Kidia wins Rhodes Scholarship in Zimbabwe

Dec. 15, 2010, 6:05 p.m.

Princeton senior Khameer Kidia, a French major from Harare, Zimbabwe, has been selected as one of Zimbabwe's Rhodes Scholars.

The Rhodes Trust awards fellowships for graduate study at the University of Oxford to approximately 80 scholars from 14 regions around the world each year. Last month, senior Nicholas DiBerardino and alumnus Mark Jia were named two of this year's 32 American Rhodes scholars. The scholarship supports two or three years of graduate study at Oxford.

Kidia intends to study medical anthropology at Oxford and then pursue a career as a physician focusing on global health. He was drawn to the medical field after spending the summer after his freshman year at Princeton working with a team of London physicians on a project targeting the treatment of HIV-positive teenagers in Zimbabwe.

"Whilst I had raised funds in support of AIDS awareness in high school, I had never worked intimately with the direct medical aspect of public health, which, for the first time, allowed me to feel the gratifying effect that came from the direct impact upon the lives of these young teenagers," Kidia wrote in his Rhodes application. "Being involved so closely with the pandemic that poses as the world's greatest ongoing public health issue was an experience that drastically changed the course of my life, my academic trajectory and my career ambitions."

Kidia has been accepted to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Humanities and Medicine Early Acceptance Program, which takes students who wish to focus their undergraduate education on the study of humanities and social sciences.

To reflect the cross-cultural nature of his career plans, Kidia has studied French language and culture with an emphasis on global health and health policy at Princeton. For his senior thesis, he is exploring the development of the Parisian public health system by assessing the social, economic and epidemiological factors that led to its creation.

Goran Blix, an assistant professor in the Department of French and Italian who is Kidia's thesis adviser, said his work on his junior paper skillfully blended political, historical, scientific and public health perspectives with the testimony of a novel, "The Belly of Paris" by Emile Zola, "to show how public representations of disease and contagion systematically blended morality and hygiene in addressing the issue of public health." Kidia's work on that paper and his thesis has been "interdisciplinary in the best sense, combining medical science, literature and history to illuminate complex cultural questions that might elude specialists," Blix said.

"He is a self-motivated, independent worker with great intellectual curiosity," said Francois Rigolot, the Meredith Howland Pyne Professor of French Literature, who had Kidia as a student in the course "Art and Literature in the Renaissance." "His language abilities are matched by a very strong sense for literature. He is an attentive close reader of texts, and was frequently able to tease out the finest, most perceptive meanings from small textual details."

Attending Princeton has given Kidia "the chance to meet some of the most incredible and inspiring people in the world," he said.  "From my friends and mentors I have learned the capacity and diversity of intellect, and the stamina and strength of the human body."

At Princeton, Kidia has participated in L'Avant-Scène, a French theater workshop that performs plays from the classical and modern French theater canon. He has held medical internships at Mount Sinai Hospital and France's Centre Medical de Forcilles, a geriatric and palliative care facility. In Zimbabwe, he has volunteered with orphans from Chishawasha, tutoring youngsters and giving piano recitals to help raise money to contribute to awareness, food aid and school supplies.

Rhodes Scholars are selected on the basis of high academic achievement, integrity of character, a spirit of unselfishness, respect for others, potential for leadership and physical vigor.