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Kalam to get Hoover Medal

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Former President A P J Abdul Kalam will be honoured here later this month with the prestigious 2008 Hoover Medal, given by five prominent American engineering organisations, it was announced here today.

Established in 1929, the medal commemorates the civic and humanitarian achievements of engineers. It is conferred upon an engineer whose professional achievements and personal endeavors have advanced the well-being of humankind.

The medal is  administered by a board representing five engineering organizations: The American Society of Mechanical Engineers, the American Society of Civil Engineers, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, the American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical and Petroleum Engineers and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

A press release issued by the Hoover Board said Dr Kalam was being recognised for making state-of-the-art healthcare available to the common man at affordable prices, bringing quality medical care to rural areas by establishing a link between doctors and technocrats, using spin-offs of defence technology to create state-of-the-art medical equipment, and launching telemedicine projects connecting remote rural-based hospitals to a super-specialty hospital.

"A preeminent scientist, a gifted engineer, and a true visionary, he is also a humble humanitarian in every sense of the word," it said.

The statement said upliftment of the the rural population of India had always been of prime concern to Dr. Kalam.  Many of the projects that Dr. Kalam launched during his career have been ingeniously designed to bring some of the advantages of the modern world to the remote and economically deprived segments of the Indian population at an affordable price.

A prime example is the key role Dr. Kalam played in the creation of "telemedicine," a system that helps connect rural hospitals with super-specialty medical centres in India and abroad. The success of this project proved that it is indeed possible to bring cutting edge medical care to even the most isolated rural areas, it said.

The statement said yet another of Dr. Kalam's spectacular achievements has been the establishment of the Society of Biomedical Technology (SBMT) in 1993.  This initiative that provided diverse opportunities to several million people was designed to combine Indian defence technology with local medical expertise to produce state-of-the-art medical  equipment and low cost consumables that were previously being imported at  steep rates.  Some of SBMT's successful products include a coronary stent christened Kalam-Raju stent, an ophthalmic laser and medical calipers.

The statement also referred to another of Dr. Kalam's ambitious projects, PURA (Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas), a public-private enterprise that works by improving four types  of "connectivities"; physical connectivity with better roads, electronic  connectivity with reliable communication, knowledge connectivity with better education and finally all integrated to create economic connectivity and  growth.  Four PURA units, composed of committed teams are already in  progress and many more are in the process of development.

It noted that as a part of his plan to promote national development by inspiring young minds, Dr. Kalam has been tirelessly traveling across the country and speaking to students all over India. It also referred to the several inspiring books authored by him, including "Wings of Fire".

The Hoover Medal is named after Herbert Clark Hoover, the 31st President of the United States (1929-33). Besides his political career, Hoover was a professional mining engineer. As Secretary of Commerce under Presidents Warren Harding and Calvin Coolidge, he had promoted government intervention under the rubric "economic modernisation."

The inspiration to establish the medal was supplied by the devotion and dedication of Hoover and a group of engineering associates who  sought to solve the problems of countries from the beginning of World War I to their reestablishment following the war.
 
The first medal was presented to President Hoover in 1930.  Other recipients include President Dwight David Eisenhower, President James Earl Carter, and industrialists David Packard and Stephen Bechtel.

Prof. P. Somasundaran of Columbia University, Vice Chair of the Hoover Medal Board reflected on the magnanimity in Dr. Kalam, by noting that "when you meet him in person, he makes you feel as if you are the catalyst of great changes, and not he. As a professor and a scientist, I truly believe that Dr. Kalam has been instrumental in using science and engineering for  vital humanitarian needs."

The award ceremony will be presented at Columbia University's dome shaped Low Rotunda on April 28, the statement added.

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