From IIHA Blog by Katarzyna Laskowski
The last few months have been filled with honors for Kevin M. Cahill, M.D., President of the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation (CIHC) and founder of Fordham’s Institute of International Humanitarian Affairs (IIHA). On the heels of Dr. Cahill’s 85th birthday in May, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) recognized Dr. Cahill with an Honorary Fellowship from the College. It was at the RCSI where the IIHA’s flagship course, the International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA), was first offered by the CIHC. Since the inaugural course, the CIHC and IIHA have held 2 subsequent courses at the RCSI, and the RCSI has been one of the institutions cited on the Diploma for every course since.
Professor Declan Magee, President of the RCSI, in conferring the Honorary Fellowship on Dr. Cahill, noted that “this is indeed a very rare event: the last time such an honor was conferred outside of Ireland was when we presented the same award to Nelson Mandela in South Africa in 1995. He noted that “Professor Cahill was the longest serving full Professor in the 230-year history of the RCSI, and had taught over 4,000 medical students during his 36-year tenure as Chairman of the Department of Tropical Medicine and International Health.” Dr. Cahill then served a subsequent 10 years as the Inaugural Professor of International Humanitarian Affairs.
Dr. Cahill’s most recent book, A Dream for Dublin, chronicles the inspiring story of how, against all odds, he founded the world-renowned Department of Tropical Medicine and International Health at the RCSI in Dublin for which he was honored. In a contribution, the President of Ireland, Michael D. Higgins, notes: “I have known Dr. Cahill for almost a lifetime. His ability to see a suffering world beyond borders is extraordinary, whether those are the intellectual borders that separate academic disciplines or the physical borders that separate the citizens of this planet from one another.”
Later in May, the Maharishi University, and the dozens of related schools in India, presented their highest honor, the Maharishi award for “Health and Humanitarianism” to Dr. Cahill in a ceremony in Fairfield, Iowa. The Fairfield Maharishi Award Ceremony occurs annually, the preceding recipient being the Prime Minister of Japan, as well as various Nobel Laureates. In the ceremony, the Maharishi University cited Dr. Cahill’s long record of work for peace, health and development.
Most recently, Dr. Cahill was awarded one of Fordham University’s highest honors, the President’s Medal, during the 48th International Diploma in Humanitarian Assistance (IDHA) Graduation Ceremony on July 1st at Fordham’s Lincoln Center campus. The occasion of the IDHA Graduation Ceremony was personally selected by Dr. Cahill due to its significance both to himself personally and to his legacy at Fordham University. In presenting the award, Rev. Joseph M. McShane, S.J., President of Fordham University, noted that since “Dr. Cahill had received an Honorary Doctorate from this university more than 25 years ago, we now award him the President’s Medal, the highest award given by the university, and only conferred 36 times in the 175-year history of Fordham.”
As an expert in tropical medicine, Dr. Cahill’s career has taken him to four continents and 65 countries, including Somalia, Egypt, Lebanon, Nicaragua and Sudan. With a deeply profound interest in humanitarian aid and the goal of advancing the methods and framework by which humanitarian workers operate, he founded the IIHA in 2001, in partnership with the Center for International Humanitarian Cooperation (CIHC). Dr. Cahill continues to serve as the President of the CIHC and as a University Professor through the IIHA at Fordham.
Father McShane described Dr. Cahill as “a man who has never lost a passion for serving the poorest of the poor and the most marginalized in society throughout the world. He is, to me, a hero.” Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Cahill has published over 30 books, been a longtime UN adviser, served as a chair of New York State’s Health Planning Commission, and is on the faculty of three universities. Yet, Father McShane noted that Dr. Cahill did not deem himself worthy of receiving the President’s Medal. In large part due to Father McShane’s continued encouragement, Dr. Cahill finally agreed to accept the award, as long as it could be presented at the IDHA commencement. “He chose the ceremony that meant more to him in all the years and for the program whose work means more to him than anything else, besides his family,” explained Father McShane. “It speaks volumes that he chose to receive the medal here.” Furthermore, he praised Dr. Cahill and his program for embodying “all the principles on which the University was founded and to which it devotes itself every day.”