American Pakistan Foundation Welcomes Rafat Ansari, MD to its Board of Directors

Drs. Zoreen and Rafat Ansari

The American Pakistan Foundation welcomes Rafat Ansari, MD to its board of directors. Dr. Rafat Ansari, along with his wife, Dr. Zoreen Ansari, are well-known for their medical expertise and exceptional philanthropic efforts, including crossing religious lines as Muslims to give $15 million to Notre Dame University, a Catholic institution for religious studies.

Dr. Ansari, a renowned oncologist, earned his medical degree from Liaquat Medical College and the University of Sindh in Pakistan. Dr. Ansari later on completed a fellowship in medical oncology and haematology at the Indiana University Medical Center in Indianapolis. When their youngest daughter Sonya was diagnosed with Autism, the Ansaris travelled the country in search of help. In this trying time, they found themselves thinking about those without the education and resources that they had, and decided to serve as benefactors of what is now known as the Sonya Ansari Center for Autism in South Bend, Indiana. The Center provides a range of services, resources and training for professionals, educators and parents who face the daily realities of autism; as well as welcoming children, teens and adults to their facilities to avail support services.

As immigrants from Pakistan, they balance their heritage alongside their embodiment of true American patriots and civic leaders through community service and philanthropic activities.  Their family spent the better part of 2017 in the limelight for their generous donation to Notre Dame University, which founded the Rafat and Zoreen Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion. The donation came at a time of heightened religious conflict in the United States of America. “We are more similar than we are different,” Dr. Ansari commented, adding that he believed conflicts arise from misunderstanding, and that a lack of respect and conversation wedges these conflicts deeper and deeper. The Ansaris want to promote tolerance and religious harmony whilst creating a place for people to understand and work through religious conflicts in order to address global issues like poverty and disease.

The Ansari Institute aims to collectively diminish tension between the world’s religions, including Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and other widely practiced faiths. The Institute’s primary goal is to promote integral human development and the idea of human flourishing with the acknowledgement of cultural richness and diversity of thought. The Institute embodies the values of the University of Notre Dame; educating their students to be global citizens, through the education of varying social, political, and religious customs and norms. Dr. Ansari noted proudly that in a class of 39 at the institute, 28 countries were represented – which ensured a global impact that these young educated leaders will someday make in their respective countries.

We need to make a difference in the country we live in,” urges Dr. Ansari, “Our future generations will consist of thinkers and philosophers that will benefit from the institution.” It is notable that the Ansaris donated to an institution in the United States, instead of Pakistan. Dr. Rafat especially emphasized that it is “perfectly alright” to do so. He encourages Pakistanis who have done well to get out of their comfort zone and engage with the communities they live and raise their children in – and to give back to institutions that will continue to promote positive ideals long after we are gone. Since the University of Notre Dame is a global institution, the Ansaris are confident that their institute will reach a global audience. The Ansaris are an inspiration to all of us to think about the legacy we should strive to achieve.

“Dr. Ansari’s passion for community philanthropy and institution building is an inspiration for our community. He is a role model for Pakistani-Americans,” notes APF Board Chair, Riaz Siddiqi, “I am delighted to welcome him to the APF Board.”