a decline in donations.

"Right now, our goal is sustainability for the masjid (mosque)," said Zahra Antar, of Naperville, a real estate broker and board member of the center.

Officials raised more than $40,000 in an online campaign last week and hope to collect more during the annual fundraiser to be held virtually at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 18. Funds collected will go toward supporting the center's operations, school, youth programs, COVID-19 relief and other services.

"Before the pandemic happened we had a fundraising dinner planned," Antar said. "The main goal was to raise money to build a youth center, hire a youth director. Now, the whole perspective (has) changed."

Fundraiser for seniors

Due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, the American Association of Retired Asians is moving its annual fundraiser online to 6 p.m. Dec. 19.

AARA, which has offices in Bolingbrook and Streamwood, provides a range of culturally appropriate and linguistically sensitive services for older adults primarily of South Asian descent.

Services include a congregate meal program for South Asian seniors at restaurants in Hanover Park, Naperville and Villa Park; organizational activities to increase socialization and reduce isolation; memory cafe for individuals with memory loss; a music therapy program; transportation, referral and translation services.

Canceling the fundraiser would have led to a serious shortfall and reduction of critical programs for clients, said Talat Khan, AARA executive director.

"This year is even more critical as the older adults are unable to socialize during our congregated meal programs due to the pandemic, and this has led to further isolation," said Khan, an Indian American and a retired neuroscientist from Darien who founded the nonprofit in 2007.

The fundraiser will feature South Asian musicians, fashion and cuisine. Participants can join via Zoom and the event will be broadcast on Facebook Live. Tickets are $50 per person. To purchase, visit AARA will deliver meals to clients who sign up during the fundraiser.

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  Talat Khan, executive director of American Association of Retired Asians, says South Asian seniors have been further isolated due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Paul Valade/
Daily Herald Diversity Editor Madhu Krishnamurthy
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