A LEADING heart surgeon and the world’s oldest marathon runner are among a handful of individuals from Britain’s minority communities who have been recognised by the Queen in the New Year Honours list.
A total of 1,164 people have received an award in the list, released on Tuesday (30); of these 36 were Asians.
A knighthood, the highest honour from the Queen, was bestowed upon Nilesh Samani, professor of cardiology at the University of Leicester.
Author and actress Meera Syal received a CBE, while marathon runner Fauja Singh was conferred a British Empire Medal (BEM) and is the oldest recipient in the list at 103. Professor Samani was honoured for his services to medicine and research in the field of cardiovascular sciences where he has contributed to fundamental discoveries and changed scientific thinking.
He told Eastern Eye: “The main privilege in life is to look after patients and to undertake research into understanding heart disease. I have tremendous support from colleagues. This award is as much for them as for it is for me.”
Samani, who leads an internationally acclaimed team of clinicians and researchers as the head of department of Cardiovascular Sciences at the University of Leicester, helped to reveal the genetic basis of cardiovascular diseases and is now investigating how that knowledge can be applied for better prevention, treatment and care.
He said: “I am very glad that the work of my team and department in understanding the genetic causes of heart attacks, where so far we have found over 50 genes which can affect an individual’s risk of getting a heart attack, findings which offer new opportunities for improved prediction, prevention and treatment of this common condition, has been recognised in this way.”
Proving that age isn’t a barrier to outstanding accomplishments, the “turbaned tornado” marathon runner Singh was honoured for his services to charity and sport. He is a champion for Age UK and widely recognised as the oldest marathon runner in the world.
“The award has thrilled me so much it has extended my life by several years,” he told EE.
“It’s energised me to the point where I will be more active now.I want to thank Her Majesty for even thinking about me.”
His running coach Harmander Singh, who broke the news to him, said: “I feel so chuffed for him; its almost like I received it as well.”
Entrepreneur James Caan, best known as a former investor on the BBC TV show Dragons’ Den, was honoured with a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) for services to entrepreneurship and charitable services through the James Caan Foundation. Caan, founder and CEO of Hamilton Bradshaw, a leading mid-market private equity firm, is chairman of the government’s Start Up Loans Scheme, which has supported thousands of people with funding and mentoring to start their own business.
He said he was “absolutely delighted” at the honour. “It’s a huge well done to the Start Loans Scheme, which has created 30,000 jobs,” he told EE.
“This is recognition for everyone who’s played a role in supporting the scheme as well as most of the people who work for it. Any kind of recognition makes everyone work harder.
“This award is recognition for all entrepreneurs in the UK; people who in the last 18 months started a business or taken a risk. This CBE encapsulates what a fantastic year it’s been for start-ups.”
Around 74 per cent of the recipients are people who have undertaken “outstanding work” in their communities either in a voluntary or paid capacity.
Sajda Mughal, project director at Jan Trust, was recommended an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to community cohesion and interfaith dialogue. Mughal, who is a 7/7 London bombings survivor, has led a scheme which trains Muslim mothers on how to help their children stay away from extremist material on the internet.
After hearing she was hounoured with an award, Mughal said: “This is a great achievement in recognition of my work in encouraging community cohesion. I am flattered to receive such an award.”
She added: “I am still continuing my work with JAN Trust working with the black, Asian and Muslim communities. The work is much needed across the UK as I have women and communities reaching out to us for our services and programmes.”
The honours list is published twice a year; in mid-June on the date of the Queen’s official birthday and again in the New Year. It rewards individuals who have made a real difference in their local communities. This year, only six per cent of those who were honoured came from an ethnic minority.
If you want to nominate someone for an award go to http://www.gov.uk/honours/overview for more information.