Family, education fuel Pearland couple to give back to community

June 7, 2019 | George Mattingly II

Family, education fuel Pearland couple to give back to community

When Nizam and Jesmin Meah immigrated to the United States from Bangladesh, they brought with them a dream to improve their lives and strong values for family, education and service. Now, they call Pearland home. It’s where they grew their careers – he as a gastroenterologist and she an electrical engineer by education and now a community volunteer – where they are raising their children, and where they are supporting others.

“Education is really our life-blood. Our parents valued education and always encouraged us to be enlightened. It is our passion,” Nizam said.

“My dad gave me and my siblings the opportunity in education because he wanted us to make sure we had better than what he and my mom had, so we want to do the same among others,” Jesmin said.

Honoring the legacy of their parents, the couple established the Meah Family Foundation with the philosophy of creating opportunities for others to pursue an education. The foundation committed to a gift of $200,000 to equip the University of Houston-Clear Lake at Pearland nursing simulation lab, and a naming gift of $100,000 to provide a facility for the university’s Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities (CADD) at UHCL Pearland.

“We are not alumni of UHCL, but you don’t have to be an alum to give back and support the community. We are alums of humanity, which is bigger than a single institution. For us, our community in Pearland is our family. It’s our home,” Nizam said.

Jesmin added, “We gave back because we wanted to give people an opportunity to improve themselves who may not otherwise be able to. We’re leaving a footprint of our parents’ values.”

Improving health care education

Through these gifts, nursing students will be able to use innovative technology, such as the simulation mannequin called “Tristian,” during their training. Tristian is a specialized robot housed in the nursing simulation lab in the new Health Sciences and Classroom Building. The robot can bleed, cry, blink and move like a human, providing real-life experience for students to practice health care delivery without the threat of real-life consequences.

“The nursing simulation lab gets students out of their seat and on their feet in a conducive learning environment,” said 2019 graduate of UHCL's RN-BSN program, Troy Kouba. “You learn how to be confident in your work through practice and the cool thing is here in the lab, you can practice until you get it right.”

Supporting nursing students at UHCL Pearland is crucial to improving health care in the area, the Meahs said.

“We have a need for more nurses,” Nizam said. “By giving to nursing, we are doing a small part in training health care workers. This region already has a reputation for health care, so UHCL Pearland is a catalyst to help us go further.”

Jesmin added that a major benefit of enhancing the nursing program is the ability to attract nurses from within the community to further their education and in turn, put nursing leaders back into the local workforce.

Additionally, CADD is expanding its reach to Pearland with the Meahs’ support to provide therapy, treatment and training to those affected by autism. The new facility, planned to open in June, includes rooms for individual and group therapy, an observation room, faculty offices and a padded room to help behavioral analysts to safely manage destructive behavior.

Associate Professor of Behavior Analysis Jennifer Fritz, who will be leading efforts at CADD at UHCL Pearland, said she hopes the center serves as a resource in the area to “help families and children lead better lives.”

The new location also provides an opportunity for students in UHCL’s Behavior Analysis program to work hand-in-hand with a Board Certified Behavior Analyst through course practicum experiences.

“Students need this training experience to become board certified,” Fritz said. “Our goal is that students get some hands-on experience by working with us. This way, they will be well-rounded in assessing behavior, learning and social skills as well as remediating core deficits of autism.”

For the Meahs, adding CADD services to Pearland is a way to help others who can’t always help themselves.

“Through our work in the community, we’ve seen so many families affected by autism. Many kids and adults can get the therapy they need, and hopefully gain a sense of relief by having someone who supports and understands them so that they can be more independent in society,” Jesmin said.

Making sacrifices

Although the Meahs struggled to juggle their careers, personal life and finances at times, they say they keep the values their parents instilled close to their hearts, which makes their sacrifices worth it.

“Giving back is our way of showing gratitude to our parents and the community who helped us get to where we are today,” Nizam said.

“I am humble and grateful for the sacrifices we made,” Jesmin added. “We are part of the community to enrich it, and it is fulfilling the dream our parents had for us to improve ourselves. It means a lot to us to know our sacrifices mean something and that they will make a difference.”

Learn more about different ways to give back to UHCL online.