SLUCare Neurologist Captures YWCA Racial Justice Award
Ghazala Hayat, M.D., a SLUCare neurologist who has worked tirelessly to promote religious
understanding between Muslims, Christians and Jews, received the YWCA’s 2016 Leader
of Distinction Award for Racial Justice.
Hayat, a professor of neurology who specializes in treating patients who have muscular
disorders, is an outspoken interfaith advocate, preaching a message of mutual respect
“Interfaith relationships — knowing about another person’s faith — make you learn
more about your own faith,” said Hayat, who is Muslim and writes a religion column
for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
“You begin to discover the commonalities between religions. Supporting compassion
is not limited to one faith.”
Hayat is director of the clinical neurophysiology fellowship at Saint Louis University
School of Medicine as well as director of SLUCare’s specialized ALS clinic.
Particularly since Sept. 11, 2001, Hayat has seized every opportunity to condemn acts
of violence promulgated in the name of God as she shares her message of peace, acceptance
and tolerance during media interviews, community presentations and lectures, such
as this TEDxSLU talk last year.
“Everyone has a value system and one of the basics of my value system is I have to
speak up. It is my duty to provide real information,” Hayat said. “Misinformation
or no information leads to fear, bias and finally hatred. If I can provide accurate
information I can stop the cycle that leads to hatred.”
Hayat is one of the first women chosen to chair a major U.S. mosque, the Islamic Center
in West St. Louis County. The spokeswoman for the Islamic Foundation of Greater St.
Louis, Hayat is past president and a former board member of the Interfaith Partnership/Faith
Beyond Walls. She established dialogue groups for Jewish and Muslim teens and adults
to break down barriers and foster understanding, and participates in the annual Jewish-Muslim
Day of Community Service on Dec. 25.
Hayat, who was born in Pakistan, is well recognized for her social justice work. She
was named a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Woman of Achievement, is listed among St. Louis Magazine’s 100 power people, named to Who’s Who in Diversity in St. Louis and received the Jewish Community Relations
Council’s Norman A. Stack Community Relations Award as well as awards for her interfaith work by the National Council for Community and
Justice and the Sisters of Loretto. She also has been named to Who’s Who in Diversity
in St. Louis.
About 40 members of the SLU community, including SLU’s own 2016-2017 Women of Achievement
who were selected by the Women’s Commission, applauded the accomplishments of their
colleague at the Dec. 13 lunch. SLU’s Women of Achievement were chosen based upon
their outstanding work performance, leadership qualities, outside activities, service
to others and special talents.
They are Aleidra Allen, program coordinator for the Cross Cultural Center; Lauren
Arend, Ph.D., assistant professor education; Christina Bagwill, instructor of chemistry;
Jessica Ciccone, communications director for the law school; Sandy Gambill, senior
instructional developer at the Reinert Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning;
Mona Hicks, Ed.D., associate vice president and dean of students; Mirela Marcu, M.D.,
associate professor of psychiatry; and Kathy Kienstra, associate professor in the
department of medical imaging and radiation therapeutics.
SLU had other connections to the event. Alumna Toni Kutchan, Ph.D., vice president
for research at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, received the science award,
and Thelma Steward, who received an honorary degree from SLU, was the recipient of
the award for philanthropy. In addition, SLU was an Investor Sponsor of Leader Lunch,
which drew about 900 people from around the region.
Hayat says she’s grown in her understanding of different religions since joining SLU’s
faculty 30 years ago, after completing her neurology residency at the Medical College
of Virginia. She remembers her first interfaith conversation at SLU, with a Catholic
“I was taking the medical history of one of my patients, a Catholic priest, who was
wearing his clerical collar, then started asking about his social history. I said,
‘Are you married?’ A stern answer came, no.
“I said, ‘Do you have children?’ I could see he was visibly getting upset and I had
no idea. He points towards his collar, and says ‘Father.’ And I replied, ‘Yes, that’s
why I’m asking how many children you have.’”