Bijan Abar

2023 Graduate Student Recipient

Bijan Abar is a MD/Ph.D. candidate through the Duke University School of Medicine and the Duke University Pratt School of Engineering. He is currently completing his doctoral thesis in mechanical engineering and materials science. Bijan has distinguished himself to his many mentees, peers, and advisors, as well as to the greater North Carolina community, in the dimensions of selflessness, generosity of character, and humility. Along with this award, Bijan has been recognized by The Graduate School with the 2023 Dean’s Award for Excellence in Mentoring. The enthusiasm with which his community sought to lift up Bijan’s contributions speaks to his deservingness of these prestigious awards.

Bijan was nominated by five individuals representing a faculty advisor, classmates and mentees. All emphasized his unfailing commitment to cultivating transformative leadership across generations. Dr. Chan Park, a faculty in the Duke University School of Medicine, has mentored Bijan for four years through the Feagin Scholar Leadership Program. In his nomination, Dr. Park wrote:

I have personally witnessed Bijan lead forums, engage, advise and challenge high school, university, graduate students and medical school faculty to deepen their commitment to being the type of leaders who embrace others with compassion, practice self-reflection and even self-forgiveness within the scope of their own sphere of influence in the high school, university and among professional associations.

Bijan Abar is markedly accomplished as a research scientist. He has authored a staggering 12 publications, 3 of which he is first author. He currently has 7 more papers under review, over half of which he is the first author. Bijan’s prolific research contributions are all the more impressive when considering his successful progression through medical school and his work in the Durham community. He has shown tremendous leadership through the Refugee Health Initiative, where he supported refugee families to navigate the US health system. Since 2021, Bijan has served on the Executive Committee for the BOOST Beyond program, whose mission is to mentor local high school students in the college application process. Recently, he worked with colleagues to mentor underrepresented high school students in emotional intelligence and mindfulness in leadership. Despite significant challenges and obstacles, Bijan and his team showed flexibility and resilience and won the hearts of over sixty high school students and administrators. Chan Park recounts that, after a year, participants had made a meaningful commitment to “further their personal self-growth and discovery in the areas of integrity, honesty, respect and accountability”, and Dr. Park personally attested to the profound character development of his own two teenage daughters.

What makes Bijan all the more special is the generosity of which he gives his time. While pressed with many of his own demands, mentees and friends wrote of his selfless support for their professional development and overall wellbeing. Duke undergraduate student Trent Lau wrote, “nearly all of my academic achievements since meeting [Bijan] were due in large part to his mentorship that was entirely out of his own selfless volition and kindness.” Yet the profound example of mentorship and community care that Bijan exhibits goes further than promoting individual success. Lau goes on to say, “Everyone he touches becomes inspired by him, so that they go out and help others at the same level of dedication and humility…” These sentiments were echoed by mentees and colleagues Julian Burbano, Kian Bagheri, and Nicholas Allen. Each expressed emphatically Bijan’s lived values of generosity, selflessness, and humility.

For his deep commitment to community care, and for his continued investment into emerging community leaders, Duke is proud to name Bijan Abar as the graduate student recipient of the 2023 Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award.